The Importance of a Great Business Plan |

The Importance of a Great Business Plan


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If you are an attorney with portable business, your business plan is even more important than your resume. When you were an associate, the first thing a potential employer looked at was your resume when deciding whether to give you an interview. Now, the first thing, and sometimes the only thing, they will look at is your business plan. It is absolutely imperative that you create a business plan that represents you accurately and advantageously.
The Importance of a Great Business Plan

Create a Snapshot of Yourself and of Your Book of Business

Your business plan is an opportunity to show a whole picture of your life as a lawyer. Employers want more than hard numbers. Who are your clients? How are they connected to one another? Are they all in the same industry, making you a partner who has developed an industry niche? Are they the product of cross-selling the clients of other partners in your firm? Are they the product of client referrals? Of prior existing personal relationships? All of these elements will give potential employers an idea of what type of marketer you are, and how well that might fit in to their scheme.

A background of your practice and professional history will answer many of their questions about what type of lawyer you are. If you have a niche practice, describe how you developed it. Do you have an undergraduate degree that made you a natural fit for a particular area of expertise? Did it come through repeat work for a particular client? Before you get to numbers, it is important to give employers an explanation of who you are, what your areas of expertise are, who your clients are, and the nature of your relationships with them.

Be Conservative, But Not Overly Conservative in Your Estimates

Of course, you will have to include numbers in your plan. Estimating numbers is one of the most difficult hurdles for partners in writing a business plan. Law firms know that a business plan is based on estimates, and that no one can predict the future exactly. They know that business you are confident will follow you might not, in fact, follow. They know that relationships you think are unbreakable may be broken. They know that business often leaves for reasons that have nothing to do with you (your friend the in-house counsel is replaced by the Board of Directors, for example). By the same token, surprise business often comes along with migrating attorneys. Therefore, the best you can do is give a conservative estimate of the business you truly believe will follow you. I often have attorneys rate the likelihood of retaining that business on a scale of highly likely to unlikely, or something similar. You want to exceed expectations when you join a firm, but don't undersell yourself to the point where you don't get the job, because you are afraid that you will be held exactly to those numbers.

Firms want to see your track record of the past few (usually three) years as a basis for future predictions. Here, provide your billable rate, the number of hours billed (on both clients you originated and those you didn't, if appropriate) and designate which clients you originated.

Some partners name the names of their clients; some are not comfortable doing that, and supply instead a general description of the client (industry, annual revenues, nature of your relationship with the client).

Law firms want to be confident that if some of your existing portable business does not follow you, whatever the reason, that you have the skills and connections to create new business relationships. Because of this, the next section of this article is especially important.

Discuss Potential Clients, Developing Relationships, and Marketing Strategies

Partners sometimes do not give this section the attention it deserves. As noted above, law firms want some reassurance that if your big clients do not follow you for whatever reason, you will be able to make up that deficit based on your skill and connections. In this section, you create that confidence.

Discuss contacts and potential business opportunities that you know of and have not yet explored (and explain why, if appropriate). This is also a great opportunity to show why your target firm would be a better platform for developing the client than your current firm. Here also, you may choose to name names of the potential clients or just describe them generally.

This is the part of the plan where you relate how you market to clients generally. Do you regularly speak on legal topics? Are you active in your community? Do you volunteer? Or are your clients based on personal connections? Law firms want to know that however you get your clients, they come from diverse sources, and won't all disappear at once.

If cross-selling is a big part of your strategy, talk about what you have done in the past to cross-sell. If you are targeting particular firms, explain what angles, relationships and expertise make you uniquely able to cross-sell their existing clients. If you have not cross-sold in the past, be clear that you are open to cross-selling and explain how you will help other attorneys within the firm cross-sell your clients. What are the firm's strengths that may be attractive to your clients?

Let Your Personality Show Through

I can't tell you how carefully, especially on the partner level, firms think about whether candidates possess a specific type of personality. You will not be a fit for every type of firm, so just be yourself. Does the firm pride itself on being entrepreneurial and populated by hungry go-getters? Do you hear the term "laid back" in reference to this firm? Does it consider itself congenial? Family-friendly?Does the firm aspire to grow and become one of the larger, national firms? Do they showcase the academic backgrounds of the lawyers? You can be sure that their culture is very important to them, whatever that is. Don't adjust your plan or try to fit yourself into every firm, but learn everything you can about each firm. A good recruiter can help you with this, but you should also gather information from all possible sources. You want your business plan to reflect your own personality so that the firm can begin to determine whether you will fit in on a personal level. Cultural fit is extremely important for all concerned.


At the partner level, the business plan is the most important document you will create. It represents who you are as a partner and a person, and it answers all those questions that the firm will want answered before they will ask you for an interview. The job of the business plan is to allay any fears enough to make the firm want to bring you in and find out more. It deserves all of the attention and detail you can put into it. You will be glad you did.

Looking for law firm partners job? Browse for live opportunities.

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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