It’s the golden question which legal recruiters face every day when working proactively, particularly at partner level although it is becoming more common for associates also.
In a market still suffering from the after effects of recession and which has learned its lessons the hard way, firms are reluctant to make hires unless there is an increased flow of new clients and instructions to pay for this. Some firms retain an opportunistic view, believing that as long as a new hire can bring enough work to cover their costs then it’s a risk worth taking; for others the projected following has to be at least three times the salary or it’s a non-starter.
However despite this being such a crucial part of any senior level hire the thought of producing a business plan still fills many lawyers with a sense of dread.
In fairness for some it is because quite simply their nature of work does not easily lend itself to repeat instructions. Speak to the probate lawyer with direct clients who instruct them repeatedly and something is going seriously wrong there.
However for the majority it is the thought of failure to deliver on promises which causes the greatest concern. There is a misconception that a business plan is a ‘rope to hang yourself with’, consequently many lawyers opt to take a pessimistic view of their figures favouring an ‘under-promise, over-deliver’ mindset. However what many fail to recognise is that as soon as you start to under-promise your chances of securing the role diminish quite rapidly.
When putting together business plans and quantifying a following you should remember that you are talking to other lawyers who understand the way the market works. Business plans are automatically taken with a degree of tolerance as no-one can predict the future; you may well expect that all ten of your biggest clients will move with you, but if only nine of these follow then sometimes that’s just the way it happens. Sure, if you predicted that fifty would move then you may have gone too far out on a limb, but firms are aware that not everyone can be relied upon to follow.
The other aspect of putting together the plan is to understand that it is a sales document, not a story premarin medication. Just as if you were preparing any other pitch the key things to understand is where your practice is strong, and if there are any weaknesses then how can these best be explained?
For example, does your practice require a ‘bedding-in period’? We have recently worked with an excellent partner who handles a range of public sector work, but whereas her corporate clients would present an active following from Day One the majority of her work comes from securing tenders which often means a 6-12 month lead time. A twelve-month business plan is therefore unlikely to carry much weight; however a three year projected plan outlining an early period of consolidation followed by significant results between months 12-36 will be considerably more attractive.
As a legal recruiter one of the most frustrating situations is when you work with a superb individual who fails to appreciate the weighting which firms place upon the business plan, and then can’t understand why practices that were previously falling over themselves to employ them are now altogether much cooler on the prospect. However in a changing market this is very much the way things have gone; reputation counts for little without the numbers to back it up and a failure to appreciate this and having no business plan to sell yourself with is going to significantly compromise your chances of making that next move.