How to draft a Business Plan


For any partnership move, a good business plan is an essential adjunct to a CV.

By the time you have reached a certain level of seniority, personal attributes which are vital in assistants and associates (technical ability, academics etc) tend to be far less important than the commercial viability of you and your practice. In the vast majority of cases you are being hired on the basis that you can earn your keep and post a profit. So a law firm will expect you to set out specific, quantifiable details of what you can bring to the table and how best this can be facilitated.

In preparing a business plan you should always ask yourself what a hiring firm wants to see. In the main, this will be an analysis of your financial performance both historically and projected.

Ideally you should be able to provide evidence of your previous three years billings broken down by client and matter. Distinguish billings attributed to you, but handled by your team. You should also be able to provide details of the origin of any instructions - did the work come to the firm through you, or to you through the firm? This exercise is important since it will help you formulate figures regarding future financial performance, and also provide the hiring firm with the evidence to back up these estimates.

An estimate of the book of business that will move with you is probably the most important call you will have to make. In projecting future billings, many senior lawyers fall down by either promising the earth in terms of portable business or, by contrast, adopting an overly conservative approach. Neither course is to be recommended.

Law firms will hold a lawyer accountable for estimates made of their first year’s billing so wildly optimistic claims will return to haunt you. At the same time, ultra-cautious projections are likely to leave the hiring firm uninspired and possibly disinclined to pursue the process to the point of making an offer. In reality, most firms will slightly discount the quantum of any following given the inherent uncertainties involved in moving firms. But in order to maximise your chances, and ensure the best entry terms to a new practice, you should not undersell your practice. Analyse the strength of your contacts with clients and the workflow anticipated from them. Has a client followed you when you have moved before? Is a client lining up a particularly acquisitive year?

Remember that the ability to find the relevant information quickly in a business plan will enhance your prospects and we would advise writing an executive summary which will be a one page cover sheet summarising all the main points in the business plan - and especially the financial projections.

Clearly, the financial aspects of any business plan are key. However, these should always be put in context and below we have outlined a general structure which could be adopted.

Example of points to be answered by a Business Plan

Objectives

• Identify the key objectives for the practice group/ office.
• What are the key strategies for achieving those objectives?

Markets

• Market analysis, issues impacting on the demand for legal services and opportunities.
• Identify the specific geographic markets the practice group/ office intends to service during the next financial year and beyond (both existing and new markets).
• Identify the specific industry sectors the practice intends to service during the next financial year and beyond (both existing and new industry sectors).

Practice Areas

• Proposed areas of practice
• Proposed areas of expertise
• Is it proposed to develop any new areas of practice and, if so, what, how, by whom and what are the outcomes expected.

Clients

• Identify those existing clients who it is thought provide the greatest opportunity for the development of further profitable quality work.
• Identify, say, 10 key clients and, for each, summarise by way of an action plan:
• The type of work being sought
• The target contact at the client
• How the 'approach' will be made and by whom
• Timescale
• Measurable outcomes (e.g. additional work; type of work; fees etc).
• Identify the five most important existing professional contacts/intermediaries, the work they refer and, on a prioritised basis, the means by which those relationships will be developed.
• Identify those clients for whom the firm already acts and which offer the greatest potential opportunity for practice group/ office. How is it intended to develop those relationships for the benefit of the practice group/ office?
• Identify a realistic number of new clients to be targeted during the next financial year and beyond. For the highest priority target clients, develop specific action plans as above.

Competitive Differentiation

• Who are the major competitors?
• How is the practice group/ office going to be so developed as to differentiate it from its competitors and give it competitive advantage?

Talent Base Resourcing

• What additional resources will the practice group/ office need to recruit during the next financial year (and beyond). Be specific as to areas of expertise; seniority; likely salary levels; timing etc.

Business Development and Practice Initiatives

• What specific marketing initiatives will be pursued during the next financial year e.g.
• Memberships of organisations; networking etc
• Sponsorships
• Trips/visits
• Conference/seminar attendance
• Speaking engagements
• Writing articles for external publication
• Entertainment and hospitality
• Other.
• What specific practice initiatives will be pursued during the next financial year e.g. know how; training etc.
• What is the proposed expenditure for marketing the practice group/ office during the next financial year (break down by client and/or activity).

Revenue (more time)

• Revenue projections by key client for the next financial year
• Revenue projections for the practice group/ office for the next financial year and for the next two years.

Garfield Robbins International have assisted partners in drafting business plans in relation to moves from leading London law firms to US law firms in both the City of London and overseas including Asia and Australia.

For more information, please contact your advising consultant at Garfield Robbins International on 0845 671 0199. Email: info@garfieldrobbins.com


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