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If you’re a Special Counsel or Senior Associate who wants to position yourself for Partnership, there are a number of ways to achieve this. Business development and building a practice for yourself is key to making the step up (unless you’re happy to wait around for your current Partner to retire!). However, the opportunities for building a client portfolio vary greatly between firms. 

As a recruiter, I often speak to senior Lawyers who feel that their progression to Partnership is being hindered.  There are multiple reasons why this can happen, but the most common ones I hear about are: 

  • Too busy / no need – You are already part of a successful and busy team that is working at full capacity. There is no time for business development, or resource-capacity to deliver additional work, so even if you were to bring in new clients there isn’t enough time to execute the work. 
  • We see this more with firms at the top-end of town that are refining their client lists to avoid conflicts and have little interest in expanding their client base. 
  • Minimal Support – Your firm says that they ‘encourage’ your BD efforts, but there is no actual support to help with client presentations, or funding for networking events. You are expected to identify and attract clients off your own reputation.  
  • We see this more at the mid-tier level, especially at firms where Partners’ personal income is based on their team’s revenue – and in turn, your promotion to Partnership has the same negative impact on their income as if you resigned from the firm.  
  • Partial Practice – You do bring in a substantial amount of work to your firm, but there is no reward or financial incentive for this until you hit 100% of the revenue target required for promotion to Partnership.  
  • We see this at all types of firms where senior Lawyers are expected to do business development – you could be bringing in 80% of what a Partner is required to (and doing more billable hours), but for only 50% of the reward. 

If you’re currently in a position where you feel your path to Partnership is being hampered, there are a number of ways you can turn this around. 

Questions to ask yourself: 

  • Would a remuneration structure that includes a bonus based on the partial practice I bring be better for me?  
  • Would my clients be better served at a larger, or international firm?  
  • Would my clients be better served at a mid-tier firm or a boutique with flexible pricing models? 
  • Would the development of my practice be improved in a larger team with multiple fellow Partners in the same practice area? Or am I better off being the sole Partner in my practice area, with more autonomy and ownership over the practice?  
  • Will my client base represent completely new clients to a new firm, or will the new firm already have half of them on their books?  
  • Would the support of a dedicated internal BD team be of benefit? (more important when you would need lots of clients for single-instructions, less important when your work is predominately repeat-clients or panel-appointed)  

The trajectory for becoming Partner differs between firms and there are positives and negatives to each structure. Some companies give you the time and financial support for business development, while others will give you a percentage of the revenue you bring in. It’s a good idea to understand what other structures exist, as there may be a firm that is far better suited to your situation and desired direction. 

Feel free to give me a call if you would like to know about other structures that exist, and Partnership opportunities that are currently available.