Partner Interview Questions to Sort the Wheat from the Chaff

Here is a list of penetrating questions to assess whether an existing senior associate should be made a partner.

On Transition

  1. What does being a partner at this firm mean to you? Why?
  2. What do you see as your principal challenges in your first year as a partner?

On Generating Fees

  1. How will you generate a minimum of [X] in fees in your first year?
  2. How much of the [X] will be taken from existing partners and how much is extra?
  3. What value of instructions came to you directly last year and this year?
  4. Have you generated fees from clients that were not existing firm clients? If so, how much and how did you do this?
  5. What could be done to improve the profitability of your workstream? Probe use of technology?

On Business Development

  1. How would you describe your practice? How is it changing?
  2. How do you keep abreast of market developments?
  3. What clients are you focusing on and why?
  4. What business development have you done?
  5. What are the key selling messages for your practice area? How are we different to competitors?
  6. Tell us about a difficult client situation and how you addressed it?

On Team Development

  1. What are our challenges in motivating associates? What HR policies would you change to improve morale or motivation?
  2. What contributions have you made to any HR initiatives (eg recruitment)?

Tips for Senior Associates Being Interviewed

  1. Rehearse your answers – a lot!
  2. Before you go into the room, take some deep breaths, be tall (ie lift your head a bit) and envisage yourself in a positive environment (a visioning technique used by sports professionals).
  3. Walk in positively and confidently. Smile, but not inanely. Sit forward with hands on the table.
  4. Give yourself a few seconds to think before answering. That’s allowed!
  5. Try to structure your answers using ‘there are 3 aspects…’, ‘there are pros and cons…’, or tell a story starting with what the situation was, what you did and ending with what impact your action had. Use ‘I’ not ‘we’.
  6. Be honest!
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