There’s strength in numbers. It’s an adage as compelling today as it was in times when survival depended on banding together to ward off foes. In fact, 85% of companies consider business partnerships essential to growth, according to Business Performance Innovation. When it comes to your law practice, a partnership could help build revenue, establish a larger footprint in your community and expand your intellectual capital.
Yet the same study also showed that many partnerships struggle to survive, often because of the lack of a well-thought-out strategy. Though the “why” behind forming a partnership may seem obvious, it’s essential to think clearly about just what you and your prospective partner expect to gain from the relationship.
Skills that complement, not duplicate
As natural as it may feel to partner with someone who thinks and works the same way you do, partnerships (like marriages) often thrive because of differences. In addition to giving your firm new areas of expertise, your new partner may also fill in certain blanks. You love research and preparation; she shines in front of prospective clients. You’re publicity shy; he’s an ace at spreading the word and attracting the right kind of media attention.
While your skills, expertise and personal style may vary, it helps to partner with someone who has the same general ambitions for the practice. Some attorneys, placing a high value on work-life balance, may be content to grow just large enough to support a comfortable lifestyle. Others may seek to become dominant players in a market.
Both may be laudable ambitions, yet those divergent goals may be incompatible over the long term. Differing visions may cause rifts on everything from vacation policies to hiring new staff to how much revenue you reinvest in growth.
Sweating the details
Even as you seek agreement on the big picture, take the time to hash out the specifics of the partnership. Assumptions can lead to misunderstandings that can create mistrust and kill relationships. Draw up a plan that governs how decisions will be made and how you’ll break a tie decision. With these items taken care of, it’s more likely that your business partnership will represent the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
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