I’ve been chatting via email with a lawyer who is unexpectedly being put up for partner in the next few weeks. In an ideal world your business case will be written over a series of months after consulting with the great and good of the partnership. However, life doesn’t always work out like that! This senior associate is finding out the hard way about writing a business case in a week. This blog post contains selected bits of my advice to her as she focuses intensively on achieving her mission impossible.

1. What is your firm aiming to achieve?

It is not unusual for a firm to have a very vague and shrouded-in-mystery process to get to partner. Firms like the Big 4, BDO and Grant Thornton have a very clear and transparent process for making partner. These firms are unfortunately in the minority. If you are going to write an impactful business case you need to know the stated or unstated headline strategy for the firm. What is their long term aim for growth or survival? The best business cases make a strong link between the firm’s strategy and how their business case will help the firm achieve it. A firm will always have a long term strategy. It could be as simple as ‘do more of the same’. Sometimes it is never openly articulated. If you are going to be a member of the partnership club you need to know what this strategy is – and there may be different versions of this strategy depending upon who you speak to!

2. Identify how you will help strengthen the partnership and increase the profits as a partner

This is where you identify the ‘why you’, but in the context of what the partnership is trying to achieve.

3. Build your one-sentence sell and 3-sentence sell

In one sentence sum up why the partnership should make you up to partner. This will not be easy, but it will help you get crystal clear on the message you want to get through in your business case for partnership AND pitch at the partnership panel interview. It could possibly be something like this:

“My relationship with the Tesco account will grow into a partnership sized portfolio and help the firm fulfil its strategy of a strong retail sector team.”

Now expand this 1 sentence to 3 sentences, which is your short pitch for why me for partner? Once again, this discipline of making every word fight to be included is forcing you to think very clearly and succinctly about your personal and business case. 

4. Storyboard your 3-sentence pitch

Before you are tempted to delve into the detail, it is time to storyboard your 3 sentence pitch. What you want is to be able to tell the story of your business case, without extra unnecessary detail. One of the best ways to do this is take 5-10 slides, and use only the slide titles to tell the headline story of your business case for partnership. These will typically be the order of:

  • 3 sentence pitch
  • Reason 1 (supports/qualifies 3 sentence pitch)
  • Your Second Reason (that supports/qualifies 3 sentence pitch)
  • Your Third Reason ( that supports/qualifies 3 sentence pitch)
  • Risk of not promoting you to partner this time

5. Fill in the detail to support the titles on each slide

Your aim when filling in the detail for each slide is to still keep your words punchy and succinct. Don’t fall into the trap of making the font smaller and smaller to fit all those words onto the slide. It should not be War and Peace.  The whole point of forcing you to use this method is it helps you cut out the waffle and make each word really count when you’re writing your business case.

6. Expand your storyboard into a full business case

Now take what you have built and expand it as much as necessary to give the partners the detail that they require within your business case. Using this process you will have all the information you need to prepare your pitch for partnership in your partnership interview.  

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