Case Study 2
Karen, a Senior Associate in the construction practice of mid-tier law firm aspired to become an equity
partner in the next intake, which is a year away.
Competition for the few positions was intense, with senior associates in other practice areas also in the
The medium-term market outlook was sluggish and profit per partner was forecast to at best stagnate –
and quite possibly drop, leaving little appetite for issuing new equity.
Karen has a staunch supporter and sponsor in John, a highly regarded senior partner, who has
undertaken to coach her across the line.
Several challenges in Karen’s performance and career development have been identified. In short, Karen needs to:
Demonstrate she can ‘grow the pie’ by attracting new clients and securing referrals from existing client relationships.
Improve her delegation of the work she brings in to more junior lawyers to reduce the cost of delivery to the client and
facilitate the benefits of the leverage business model.
Gain experience in thinking and acting like a business owner, which means developing a more strategic and commercial
Promote herself internally so partners in other practice areas get to know and refer work to her prior to the partnership
Coaching interventions used by Karen’s sponsor, the internal coach:
John assessed Karen’s performance on financial results against those expected to achieve partnership and worked with
her to develop a promotional strategy to win more and better work from existing and new clients. This included helping
her set SMART – specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-bounded goals.
Using the firm’s competency model as a reference for performance criteria in delegating work to others, John coached
Karen on how to recognise opportunities to delegate work, how to assess the competence of those she was delegating
to and how to project manage the process from end to end.
Identifying opportunities to take on leadership roles in the firm, he helped her to shift her thinking from that of a technical
expert to more of a leader and owner by, for example, formulating and presenting the practice group’s business plan at
the annual partner retreat.
John assisted Karen in building a networking map to identify the linkages and gaps between herself and the partners.
She was then able to develop a systematic approach to introducing herself and suggesting opportunities where she
might be of assistance in their line of work.
As a result, Karen:
Gained confidence in her business development skills, built a profile, exceeded the financial requirement to make
partner and established some deep and long-term client relationships.
Mastered the technique and process of setting SMART goals and planning for prioritising, communicating
her intentions and driving the outcomes she needed.
Developed junior lawyers in whom she had confidence and who, as a result, were highly motivated.
Recognised the importance of taking a firm perspective, thinking strategically, and moving beyond the mindset of
practitioner to one of owner.
Created strong relationships with key internal stakeholders who, through mutual cross selling, helped her ‘grow the
pie’ and supported her application for partnership.
Karen made partner at the head of the pack.