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  • Elisabeth Hetterich

Becoming a partner in a law firm: study probes key factors

22 March 2011

High billings and working all hours - is that all it takes to "make partner" in a law firm?

Practising lawyers are invited to share their promotion experience in a new study by a Queensland University of Technology (QUT) doctorate candidate.

Elisabeth Hetterich is investigating the factors that influence law firms when choosing their future practice partners.

"Past research has found law firms promote according to certain "patterns" of behaviour displayed by their junior lawyers," Ms Hetterich said.

"Some of these behaviours would seem obvious such as high billings and putting in long hours, however, other studies suggest different factors come into play such as the amount of leave male and female practitioners take."

She said she was looking for the effect of certain behaviours on promotion outcomes including the effect of taking extended leave and working flexible hours.

"I'm interested in the taking of leave for an extended period, say, for a year to look after a parent, do extra study or to go overseas," Ms Hetterich said.

"Long periods of leave could actually be beneficial to the firm when the person returns enriched and renewed by their experiences, but it is not clear yet whether it can affect promotion to partner."

Ms Hetterich, who practised as a solicitor before spending most of her career in law firm practice management, is now working full-time on her Doctor of Business Administration at QUT.

"I have seen the trend, borne out in the literature, that people are leaving the legal profession early, particularly young lawyers under 30 and I want to find out why that is," she said.

"I am also looking at the effect of mentoring and how the career of a mentored lawyer progresses."

She is seeking lawyers who hold current practising certificates to complete an anonymous, online survey on circumstances surrounding their last promotion.

To participate in the survey, go to www.lawsurvey.com.au .

Media contact: Niki Widdowson, QUT media officer, 07 3138 1841 or n.widdowson@qut.edu.au.

** High res photo of Ms Hetterich available for media use.