Amber’s mind flitted between memories of her holiday on Zante a few months back and the meeting with Fay three days ago. In the Greek sunshine she had been optimistically planning her life as a law firm partner. Now she had learnt that it wasn’t going to happen.
She thought that Fay was her friend and supporter – as well as head of department. But that hadn’t been enough. “The carefully considered view of the partnership is that you are not yet ready for the full demands and responsibilities of being a partner”. That had been the official line. Fay had at least had the decency to sound awkward and embarrassed passing it on.
“Look Amber, I know this is really disappointing,” Fay had explained , “And it’s not what I expected either. I can’t say too much more – I have to be loyal to my partners … even if I would like to strangle some of them quite often.” She drew breath. “ What I can say is that the problem was basically business development – could you generate new clients, more work and more fees for the firm. No one doubts that you work hard, put in the hours and are a good lawyer.”
“But I talked about that in my business case and when I did my presentation!” Amber was seriously annoyed. “What else was I meant to do!” She had known that was a possible weakness and so she had put in a huge amount of effort to identify her useful contacts and potential new clients. She had a plan for seminars and breakfast meetings – as well as a list people to see for coffee and lunch. She had told them all this.
“I know this may be hard to believe, given that some of the partners don’t know the difference between WhatsApp and a Cheesy Whatsit – but they thought you would have lots of creative ideas about using social media. Some thought that in fact you would just be doing what we already do in terms of marketing.”
This truly hurt. It was true. Contrary to the stereotype that everyone in their teens, twenties or early thirties was completely comfortable – if not obsessed – with Facebook, Snapchat and the rest, well Amber was not. She preferred to get to know people, sit down and talk to them. But now, apparently, that was a problem!
What Amber hadn’t told Fay or anyone else, was that two years ago her younger sister had been stalked on social media. And that a subsequent encounter had left her with physical and mental scars that were not healing fast.
Of course, she knew that using LinkedIn for business was different. But it was still difficult. And she still wanted to be a partner. Very much.
Do you think that business development skills are now a key part of becoming a partner? Or is it still more important just to rack up the chargeable hours and fees? What happens in your firm? And the social media issue - what’s your firm’s attitude … what’s yours?
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