Partner interview prep<br />By Andrew Wilcox<br />President <br />Wilcox and Hackett, LLC<br />Andrew@Wilcox-legal.com<br />www.Wilcox-legal.com<br />(850) 893-8984<br />
Partner interview process<br />What does a good opportunity look like?<br />Searching discreetly<br />What documents do you need to assemble<br />Scope of search (just you, or a group)<br />How much portable business do you really have?<br />Researching the firms/ opportunities before meeting<br />What to expect at the first meeting<br />Questioning model<br />How many steps<br />Interview fatigue<br />Evaluating options<br />Negotiating your package<br />Leaving your current firm<br />
What does a good opportunity look like?<br />What is driving your openness to change?<br />What complimentary areas of practice, geographical needs, cultural needs, environmental needs?<br />Money minimums<br />Realistic expectations<br />Unresolved issues<br />Is the timing right?<br />
Searching discreetly<br />Who knows you are looking?<br />Research up front before releasing any information<br />Avoid “spray and pray” tactic<br />Limit initial search to best initial fit <br />
What documents do you need to assemble<br />Update resume. Not just web bio. Names of firms, dates, locations, detailed experience, civic activities, 3rd party ratings, publications, seminars, etc.<br />Business plan <br />You should have one anyway<br />Firms lose money up front, show value and path to profitability<br />Shows your level of interest and thought process<br />References<br />Mix of judges, partners, colleagues. If possible specific to geography or practice areas<br />List of clients<br />Will help shorten up the conflicts check feedback. <br />After first meeting and determining if next steps are warranted<br />Qualify the opportunity in or out quickly<br />General due diligence form<br />Revenue run<br />Typically 3 year revenue snapshot of originations and billing<br />Bill rate qualifier. If you will lose clients by having to take on higher rate, best to know now.<br />
Scope of search (just you, or a group)<br />Factor if the needs match the group or just you.<br />Does your book of business support bringing others?<br />Will this reduce the salary package that you get?<br />Does the firm that you are interested in have support in place currently for your work?<br />Maintain discretion<br />What are potential show stoppers?<br />Conflicts<br />Cultural fit. <br />Salary lower for associates to move<br />Equity vs. non-equity, Partner vs. Of Counsel<br />
How much portable business do you really have?<br />Don’t oversell or undersell yourself.<br />Base a number on facts, not pie in the sky (the 500k book rule)<br />You may be surprised on the upside<br />Firms are naturally skeptical<br />Understand that some clients will likely not follow.<br />Is now the right time to move<br />What is your plan for the future and how will you get there?<br />
Researching the firms/ opportunities before meeting<br />Read their website, but don’t stop there.<br />What is their structure? <br />Partners to associate ratio?<br />Possible billable requirements, 10k foot view of benefits, turnover ratio.<br />Blogs<br />Business Journals<br />Findlaw.com, Martindale.com, Google.com, Infirmation.com<br />Close circle of friends, colleagues, network<br />Look up who you may be working with.<br />Do they already do a lot of the same work?<br />Do they have a strong leader in your practice area? What is their reputation?<br />Just the facts<br />Every firm has disgruntled past employees<br />Timeliness of info. If asking someone that had experience 5 years ago, is the information still valid?<br />
What to expect at the first meeting<br /><ul><li>Be prepared to get down to business
Some firms put a lot of weight on their associates and legal secretaries opinions in hiring. They may be working the closest with you.
Have your information ready (revenue run, client list, business plan). If you are interested, this will facilitate the process staying on track and moving efficiently
Don’t just let the meeting end if you are interested. Set up next steps.
Confirm understanding and address any issues that may be unresolved.
Address the elephant in the room questions up front (Moved jobs a few times over short period, why are you looking to make a move..?</li></li></ul><li>Questioning model- Determining Cost<br /><ul><li>Try and get to the value that you joining their firm would bring to them. Without value, cost is the only variable.
Separate yourself by the types of questions that you ask.
The more you understand how they run their firm the better.
Not just talking about “the job”. You are a business person having a business discussion with another business person.
Are these expectations that you are comfortable with?
High level question > Facilitate discussion> Confirm
High level question- “What are you hoping to accomplish by bringing on a commercial litigation partner for your Miami office?” “How are you going about achieving your growth goals as a firm?”
Facilitate discussion (How much is it costing them to do it the way that they are doing it today? Are they having to send that work out to another firm currently? What is that costing them? What kinds of things have they found that are holding them back from achieving their goals? Cost issues around expenses, client development, training, IT systems, billing systems, research, turnover, etc. What is the average tenure of their support staff? (If they treat them well chances are they treat everyone well.)
Confirm “So your current situation is…, is that correct?”</li></li></ul><li>Questioning model- Determining Value<br /><ul><li>What value would they derive from bringing you/ your group into their firm?
If you are just going to cost them money, why should they hire you?
High level question > Facilitate value discussion > Confirm
High level question- “What options have you considered in attempting to solve these issues?”
Facilitate value discussion- “So when looking to be able to keep more construction work internally, would it improve your profits per case if you had an attorney within your firm that had specific experience in construction litigation, defects? How many cases do you think you could keep internally? What is the average case worth?
Confirm- So if you had someone with specific experience in construction litigation, you believe that you would be able to keep at least 90% of the work internally. This would increase your revenue by 500k per year. Is that accurate?
You have now estimated what you bring in business, possible cross-selling opportunities, and how their goals align with you or not.</li></li></ul><li>How many steps<br />Depends on the firm size, structure, committees.<br />Usually from first meeting to start date minimum 30 days, usually closer to 3-4 months.<br />Reason first meeting is so important<br />Qualify, qualify, qualify<br />Could involve meeting with people in various offices, phone conferencing.<br />Having your information all together shortens the administrative back and forth <br />Fill in the gaps they may have in due dilligence.<br />If they have only done conflict checks on adverse parties, may not have caught derivative parties/ Example. A banking client may clear, but their mortgage subsidiary may not. May not be an issue unless they are a huge account for firm.<br />Financial records.<br />References. <br />
Interview fatigue<br /><ul><li>Be selective. Understand if you see 10+ firms they will all start looking like houses… “Was that the one with the strong corporate group and nice view of downtown from the conference room, or was that the one with the commercial litigation group where the main partner liked fishing…”
4 at most to start with. After first meeting should lower to 1-2.
Your questions and answers should be fresh. Hard to do if you have asked and given them a lot.
Answer the question to the person who asked it, not just the most powerful person in the room.</li></li></ul><li>Evaluating options<br />Which opportunity most closely matches your requirements going into the process?<br />Have your requirements changed? If so, how and why?<br />Do you see this as a job move or career move?<br />What happens if you do nothing?<br />Take money out of it. Which one is you?<br />Does this fulfill you and your family?<br />Is this a challenge or just change of address?<br />Can you be successful at this firm?<br />If a group, does this best fit our needs?<br />
Negotiating your package<br />Negotiation happens throughout the process. Not just at the end.<br />Should have established “a number” somewhere early in the process. <br />May be at first meeting. <br />Definitely during mutual evaluation period, but after value has been established. Otherwise just a number.<br />If value has been established, the number should be close.<br />Be careful how much more that you ask for.<br />Don’t be the outlier on the high side.<br />The best answer that I have heard…”I just want what everyone else is getting, no more, no less. I do want the opportunity to make more based on hitting mutually agreed upon numbers.”<br />Some firms have flexibility on equity- vs. non-equity, buy in vs. no buy in, etc.<br />Be careful what you have to trade to get a title or status. Lots of non-equity partners doing just fine.<br />If value has been established based on the firm and their numbers, who has the upper hand in negotiation if they decide to low ball?<br />
Leaving your current firm<br />Take the high road. Do not let anyone take you down a path you don’t want to go.<br />Expect the worst reaction from current employer, but hope for best.<br />Avoid email blasts.<br />Stay positive, but point to future opportunities.<br />Avoid the temptation of more money being thrown at you. There is a reason why you are leaving. If you are underpaid in the market and they wait until one foot is out of the door to offer more, it’s not worth it.<br />Try and maintain the relationship.<br />A calmer tone usually leads to constructive conversations around which clients each side could/ should take.<br />Try and facilitate that conversation as soon as possible.<br />Offer a list of clients that you agree not to pursue as a starter.<br />Put the clients interest first<br />Remember that no matter how bad it may get, you are moving on.<br />
www.Wilcox-legal.com<br /> I welcome any feedback or questions that you may have about opportunities in your area. <br />Andrew Wilcox<br />President <br />Wilcox and Hackett, LLC<br />Andrew@Wilcox-legal.com<br />www.Wilcox-legal.com<br />http://lawfirmrainmaker.blogspot.com<br />http://www.linkedin.com/in/wilcoxlegal<br />(850) 893-8984<br />