As a Fourth-year Attorney Looking for a New Job, Should I Put Together a Business Plan or is It Too Premature? |

As a Fourth-year Attorney Looking for a New Job, Should I Put Together a Business Plan or is It Too Premature?


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Question: I'm a fourth year corporate attorney and I have just started searching for a new job because my current firm does not support my efforts in business development. I have some small clients that have been with me for a year (but nothing substantial) and potential new clients in the pipelines. Should I put together a business plan or is it too premature?
As a fourth-year attorney looking for a new job, should I put together a business plan or is it too premature?

Answer: Yes! Let me first say that you are in a terrific position and commend you for understanding the importance of business development (I know they do not prepare you for this in law school). Not all firms are designed to encourage associates to develop their own business, but you are searching for a firm where that is a priority, and there are plenty of them out there! In fact, developing business as you become a more senior associate can help to assure your future in the industry.
Here are the basic elements of a business plan that any partner-level candidate would submit to a potential new firm:
  • An overview that includes a summary of practice
  • Collected billings (typically over the last three years) and billing rates
  • Projected billings over the next 12 months
  • Description of clients
  • Potential future clients
  • Marketing strategy

To adjust this basic model to your situation, I would suggest the following:
  • Start with the summary of your practice. You can keep this short, because this is also reflected on your resume.
  • State your collected billings over the last year (you can differentiate between Origination Credit and Actual Collections, if you like) as well as your projected collections for over the next 12 months. Please note that projected collections are always a guestimate! You also want to include your billing rate.
  • Describe your current clients, the type of work you do for them, and your relationship with the clients. The last part is essential and can be overlooked. Firms want to know Why these clients would be portable (especially since you are an associate) and your relationship with them is the key. Since these are smaller clients, as you mentioned, you might want to provide brief insights as to how the company plans to expand. You can also show the billings originated from that individual client over the last year.
  • Since you only have a few current clients, it does not hurt to also describe potential future clients and the inroads you've made with these companies. Again, describe your relationship with the company and why you feel they will send work to you in the future.
  • If you are looking to be viewed as a future rainmaker (of course, very popular with firms), it is also important you describe your marketing strategy for obtaining new clients. What associations are you a part of? Have you written articles and do you have relationships with publications? Have you been an active speaker? What speaking engagements or seminars have you conducted and what are your plans for this in the future?

Please keep everything to the point and the factual information easily accessible by the reader (feel free to underline, bold, or italicize important information). Avoid long paragraphs. You do not want this document to go on beyond two pages.

Having a business plan as an associate, even if you only have a few small clients, is a great way to demonstrate to a firm that you are committed to the practice of law and that you are a true go-getter. It tells them that you are keenly aware that there is a strong business component in being a successful lawyer, are willing and happy to go above and beyond the "call of duty," and will be a tremendous financial asset to any firm you decide to join.
Perhaps not all of your clients will follow you to your new firm due to changes in billing rates or for other unknown reasons, but that's not the point. The business plan is not a promise or strictly bound contract, but a grounded guestimate. It demonstrates your grasp for business, ability to entrust the confidence of clients, and that you have chutzpa. That is the point.

About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.

With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.

Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.

Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.

One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog,, and, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.

One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.

Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.

In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.

Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.

In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit

Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives

Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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