In my experience, there are always warning signs that an attorney might not be at a firm that is the best fit for him or her. I have identified the following issues you may have at your law firm. Do any of them sound familiar?
1. LACK OF NECESSARY PRACTICE AREAS
Have you had to refer work out to another firm because your firm didn’t have a particular practice area? Do you purposely stay away from mentioning a client’s needs in another practice area because your firm can’t handle it? How much potential revenue are you missing out on?
2. RATES THAT ARE TOO HIGH OR TOO INFLEXIBLE
Have you lost work from an existing or potential client because your firm’s rates are too high or too inflexible? Or proposed a form of flexible billing or change in your hourly rate for a client or potential client? Only to be refused by your firm. Are you losing work from existing or potential clients because of high hourly rates and lack of project-based rates?
3. TROUBLE PUTTING TOGETHER THE RIGHT TEAM
Do you have trouble attracting the best talent because your firm isn’t well-known in your practice area? Does your firm to offer compensation that is high enough? Is your current firm uncooperative with your requests to hire additional associates or expand the group with additional partners? When you market to existing or potential clients are you confident that your group has adequate staffing to get the proposed work done? Are you stuck at the office working on projects yourself that should be pushed down to more junior attorneys? When lawyers leave your group do you have trouble replacing them?
4. LACK OF CROSS-SELLING OPPORTUNITIES
Does your current firm fail to encourage an atmosphere of cross-selling and cross-marketing? Has your current firm neglected to put policies in place that encourage partners to work on pitches together, such as shared origination credit or bonuses for cross-selling? Do you not get origination credit for bringing in work in other practice areas? How much revenue are you missing out on by not having access to other firm clients? How much better could your client service be if you could put together a full-service legal strategy for them with other firm partners?
5. FIRM CULTURE IS A POOR FIT
Does your firm’s culture not feel comfortable to you? Does it feel like the wrong atmosphere for your personality and work style? Do you find yourself not wanting to socialize with any of your colleagues outside of the office? Do you dread seeing them at firm events? How much more pleasant would your daily life be if you had colleagues that you were eager to see everyday?
6. STRATEGIC PLAN/SUCCESSION PLANNING
Do you find yourself disagreeing with many of the business decisions your firm has made over the last few years? Is your firm heading in the wrong direction without an adequate plan for the future? Or do you feel like your firm has a strategic plan but your practice area isn’t part of it?
IMPROVE THESE ISSUES WITH A BETTER FIT
What you could achieve at a firm that was a better fit and didn’t have these issues? How would achieving these things make a difference in your life?
If you move to a firm that is the right fit, you’ll be able to bring in more business from existing clients, because you will have all the necessary practice areas, be able to offer appropriate billing arrangements, and have the team necessary to do the additional work. This will strengthen your client relationships and ensure that those clients are more satisfied and remain with you for the long term, instead of looking for a firm that can serve more of their needs or offer better rates. You will also be able to bring in work from new clients because you will have a more robust team, more specialty areas, better rates, and more opportunities for cross-selling.
Being able to increase the work that current clients give you and bring in new clients on top of that will lead to increased compensation. It will also lead to increased influence at your new firm because the partners who bring in the most business and keep their clients the most satisfied are the ones who have the most influence.
Moving to a firm that gives you origination credit for cross-selling, and having the right team in place back at the office to do the work that you bring in for your own department will mean that you can have better work/life balance and actually get home in time for dinner, because you will earn money for work that you bring in for other departments and have other team members to help you do the work in your own department.
Finally, moving to a firm that has a strong strategic plan that you can agree with, and places the appropriate emphasis on your practice area will give you peace of mind that your firm will remain vibrant into the future and your practice area will get adequate resources and attention from firm management.
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