We have previously considered what you need to put in your personal and business case for partnership, and why you should not get fixated on your technical ability in your personal business case. In today’s post we are going to focus on what you need to do BEFORE you actually start writing your business case for partnership.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a lawyer, accountant or consultant, the actual writing of your personal and business case for partnership is the last part of the process. There is much work to be done before you actually write your business case.

What actually is your business case for partnership?

Your business case is not a document. It’s not a pitch for partnership. It’s where you set out exactly how you plan to grow your own practice to increase the profits of your firm. The writing it down part of pitching a business case for partnership is actually the last bit of the business case process. Your business case needs to be built ideally 3 years out from when you want to make partner.

Let’s consider when you need to be thinking about your business case for partnership.

Ideally you want to be starting to build your business case at least 18-36 months before going through the partnership admissions process.

If you are reading this and thinking I want to make partner in the next 2 years but I’ve not been working on a business case, you can still make up the time. You may find that you’ve inadvertently already been working on a business case as you go about winning your own work.

Your law, consultancy or accountancy firm  is likely to have its own process for admitting partners to the partnership. Before you waste time any more time, you need to find out what that process is. Ask your HR director, HR business partner for your business unit, partner or even check out the firm’s intranet to find out what the process is. You may be lucky and find that your partnership either has a very informal process without the need for a business case, or a very clear process which is well documented, with a transparent timeframe. Even if your firm does not publish or have a formal process for admission to the partnership, there will always be an informal process.

The starting point is to understand the process and what the business case looks like and how the business case fits into the process.

Darryn Hedges, Former Global Finance Director Marks and Clerk LLP

The next stage is to take a step back and do your homework on the business. If you were an external consultant advising your firm, what would you recommend to help them:

  1. Strengthen the weaknesses in the partnership – be that technically, leadership, financially or commercially
  2. Replace partners who are likely to retire in the near future
  3. Help the partnership achieve it’s long term business goals and strategic objectives

Speak with your partners to help you write your personal and business case for partnership

To help you complete this work, take some time to speak to partners across your firm – in particular the movers and shakers within the partnership. This actually has a three-fold benefit to you. Firstly, you get to understand from the horse’s mouth what the partnership will be looking for in its new partners. Secondly, you alert them to your career intentions. Finally, you can elicit their views as to where you would best fit into the partnership and the skills (technical or otherwise) you will need to develop to be in with a good chance of making the step up.

Build up your referral networks

Most firms will want to see that you have got strong referral networks who are sending you and/or your firm work. If you don’t yet have a partner-sized client portfolio, then being able to show that you have these strong referral networks may be all you need to demonstrate in your business case for partner at your law firm, Big 4, Magic Circle, Consulting firm or Accounting Firm.

Be heavily involved in business development

Unless you are currently in industry or in a non-fee earning role, you need to show how seriously you take business development. Therefore, take every opportunity to deepen your business development skills and win new business.

In summary…

You have 2 things to do before starting to write your business case for partnership:

  1. Find out the process that your firm uses to admit new partners to the partnership
  2. Do your homework and find out what the firm needs from it’s new partners