The days when you could get to partnership as a brilliant technician are long gone.. Even if you only work on very big ticket items, to get to be a Magic Circle, Big Law, big 4 partner or partner at a large firm you still need to have proved your ability to win work and be seen as someone who can build a client portfolio worth over £1m (if you are in the UK Big 4 firms, this is £2-3m). In fact, if you are in a mid-tier or smaller firm, your ability to win work probably has to be more evident to get to partner than if you are in a magic circle, big law or big 4 firm. In our work with potential partners and successful junior partners we find that these 7 deadly business development mistakes occur time and time again. If you are making any of these 7 mistakes you will be slowing your progression to partnership.
1. Neglecting your network
This is probably the biggest mistake that any professional makes with business development. It will be your network who provide you with your first leads and clients. However, your network doesn’t just send you clients just because they have met you once at a networking event. Typically, there will have been a lengthy relationship in place BEFORE anyone will send you a referral. These lengthy relationships are often started when you studied with them at university or when you were trainees together. If you are not making time for your network when you are a qualified or associate then you are storing up some huge business development problems for later..
2. Focusing too much on client work
Yes, racking up high levels of chargeable hours may actually be hindering you from making partner. Whilst that doesn’t seem right, let me explain. What got you to manager and senior manager, will not get you to director. Or what got you to associate will not get you to senior associate or salaried partner. Typically the difference between those in a senior manager and a director role (or associate and senior associate role for the lawyers out there) will be the level to which they are bringing in business to the firm. If you solely focus on chargeable work to the detriment of business development, then you run the risk of making this business development mistake. If your client work is stopping you actively networking and spending time with introducers, then you will struggle to go on and make partner. This may be one of the reasons why it is pretty damn tough to make it as a partner at a city law firm or big law firm. After all, if you have to bill 7-8 hours of chargeable work each day, when do you get the time to do the non-chargeable business development stuff? 3. Becoming a ‘mini-me’ of an existing partner If you want to build your own client portfolio, then you need a compelling reason for others internally and externally within the firm to give you the referral. If you end up being a ‘mini-me’ of the partners in your department, who is going to get the referral? You or them? Them, of course! One of the risks of becoming a ‘mini-me’ of an existing partner is that you start to lose your authentic self. At the end of the day, people buy people. Any inauthenticity will impact on your ability to form these relationships. Therefore, try to only be one person – you. Look out next monday for the last part of this blog post.