Partners in Crime (or Corporate, Property, Family, Employment, etc.)

Look at this; a blog that goes straight(ish) to the point.

Apologies to those who’ve grown fond of the usual witless, meandering introductions; normal service will hopefully be resumed next week.

I had a very interesting meeting with a senior corporate associate in the East Midlands last week. As legal recruitment consultants we go to great lengths to emphasise the ‘consultant’ aspect of what we do, a factor which is sometimes overlooked by both clients and candidates alike, who perhaps are used to dealing with ‘CV factories’; those so-called-recruitment consultancies which are often little more than a resumé relay service.
As consultants our expertise includes providing careers advice, information about the market as a whole, discussing salary levels and advising on general management of an individual’s career to help them achieve their goals.

Of course if a candidate is desperate to leave a firm then we can do our utmost to facilitate this, ensuring that the new practice ticks the boxes for what that candidate is seeking.

However at other times we need to advise on the overall strategy of a candidate’s career to reach their overall aim. Sometimes this can involve advising a sideways move or that even a ‘one step back to take two forward’ move may suit them best. At other times it needs some ‘tough love’ to outline that actually a candidate is better off staying where they are in the short-term and building a client following or business case to make them a more attractive proposition in the future. Often there is little or no chance of a firm being interested in an individual with what they can currently bring to the table.

Anyway, back to my corporate associate. She was trying to choose between whether to make a sideways move to another firm where she could hope to progress to partner, or whether she should stick it out at her current practice and hope to make partner there before looking to move as a lateral hire.

An interesting conundrum, and one which generated some discussion until we dug down further into the potential business case and following and discovered that actually:- there wasn’t one.

As discussed in previous blogs the following aspect is increasingly crucial for lawyers at all levels (not just partners) as firms seek more ‘rounded’ solicitors with an ability to attract new clients. Unless a practice is absolutely snowed-under with work or if there has been a resignation with no obvious internal replacement then applicants will have to be able to generate client instructions, and even if there is a surplus of work firms are still looking at the ability to attract new business once the current pipeline is exhausted.

The same remit is in place for those who are perhaps senior associate or legal director at one of the larger practices and are looking to take the step-up to partner. Firms are usually seeking a business plan indicating clients attracted, marketing successes, business development capabilities and most importantly the resultant billings which have been generated by all of these; in fact with top firms there is often little difference in the process for an internal promotion or an external lateral hire.

One thing which should be highlighted however is that whereas it is sometimes difficult for an associate to move without some level of following, for a partner it is nigh on impossible. Therefore candidates need to ensure that if they are indeed offered partnership without them having to produce a business case, that they are intending on staying with the same firm for quite some time.

I have a lot of time for this particular associate as she has endeavoured to build up her client following and is doing all the right things; she’s networking, she’s referring work, she’s tweeting, LinkedIn’ing and getting herself known locally. Technically she is excellent, and I have no doubt that she will make partner in the future, but unless she is able to establish her business case then she may end up finding it difficult to make the move; even more so if she does make partner where she is and still finds that she has no quantifiable following of her own clients.

Therefore with this individual I did advise them that looking for a sideways move did represent their best option. We are looking at opportunities now for this individual to make this move and the initial signs are encouraging; now it is our job as consultants to make sure that the firms we are speaking to can offer her the marketing opportunities and support to build this following, meaning that the partnership title is a realistic and attainable goal.

The reason for highlighting this particular case in this blog is that what struck me during the meeting was the associate in question wasn’t truly aware that a following was so essential, and that simply being a partner in one firm didn’t guarantee partnership in another. Whether this is widely known to non-partners or not seems to vary from firm-to-firm, with different practices taking a different approach to followings as they strike the balance between solicitors bringing work into the firm versus being keen to retain the clients should those solicitors move on.



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