Thinking About Moving and Taking Your Book of Business with You?
by Gavin Rubin
(County Bar Update, March 2003, Vol. 23, No. 3)

Thinking About Moving and Taking Your Book of Business with You?

By Gavin Rubin, Esq., Law Practice Management Section Executive Committee. Rubin is a principal with Attorney Network Services, which provides full service legal staffing to both law firm and in-house legal departments. He can be reached at (213) 430-0440. The opinions expressed are his own.

All indications point to the trend of law firm consolidation continuing. With global instability, political unrest, and overall financial volatility, both large and small firms will continue to strengthen their market positions through the acquisition of lateral partners. If you are thinking about moving your practice, how should you evaluate the potential playing field?

Self Assessment

Although simple, the notion of taking inventory to determine where you are in your career, what you want from it, and in what direction you wish to go is most often overlooked. Without examining these aspects, it is impossible to effectively evaluate the merits of a move. Remember, if you have a portable book of business, the current market places you in high demand. To take full advantage of this reality, spend the time stepping back to do some careful self-assessment.

What exactly is your platform for the practice of law? Can you describe in some detail your current duties and responsibilities? Are they consistent with your basic values? How would you define what you really would like your duties and responsibilities to be? How long do you want to practice law, and what is your ultimate exit strategy from practice? In short, you must know your current situation and the direction you wish to take your career to answer the ultimate question: Does my existing firm support and embrace my platform for practicing law? If it does not, the current market offers you a wonderful opportunity to do something about it.

Due Diligence

Once you have completed your self-assessment and concluded that your current situation does not best support your platform of practicing law, the process of gathering information should begin. When you have a clear idea of your legal practice platform, you must find a culture and environment that will embrace it. Lawyers will not develop as professionals unless they are in an employment setting where they can effectively pursue their professional goals.

Research possible suitors. Educate yourself about their people, culture, political system, and history. What type of client does an interested firm service? What billing rates are in place? What is the formula for compensation? Do you feel the setting offers you the ability to develop further business? The answers to these questions must be consistent with your personal platform of practicing law in order for a move to work or make any sense.

Such due diligence is arduous and time consuming, but you owe it to yourself to leave no stone unturned. It is paradoxical that attorneys, who are so adept at massive research projects for their clients, often fail to realize the significance of research that applies to their own careers.

The Final Decision

When an individual moves to another firm, the transition is complicated and often requires effort to address all the issues that the individual wants to resolve in making the move. Leaving a firm is particularly difficult when the individual has been practicing with a group of people who have become friends. Likewise, individuals who are solo practitioners must wrestle with the notion that they may no longer have complete authority. Even so, making a move can give individuals the most important thing they may want in terms of career advancement: Control over their destiny.

Taking control of your career is not only possible but also essential for long-term happiness and stability. You can never be certain that any move is going to work, but by engaging in meaningful self-assessment and research, you strengthen your probability of success. Your final step in the evaluation process is often an educated leap of faith that your hard work and effort will get you to the next step in your career. Don’t be afraid, and remember that you are in control of your career. Be smart, and use the current nature of the lateral marketplace to your favor.

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