Tips for Creating a Partner's Customized Model and Plan

by Joel A. Rose 

For use in preparing partners’ individual business models and plans, design a standard worksheet form. The goal of a standard worksheet is to promote uniformity in the process for creating personal plans, not to seek rigidly uniform results.

In each form section described below, request at least the information described in italics. Adjust the form as necessary if alternatives to hourly billing are used, if revenue is generated in non-dollar currencies, etc.

1. Personal Production

  • Billed-and-Collected Hours. Estimate anticipated productivity, monthly (average) and annually, in terms of billed and collected hours of work.

Designate that the partner is expected to work at least a specified total number of billable hours . Billable hours should represent what you expect from an “average” partner. All exceptions, up or down, should be explained on the form or on an addendum. There should be exceptions for the managing partner and for partners with special arrangements.

Since you are looking for a standard to determine who is extraordinary, do not accept unreasonably high or low billable hours on the form.

  • Nonbillable hours. Total monthly and annual hours designated for nonbillable projects.

Designate that the partner is expected to work a specified number of hours on nonbillable projects, not counting personal time.

Nonbillable hours should include the administrative and substantive firm-management time specified below in item #7. The firm should have a consistent policy on how time for routine administrative activities should be counted (vs. intensive administrative activity performed by partners who manage certain types of work). Exceptions may be granted for management, special projects, and special arrangements for certain partners.

  • Revenue. Estimate planned contribution to firm revenue, monthly (average) and annually. Explain any unusually high anticipated billings.

Billable hours collected at client-imposed standard rates may require a higher number of hours for some partners. Also, partners should be looking for opportunities to price certain projects at other than rates times hours (eg, value billing).

2. Productivity improvement plans

  • Detail proposals for improving personal productivity during the coming year, eg, working more hours (specify hours); working on higher paying files (list file types); improving efficiency (describe how); better use of paralegals and staff (specify which paralegals and staff); increasing gross billings; originating more business; etc.

3. Client Development

  • Specify plans for targeting new clients. The partner should outline a strategy for each target, plus his/her plan for status reporting. Describe planned specific activities such as speaking or writing (list target forums for speeches, topics and target publications for articles, and specific plans for securing these exposures).

  • Similarly, detail plans for using participation in community, professional, and civic groups for client development. Also describe any other marketing-related plans.

4. Participation in the Team Concept

  • Describe planned methods for introducing specific clients to other specific lawyers in the firm, and for distributing specific types of work to other specific lawyers.

  • Similarly, describe methods for turning over client management to others, specifying any particular clients to be transitioned to other lawyers.

5. Quality Control

  • Describe any plans for developing practice quality control mechanisms or related systems. Detail the purpose and target date for completing development.

  • Describe methods used for ensuring that work is done in a timely manner, including following up on work delegated to others.

Selected clients should be queried regularly to determine if the client is satisfied with the attorney’s performance. Client satisfaction surveys may be performed by the attorney, by firm management, or by an outside consultant.

6. Professional Development

  • Describe any specific professional goals such as bar association and related activities. Require progress reports.

  • Describe specific CLE plans.

  • Describe any specific goals to improve skills and ability to handle increasingly sophisticated matters.

7. Management

  • List any plans for participation in administrative or substantive firm-management activities, and the estimated amount of time to be devoted to each.

Job descriptions and an evaluation process should be prepared for each management assignment such as Management Committee, Compensation Committee, Recruiting, etc.

8. Required Improvements

  • List any recognized weaknesses that must be improved/eliminated.

Consider a requirement to improve or cure the deficiency before the partner is eligible for an extraordinary award.

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