We have worked with a few professionals who were not client-facing and who needed to put together a business case for partner. They couldn’t build a business case based on the client work they would win or service. They needed to think more laterally about the advantage the partnership would gain if they were made up to partner. In this blog post, I explore the 4 main threads which will strengthen any non-fee earner’s business case for partnership. Normally your business case needs to prove something along these lines:
1. The benefit to the practice of you being privy to partners’ conversations around the partnership table significantly earlier than you are now
Typically this takes the form of showing that if you are involved in the conversations earlier it results in less work and heartache for the partners. Normally, these conversations are the big ones, which have a material impact to the firm’s strategy, bank balance or structure; often the ones that will require a partnership vote. If you can show some real examples of the impact – whether good or bad – of you being involved earlier, or brought in too late, in crucial partnership conversations, this will strengthen your business case considerably. For example, this could be an aborted firm merger that, if you had known about it earlier, you could have advised them much quicker that this was a bad match made in heaven.
2. Why you and your team will provide a better service to the practice if you have a more influential position
Typically you and your team need to be viewed positively by the partners before you can even begin to think about making partner. This part of the business case is where you demonstrate how positively your team is viewed by the partners/firm as a whole. Then you offer up potential ideas of how better a service your team could provide if you were able to be more proactive and less reactive. You would only be able to be more proactive if you had more sight of the potential projects, mergers, business plans and strategy changes as they were being conceived rather than when they had been officially ratified.
3. Why the partnership should make you partner now rather than wait a few more years.
Your partners are in no hurry to make you up to partner. Ultimately if you are a high performer, then they would get this great performance whether or not you are a partner. Therefore, you need to introduce some urgency into why you should be made partner now rather than in a few years’ time. This can often be demonstrated by detailing the inappropriate level of risk that partners exposed the firm to, by going off and doing their own thing, rather than consulting you or your team earlier in the process. Or you could show them the level of risk the partnership is exposing itself to currently by not making you (or the equivalent person in your position) up to partner.
4. Look at precedents set by your well-performing competitors
The reality is that before you can be made partner in your firm there normally needs to be a mindset shift from your partners. After all, many partners are not comfortable with having partners who have no fee-earning responsibilities. What many partners fear is getting left behind by firms that they see as peers. If you can show how your competitors have started to perform better than you by having non-fee earners within the partnership structure, this will considerably strengthen your business case.