We were recently delighted to attend the Women Lawyers and Mothers (WLAM) #Howdidshedoit event, run by WLAM and hosted by Arnold & Porter, at which a leading panel of law firm partners discussed tips to avoid the pitfalls of navigating the route to partnership.

The panel comprised five partners, including one man. They shared their experience of a variety of routes to partnership – some traditional, while others less so. One, for instance, was a headhunter for six years before retraining.

Here, we share some of their advice based on their journeys to partnership – how they handled the setbacks and the steps they took to build their case for promotion. With statistics still showing that women lag behind their male peers in terms of career progression, we thought these first-hand experiences were well worth sharing:

Experience shared


  1. Make sure partnership is what you want.
  2. Have faith in yourself and your abilities. Don’t stand in your own way.
  3. Get used to the idea of discomfort. The path to partnership is challenging.
  4. Raise your profile before you go on a partner track. Build your personal brand.
  5. Prepare a business plan – focus on both internal and external activities to promote yourself.
  6. Find the right support in terms of mentors / champions.
  7. Find good childcare.
  8. Stay true to yourself. And look after yourself.
  9. Don’t feel you have to take on every extra activity to prove your value – for example, joining the women’s group just because you’re a woman. Choose those activities that genuinely matter to you and pace yourself – it’s not a race.
  10. Don’t be too disappointed if your plan doesn’t work out – two of the partners failed first time.
  11. No one expects you to be able to do the role of partner on day one. Ask for help.
  12. Be vocal about your strengths, achievements and goals.
  13. And remember, it can be done. It has been done.


What was also clear is that there is change taking place in today’s legal partnerships. The male partner, for instance, shared his experience of taking shared parental leave twice. This wasn’t even an option for partners when he first asked for it. Nor does he think taking it has impacted his career negatively. In addition, one of the other partners has worked part-time over various stages of her career. These are small steps perhaps, but positive signs nevertheless that law firms are becoming more open to the idea that flexibility and leadership roles in law can go together.

With thanks to Arnold & Porter and Women Lawyers and Mothers for a hugely helpful event!







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