I often speak with partners who wish to make a lateral move to a new firm. Their reasons for seeking new platforms vary; however, their reactions to drafting a Business Plan are fairly uniform. In short, they do not want to do it because – much like drafting a resume – the Business Plan requires the candidate to really focus on his practice and clients; and this task can seem overwhelming. The good news is that the creation of a Business Plan does not need to be such an onerous task; and drafting it can be an incredibly useful exercise to prepare you for the meetings that will surely follow the receipt of a well written Business Plan.
A well written Business Plan can have as few as five sections: Introduction; Clients; Historical Billing Information; Reasons for Seeking a New Platform; and Conclusion.
The Introduction allows you to introduce yourself and your practice. No one knows you and your practice better than you and here is your opportunity to briefly describe what you have been doing for the last 10, 20, or even 30 (or more) years. Often (so as not to get bogged down in your various moves over the years in this section), you can reference that you have included your resume as an exhibit to the Business Plan. By including the resume as an exhibit, the introduction can stay focused on what you actually do rather than devolving into a long and dull narrative of your various moves between firms.
The next section – Clients – is probably the most important section. It is not necessary to name your clients. Some candidates like to name their clients; others do not for fear that the reader may attempt to poach their clients. What is critical is that you describe each of your clients who will definitely be coming with you, and indicate the type of work that you do for them. For example, you may want to mention that while you presently handle a particular client’s patent work, you could be eligible to do this client’s tax work too if only you had the right platform.
On occasion, a candidate will have clients who may come with him. For example, the candidate did not bring these clients to his current firm; however, he has handled all these clients’ tax matters for the last 10 years, and it is highly likely that these clients will come with him to the new firm. You should absolutely include these clients in your Business Plan with the caveat that these clients are not “yours”, but in all likelihood will come with you because you have become their go-to person for your practice area.
If you are feeling ambitious, you may want to begin to think about the yearly fees that you generate from each of your clients, and what you expect you will generate from these clients in the coming year. You will need this information eventually, so you may as well do it now because you will be that much more prepared for your meetings.
Firms usually want to see your historical billing information for the last 3 years. On occasion, firms want to see 5 years, but 3 years is usually sufficient. At this stage, it is not necessary to get into your realization rate, collections, etc. It is enough at this point to simply state your overall billing for each of the last three years.
It is a good idea to include the number of hours you worked and your hourly rate for the last three years too. It is also important to indicate whether your hourly rate is flexible. Often, if a candidate is trying to lateral to a larger firm, his rate may be too low for his target firms. I have had candidates state quite simply that their current hourly rate is a must for their present clients (who may leave if their rates increase), but that they are amenable to the target firms’ rates for all new business. Other times candidates will indicate that they are open to increasing their hourly rate if necessary.
By mentioning the number of hours you worked each year in conjunction with your hourly rate for those same years, you are allowing the target firms to determine how profitable you will be for them should they increase your hourly rate.
It is imperative to clearly state why you are trying to move from your current firm. It is equally important NOT to criticize your current firm when giving your reasons for seeking a new platform. As stated in the first paragraph of this article, partners move to new firms for a variety of reasons. Are you being conflicted out of work? Does your current firm lack support for your clients’ matters that you are too busy to handle personally? Would you be able to do more work for your clients if you were at a firm that could service their needs in other practice areas? Are you trying to break into a more sophisticated client base and your current firm lacks the name recognition and cache to capture those clients? Whatever your reason for seeking a new platform, you should clearly state it in your Business Plan. This question will arise in your meetings, and you want to have had time to really think through your reasons and present them in a clear and concise manner.
The conclusion can be very short. In the conclusion, you can simply thank the reader for his time, and indicate that you would like very much to arrange a meeting to discuss your practice, clients, and career goals.
Please remember that the purpose of the Business Plan is twofold. First, most firms want to review a Business Plan before they schedule their partners to meet with you. Hence, you usually need a Business Plan to even get through the door! The second most important reason for drafting a Business Plan is to help you prepare – in a very concrete way – for your meetings. The Business Plan forces you to clearly and succinctly describe your practice, your clients, your portable numbers, and your reasons for seeking a new platform. Once you have performed this exercise – the exercise of really taking a long and hard look at your professional self – you will be able to perform so much better during your meetings when you are fielding difficult questions from strangers who may soon be your new partners!
See the following articles for more information about business plans:
- Partner Business Plans: Key Elements
- Maximize Portables in Your Business Plan in Order to Maximize Interest in You
- The Importance of a Great Business Plan
- How Should I Estimate My Portable Business?
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, HarrisonBarnes.com, and BCGSearch.com, 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 www.BCGSearch.com.
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.