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Legal partnerships have many benefits, but choosing the right partner is essential
If you’re a solo practitioner, or you’re planning on becoming one soon, you might be wondering whether it would be better to enter a partnership with another attorney. As the old saying goes “two heads are better than one,” and law partners that work well together can share overhead costs, double their network ability, and often gain the ability to take on larger, more complicated, and potentially more profitable cases than solo practitioners.
However, choose the wrong law partner, and you could face a loss of profit, a damaged reputation, and even legal trouble down the line. So, is it better to stay solo or launch a legal firm with a partner? The answer: it depends.
When should you enter a law partnership?
Before making any serious decisions about entering a legal partnership, it’s important that you and your potential companion have similar expectations about your vision for the firm. For example, if one attorney wants to work 25 hours a week to take care of family, and the other is willing to work 80+ hour weeks to create a large and powerful law firm, it could lead to serious conflict down the road.
It’s also important to make sure that you’re on the same page about the kind of law you’re practicing— and while you don’t necessarily have to practice the exact same type of law for a partnership to work, your two practice areas should at least be complementary. For example, a corporate lawyer and a specialist in IP law may be able to form an effective partnership, but it may be more difficult (if not completely impossible) for a divorce lawyer and a patent lawyer to make a legal partnership work. While larger law firms can afford to be more diverse in their practice areas (due to the ability of hiring groups of new attorneys,) for smaller two or three person partnerships, it usually pays to be more specific so you can develop a base of clients with similar legal needs.
Finally, it’s important to make sure your work ethic, morals, and personal habits match together well. Even things like working hours can cause major conflict if they’re not properly addressed in the early stages of a partnership (or as part of the decision process.) Even if both lawyers work 50 hours each week, if one sleeps in late and works through the night, while another is an extreme early bird, it may be quite difficult for them to effectively collaborate at work.
The benefits of entering a law partnership
A good partnership, much like a marriage, allows both parties to save money by putting their funds together—allowing attorneys to save money on office space, marketing and advertising expenses, staff and employee costs, and other expenditures.
With two partners, each brings into the partnership their own network of contacts—and by combining the two networks, the practice may be able to attract a variety of new clients and bring in significantly more profits.
Finally, a partnership can be rewarding for psychological reasons—going at it alone can be challenging, and having a partner gives lawyers someone to commiserate with, ask for advice, and work with through challenges, problems, and tough situations.
The risks of partnerships
Much in the same way that a good partnership is like a marriage, a bad partnership can be like an acrimonious divorce. If one attorney has committed illegal acts, or committed serious ethical violations in the partnership, the other lawyer may be blamed for some of his actions—potentially tarnishing both attorneys’ reputations, and even leading to lawsuits or sanctions from the state bar association.
It’s not uncommon for lawyers dissolving a long-term partnership to engage in heated disputes over clients—and if clients have been contacted by both lawyers, it could have the unintended effect of the client finding an entirely new attorney. Logistically, a legal breakup can also be difficult and time consuming—as any remaining assets, such as offices, furniture, and employees, need to be split between the two attorneys.
Finding the right partner is essential to a successful legal partnership
With the right partnership, two lawyers can help each other skyrocket to professional success. With the wrong partner, careers can be ruined, clients can be lost, and lawyers can face serious professional consequences. So, if you’re an attorney thinking of partnering up—it pays to think long and hard before making a choice.
To learn more about law firm management and other tips for your legal practice, contact Boss Reporting today for a free quote.