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Finding the Right Fit: What Platform is Best for Your Practice?

The legal industry is constantly changing and evolving. We should know – we’ve been here for more than 30 years, as factors from the economy to emerging business areas, and new technologies to politics have impacted how the legal world operates. We’ve worked with a lot of attorneys as their practices and careers have grown, and have built up quite a collection of experiences, lessons learned, and successful strategies. We started this blog to share some of this insight with others in the industry.

To start off, I’d like to discuss a situation we face pretty frequently – we meet an attorney with a growing practice who is considering a potential move to a new firm that might better support his or her specific practice areas and career goals. In my opinion, there are certain key aspects of a firm to evaluate when making such a major decision, including platform, culture, compensation, and organization structure. In this post, I’ll take a look at platform.

I have often found that, when attorneys are debating a firm switch, the very process of talking through their current situation and answering some direct questions starts an important self-evaluation process that really all attorneys should go through at regular intervals in their career.

Not long ago, I met an attorney who wasn’t necessarily ready to leave her current firm, but who just sensed that her practice was not receiving sufficient support. As we continued to keep in touch over several months, we thought through some questions about whether the firm’s growth plans aligned with her own goals.  In the end, she realized that the firm was intentionally shifting away from her type of law and was more focused on practice areas that demanded higher rates. She acknowledged that she didn’t want to stay somewhere where her practice wasn’t going to be valued or appreciated, let alone encouraged to grow.

In evaluating the platform of both a current and potential new firm, some questions to keep in mind:

  • Is your practice part of the firm’s long-term growth strategy?
  • Is the firm considered a leader or major player in your practice area?
  • Is the firm’s growth strategy to pursue clients who demand higher rates than are typical for your practice area?
  • Is your practice area valued, fully supported, and positioned to grow?

In some instances, geography can be a big factor in whether a firm is a right fit to meet an attorney’s practice needs. As an example, a group of attorneys came to us, concerned that though they were bringing in a steady flow of business, their firm’s leadership was not committed to developing a presence in the satellite office where they were based. When eventually their efforts to build firm awareness in the community were not supported , a red flag went up. If this successful team were to continue to grow their practice together, they needed to be with a firm that understood how their marketplace worked and was willing to invest in their region.

More questions to consider:

  • Is your firm familiar with your local business environment and what it takes to grow the practice in that particular environment?
  • Is the firm willing to provide customized resources and marketing in support of local business growth?

It can be difficult to evaluate a firm’s actual commitment to a practice area until a situation presents itself demanding visible support. One attorney found himself in the favorable position of pitching new business for the firm, but when it came to demonstrating that he would have the team in place to manage the work once won, he sensed that management was hesitant to assure him he would have the resources he needed. This resulted in potential new clients lacking the confidence in the firm’s bench depth to staff their cases – in other words, lost business opportunities. Ask yourself: Is the firm willing to invest in resources to handle your particular type of work?

I could share many more examples of legal professionals debating a potential move and the factors that led them to stay or go, but the important lesson that surfaces time and again is the value of taking the time to honestly assess your firm’s platform and whether its growth strategy is in line with yours. Do you feel that your work or practice area is being appreciated as a priority? Maybe it’s time to consider  your  options.

In my next post, I’ll discuss how a firm’s culture also plays a large role in determining the right fit for an attorney.

By Steve Kruza, Owner, Kruza Legal Search. Steve specializes in lateral partner placement.

 

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