Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The End of Books

It’s the million dollar question. As I talk with attorneys about potential career moves you can almost anticipate that they want me to ask it. They need me to ask it. They get asked it all of the time. Most hope that I don’t ask it. Why? Because no one knows the answer.

Let me be clear, I hate the question too. Firms want me to ask it, so I do…eventually.

Firms have gotten very smart about creating uncertainty around what people can claim as “their book”. Bring a client in and have 8 other people work on all facets of that clients needs. Smart, good business. After a team works successfully on a few deals, knows the people involved, has domain expertise of the client, trying to be the one attorney that takes that client will most likely result in a rock fight on the way out.

So the refrain goes, I brought in X amount over the last few years, but I can’t tell you how much, if any, is portable. That not knowing will slam the breaks on a prospective firms 30 pages of diligence that they need to determine if they are interested in bringing you into the fold. So you are a great attorney…if we cant measure it, we cant manage it. If we can’t manage it, then you aren’t worth it.

Books should be about stories though. What you have done over the last 3-5 years or over a career says a lot about how you have developed your character. Are you a role player or hero? Have you failed miserably in a way that has ultimately lead you to succeed? What has held the character back? What does the character need to move the story forward?

You can show originations and WIP for the last 3 years in a Tweet.

The question will not go away. Just like a mutual fund prospectus shows performance over the last few years, the disclaimer also says that it is not a guarantee of future performance. We have to start somewhere though.

As you evaluate opportunities use the exercise to formulate what you need and frankly what you don’t. If you are seeking a romance novel, don’t go shopping in the horror section. If you seek bill rate flexibility, other practice areas to leverage, specific firm culture, geographic footprint, etc. All of those things go to your list of requirements. This will tighten your list of suitors based on what you will tolerate or not.

Paint a picture of what you would look like to that firm over first couple of months (resources needed, clients to cross-sell with, practice groups to engage, marketing) to a year and 5 years in. Create an outline that everyone can use to fill out the story.

Firms WANT to know what you have done in the past with another firm, but they NEED to know how you will do that and more with them.

This is the time of year to start putting that story down on paper whether considering a move or kick-starting your practice where you are.

If you are looking for a new start to your story, contact me at:, 850-274-7849