Chris White, Director of Blue Pencil, shares his tips on how to present a business case for a partnership role. Chris has over twelve years’ experience in legal recruitment. His speciality is placing senior associates in partnership/partner designate roles, at international law firms, in most of the major legal markets in the world. Chris shares some of his experience with us.

For most senior associates aspiring to become partners at law firms, a business case will need to be presented. Even for seasoned business leaders, business plans are incredibly tricky, so it’s not a surprise that many senior associates struggle. So what is it the law firms want from business plans? Here are my tips.

The Golden Rules

  • No prizes for false modesty. You need to show that you are knowledgeable and back yourself to succeed. Your business plan is in the shop window and this is your chance to sell yourself.
  • Never underestimate the task in hand. Always give your plan sufficient attention, detail and thought. Be aware of law firms who say “just give me a brief overview of your clients on a sheet of paper”. Don’t listen to them and provide a professional thought out document!
  • Don't reveal the names of your clients to early. You are perfectly entitled not to specifically name your clients, just give them a generic description. By revealing your clients name too early you are giving your contact list away.
  • Tailor your business plan. It should be relevant to the firm you are applying for.
  • Clear signposting. There should be a logical flow to the different sections in your plan so that the audience has absolute clarity about the information you are trying to convey.
  • Run your plan past close contacts whom you trust. It is also worth getting a neutral person to read it.

An overview of what your plan should include

Here is a brief overview of what your plan should include:-

  • Executive Summary Who am I, what do I do, who did I speak to? The team I would join – why – what is their reputation – would it enhance your offering – is it the fit right? Do I enhance their offering?
  • Principal Area of practice – key expertise, keys strength, keys strength of firm, how you collaborate or enhance, industry sector, your practice over the next 3-5 years, your goals (individual and mutual)
  • Key clients and target clients – three lists.
    • Actual clients who will follow you. The value of the work you have done for them over the last two years and the income you think they will generate from the immediate, short, medium and long term
    • Actual clients/contacts who you feel may follow you. Include how much work you have done for them, the percentage chance of them moving and the value of the work in the short, medium and long term
    • Target clients whom you believe you and the firm should be targeting How you can work together to attract and retain them.
  • Total contacts – how your contacts dovetail to the firms contacts – could this generate new business for both you and the firm? Would it consolidate a relationship?
  • Practice Economics – how you’ve performed over the last 3 years Inc.: total chargeable hours, clients/work you’ve sourced/leads created, Current billing rates – new firm pricing structure, Remuneration and Bonus details over the last 3 years
  • Marketing/Business Development Strategy What is yours and how much time would you dedicate to this function? What support would you need?

Discussing your business plan once presented

Once your business plan has been presented, you need to be prepared to discuss every facet of it in depth. In
particular, you are likely to be asked further questions around the depth of key business relationships you have
referred to as part of your business case. In particular, you should think how to respond if they question you
over the continued viability of a business relationship should your primary contact leave.

If you would like confidential advice on your next move at partner level, or you are looking to make the jump
into your first partner position, please contact Chris White of Blue Pencil chrisw@bluepencil-legal.com