Timing is Everything
Almost 60% of partner-level moves take place in the first half of the year. A transition in the first quarter allows a partner to maximize the financial benefits of the year prior, and to be positioned for a successful year to come. This also provides a partner most of the year to integrate their practice with a new firm. In order to make this lateral move in the first quarter, and reap the benefits of good timing, these conversations must start in the 4th quarter of the prior year (the earlier the better), depending on a calendar or fiscal year end, as the lateral hiring process usually involves numerous meetings over several months.
With the holidays around the corner, if you are “market-curious,” now is the right time to evaluate your options to determine whether your practice would potentially benefit from a move in the First Quarter of 2020. When I work with partners, I start with three simple threshold questions which focus on value, alignment, and growth:
- Value: Does my current firm value my practice?
Do you receive adequate associate support, necessary marketing assistance, and frequent internal client referrals, and does your firm contribute to the overall expansion and growth of your practice? If your practice is on the “fringes” of your firm, it may feel like you are being forced to swim against the tide. Ask yourself: Is my practice an important part of my firm’s strategic vision, or is it an afterthought?
- Alignment: How does my practice’s economics compare to the those around me?
Are your billing rates aligned with your partners’ rates and can your firm answer the needs of your clients? You may benefit from the stronger reputation and higher profit margins of a more profitable firm. On the other hand, if your law firm is pushing you to uncomfortably raise rates, thereby alienating your clients, moving to a new firm that allows rate flexibility may help your practice grow, resulting in more work and new clients. Ask yourself: Can I make more by moving to a firm in which the other practices are as profitable as mine? Alternatively, will my practice thrive with less billing rate pressure and more billing flexibility?
- Growth: Is there another “story” which could offer me an increased market share?
Is there a firm which could give you a stronger narrative to share with clients, that is a better fit for you, with more complimentary practices, that would allow you to offer your clients more, and ultimately lead to a significant growth in business? For example, perhaps the industry vertical at another firm has greater depth or the international opportunities are limited at your current firm, and your clients have become more frequently in need of this expertise. Ask yourself: could my practice grow by offering my clients more expertise, more resources, more complimentary practices, more offices, capturing business I am losing to other firms?
Ask yourself these three questions. Perhaps talk to another firm. A discussion with another firm may not result in a move, but it will provide answers and critical information to focus your efforts, better assess your “fit” with your firm, and empower you to make the best decisions in the short and long term. And like everything else in business – timing is everything!
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Howard Parris, Esq.
Executive Managing Director
Partners, Groups, and Mergers