Five Signs You Aren’t Going to Make Partner

on the road to partner. not.So, you’ve been working at your law firm for seven or ten years or whatever amount of time it takes these days to “make partner.” As the goal of partnership gets closer, however, something begins to smell. You can’t quite pinpoint it, but there’s something in the air that makes you ill at ease, signs that things are not going well. To be specific—and in case you had not yet pinpointed what exactly is going wrong—here are five essential signs that you aren’t going to make partner.

1 Carrion Effect. You’ve seen it. Low-level associates—or a group of mid-level associates—walk by your office and glance in, then pick up their pace and walk quickly away. You swear someone said “wow” or “Jesus.” Why? You’re carrion, road kill, something to glance at on the side of the road to see what it looks like to get hit by a truck and disembowled. Yeah, word got out and you’re the last to know, which makes you a roadside attraction.

2 The View. Suddenly, people in the firm drop by, walk in your office and admire “the view.” If you look closely enough as they stand there, some are doing internal measurements to size up your office. You know something’s up, however, when a lower-level associate, directed by some higher up, hauls out measuring tape and jots down the figures, muttering something like “yep, that will fit.”

3 Microshafted. Did you happen to look up and notice that your computer is still running on Windows XP? Though you are quick to say “but it’s Service Pack 3,” the gist of it is that the firm made a conscious decision a few years ago not to invest in you. While everyone else is cooing in the office about the speed of Windows 8—including associates under you—you are still trying to find out what it means to access your “regedit” file so that you can make Microsoft Office 2000 continue to work. I guess the same goes for your Motorola Dynatac 8000s mobile phone. You should have seen it coming.

4 Luncheon Loaf. Suddenly, either associates are inviting you out to lunch all the time or, more typically, someone is constantly swiping your lunch from out of the firm refrigerator. If the former, it’s just another associate trying to salt you for details about your current assignments—basically trying to get an edge up on the more plum assignments once you are gone. If your lunch is constantly being pinched, however, then the news of your failure to make partner is common knowledge and your lunch is just one more spoil for office mates to plunder.

5 Departmentalized. Sure, the memo to you stated that you have been reassigned to an “exciting new department, in a quickly developing legal field.” But, as you read further, the new department is something like “Barratry” or “Trover.” Though you find yourself surprisingly excited, your bubble is burst when you call the first department meeting only to find out that, yes, you are the sole attorney in the firm’s exciting new Maritime Liens Department. Yikes.

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  • Eileen

    The biggest sign I found when I was thinking of going for partnership was whether the partners wanted to have sex with us. I found that if the answer was yes, then you were not going to be considered seriously for partnership, because the partners have wives and you would not be welcome at a partners’ getaway where spouses are invited, because the wives would be able to sniff out those women who had been with their husbands. So I knew that once 3 partners each wanted me to work with them after hours and on weekends that I would surely be targeted for sex, but not for partnership. So I decided early on not to work too hard, not to do weekends and to keep the partners’ private parts away from mine. I did not stay long enough to be considered for partner, but I also did not let any of the partners bang me.