Phase III – Partnership – Internal/Other Firm
Eventually the question of partnership arises – weather sooner based upon the need or desire to transition an associate into a partnership or to add a practice area by acquiring a lateral partner with his/her book of business. Maybe you are thinking about merging with another firm. Or maybe you have been solo or a sole owner for your entire career and are now contemplating retirement and are looking for a succession/exit strategy and now must either bring in a partner, merge with another firm, or sell your practice. Partnership with another attorney creates another set of interpersonal dynamics and another set of skills that will need to be developed at this stage of your practice.
Phase III Survival Tips
1. Partnership is like a marriage. You must marry the right person. Most partnerships that fail do so as a result of partnering up with the wrong partners. Compatibility is critical. Consider:
a. Long term goals of both parties
b. Work ethic computability
c. Common interests
d. Money and compensation
2. Thinking of merging? Research indicates that 1/3 to 1/2 of all mergers fail to meet expectations due to cultural misalignment and personnel problems. Don't try to use a merger or acquisition as a life raft, for the wrong reasons and as your sole strategy. Successful mergers are based upon a sound integrated business strategy that creates synergy and a combined firm that produces greater client value than either firm can produced alone. Right reasons for merging might include:
a. Improve the firm's competitive position. .Increase specialization – obtain additional expertise.
b. Expand into other geographic regions.
c. Add new practice areas.
d. Increase or decrease client base.
e. Improve and/or solidify client relationships.
3. I would start by thinking about your reasons for wanting to merge and your objectives. Ask yourself the following questions?
a. Do you want to practice in a large firm? If not, what is the largest firm that you would want to practice in?
b. What is driving the desire to merge?
c. If the desire to merge is being driven by a desire to retreat from internal problems – what have you done to address these issues internally?
d. Is your name being part of the firm name important to you?
e. What are your expectations and objectives for a merger?
f. What are you looking from a merger partner?
g. Make sure that you look for a complimentary fit. If you are weak in firm leadership, management and administration – look for a partner that is strong in these areas. Strong leadership, management, and administration may be hard to find in a firm under 25 attorneys.
Are you ready for the challenge?
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC