David is a Partner Development Consultant at Carbon Law Partners. He injects entrepreneurial passion into the business of law by adopting modern working practises with a paramount focus on client service and quality. Combining his MBA and legal background, David’s driven to continue introducing innovative business practices into the legal profession.
Partnership is seen as the ultimate destination for lawyers in private practice and I’m frequently asked what tips can give I to an aspiring partner.
Well if you are looking to make partner, whatever stage of your legal career you're currently at, career planning is essential. If you look at partners at any law firm, in addition to their technical legal knowledge they also possess a skill set that has helped them reach that level. There are many Senior Associates who are technically very strong lawyers, but lack the management, business and soft skills which prevent them from making partner.
Regardless of the firm or your practice area, the fundamental skills can essentially be stripped down to the ability to plan, develop and manage. Let me explain what I mean by this.
Plan: You need to plan the role you play within the firm, the way in which you can create both tangible and intangible value. You need to position yourself to be able to get noticed, win business and be perceived as a lawyer that clients would want to instruct.
Develop: Developing a profitable practice is fundamental and once you have started to win business, you need to be questioning how you can further develop existing relationships. This includes leveraging the contacts you’ve made to further grow your practice, initiating strategies to be able to continue winning new business and from an operational perspective, developing a streamlined practice to be efficient, profitable and above all, delivering results to your clients. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool and a strong reputation is priceless.
Manage: Management skills are key and used in many ways within a law firm. You need to manage a team, projects, marketing and business development initiatives and client relations. Time management is also key as you need to remain capable of juggling all of these areas simultaneously.
Is it worth it?
I’m often surprised when I ask lawyers why they want to make partner, I get stunned looks as if it’s obvious. There are disadvantages which some lawyers fail to give reasonable consideration: as an equity partner you can be liable at any time for an unexpected cash call; you can also be held joint and several liable for the firm’s actions.
The legal profession has seen many changes over the past few years, both incremental and disruptive innovation has occurred with new ways to practice law driven by tighter budgets, technological developments and Alternative Business Structures allowing firms to attract external investments.
The business of law has evolved and a new way to practice has emerged by virtue of ‘virtual law firms’. Aspiring partners may want to consider the benefits of joining this type of model and become a partner following this route. Legal commentators suggest it provides a further degree of autonomy, flexibility and control for how they practice and can be much more lucrative without the inevitable risk of a traditional law firm. Food for thought.
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