Should I Try and Get Business for My Firm or Should I Try to Bill More Hours? |

Should I Try and Get Business for My Firm or Should I Try to Bill More Hours?


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Question: I’m a senior associate, and my firm wants me to start marketing and getting business for the firm. However, I feel it is more important to focus on my legal practice, and bill lots of hours. Learning marketing seems like a low priority - after all, it isn’t billable. I didn’t choose law just to end up doing sales. Besides, a high biller has job security, right?
Should I try and get business for my firm or should I try to bill more hours?

Answer: I can’t tell you how many associates, as they get more senior, make this mistake. It is true that some very large firms will never require even equity partners to originate business. However, this scenario has become more and more rare. In midsize and smaller firms, you will most likely be required to cultivate business at some point. It is true that this is not billable work; however, you need to do it anyway.

The road to making equity partner is harder than you can imagine, and involves lots of time that you cannot bill. Even worse, you still have to bill the mega-hours you are expected to bill on your legal work. Even so, to make the run for partner, you have to learn how to originate business. Attend the marketing courses, trainings, and any networking events the firm is offering. Also, you should network independently of the firm. You should also start participating in bar events, social events, and seeking out speaking engagements. Take advantage of cross selling opportunities through the firm. Are partners offering to bring you along to meet their clients? Take the hint! None of these activities are billable, but they will pay off for you in the end.

As to not wanting to do this work because it isn’t what you signed up for when you went to law school, it is time to reframe your way of thinking if you want to become a partner in a law firm. Once you get to partner level, business is the name of the game.
In the old days, it was possible to become an equity partner by only servicing other partners’ clients. This is rare nowadays. As a partner, you are a member of a corporate partnership, and that makes you a businessperson. Start thinking like one.
Partners are expected to fully understand and participate in the business part of the law firm. If the thought of schmoozing and selling business really makes your skin crawl, think about going in-house or to the government. However, the more senior you get, the less marketable you will be to law firms if you have no portable business.

I have heard people tell me that they are on track to make partner, or will never be let go, because they bill a lot of hours. Not so! During the recession, we actually saw equity partners de-equitized because they were servicing someone else’s clients, and the business dried up. They were let go, and had only their skills to sell, and those skills were not in demand. Law is cyclical - certain practice areas will be leaner than others, and you never know which practices will be robust at any given time, and which will be lean. The only way to prevent against layoff or de-equitization is to have your own clients, and the only way to have your own clients is to learn how to cultivate business. If you want to make it to partnership, you need to accept this now, and start working towards improving your marketing skills.

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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