Attorneys with Portable Business: Where Do I Go?
Tips to analyze a lateral move when you have a book of business.
This has been a tumultuous year within the legal community, however, it has provided opportunity for attorneys with portable business. Law firms are eager to speak with attorneys with significant portable business. The question for attorneys with the portable business is to decide what law firm is the best fit.
There are a number of factors to consider when attorneys are ready to move to a new firm and here are ten:
1. Law firm culture: Never underestimate the importance of the firm environment. If an attorney is unhappy with the firm environment he or she will not stay long regardless of the compensation. Factors to consider include size of the firm or practice group, the firm's dress code, the interrelationship between partners and the amount of influence in business development.
2. Partnership: Attorneys and firms are more cautious to bring in a lateral attorney as an equity partner. Many firms will take a year or more to determine whether the employment relationship is a good fit.
3. Compensation: There are a variety of ways firms compensate attorneys with portable business. A low risk manner for the firm is to provide a low base salary and have the attorneyís compensation based largely on the theory "Eat what you can kill". Attorneys must perform an honest and conservative assessment of their potential client revenue stream, the attainability of firm bonuses; and the firmís overflow work for them. If the compensation is heavily salary-based then attorneys must investigate bonuses thresholds and the percentage of origination fees.
4. Origination Percentages: Determine the percentages if the firm works on client matters and when attorneys work on firm matters. This varies widely from firm to firm.
5. Cross-selling: A likely reason for moving to a new firm is that attorneys wish to attract larger clients that have legal needs outside of their "specialty". Meet with the other practice area group leaders to confirm there is a similar motivation to cross sell to current and future clients.
6. Business Development: This ties in with cross selling above and is one of the biggest reason attorneys leave their current firm. Speak to other laterals at the prospective firm to determine if their business development needs are being met.
7. Conflicts: Confirm during interviews and the firmís conflict check that clients can be brought to the prospective firm.
8. Administrative Assistance: Many solo or small firm attorneys wish to make a lateral move to reduce their administrative. It is wise to find out the administrative assistance the firm will provide in regard to billing, taxation, correspondence, business development, associates, paralegals, etc.
9. Face Time: Some attorneys, especially in the patent prosecution area, have the ability to telecommute. Donít assume this is possible with all firms so know how often the firm expects attorneys to be in the office.
10. Billable and Non-billable Hours: Quality of life is an issue and part of that involves your billing and non-billing responsibilities. Attorneys have additional responsibilities with a firm other than billing clients so ask for an estimate. Aside from finding out the required billable amount, determine the firmís expectations related to non-billable hours such as seminars, pro-bono, management of the firm, client outings, etc.
There are other factors that are not listed but considering the above topics before your move will help ensure your new firm will be a great fit for your career.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark N. Fishman, Esq.
Mark N. Fishman is the founder and president of MNF Global, LLC. Mark has over 15 years of top law firm and in-house legal experience which provides a valuable resource for candidates and a high comfort level for employers. Mark has made it a top priority of MNF Global to spend the time necessary to determine a candidate's professional goals and then carefully match the candidate with superb career opportunities.
Mark graduated from Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Policy (business, economics and politics) with honors in 1986. In 1989, Mark graduated from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri.
Mark lives in the Chicago area with his wife Angela and their three children.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.