Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Questions for new Partners

Congratulations. You've been offered a Partnership in your firm - or in another firm - and you're about to sign on the dotted line. You will, of course, have given the matter a great deal of thought and will have considered carefully the business you will bring in, and will be doing, as a Partner. You know your points level and your bonus requirements (if any).

There are some other questions that you might like to ask in your role as a new Partner - questions related to the way that the firm operates, rather than with the legal work you do in it. I'd like to suggest the following:

  • What risk management systems are in place in the Firm. You will know your Risk Partner (surely!), but does your Firm have an up to date risk register? Are there contingency plans in place? Are these plans tested?
  • What insurance cover does the Firm hold? Is it good enough? Will you be content that "someone else deals with that"? I don't think I would be.
  • Is the Firm up to date with its requirements for the SRA?
  • Do you know exactly how the Firm is governed? Have you met, or are you due to meet, Heads of Department - both legal and support? Will you be taking part in any part of the running of the firm - what committees are there that you might be able to contribute to?
  • What's your business development plan for the Firm? I assume that you will have discussed your own development plans before moving on, and will possibly have discussed a plan for your department. What, however, about the business development work you will be doing for the Firm as a whole?
  • What Partner meetings are held regularly? It is your duty as a Partner to get involved in the Firm and to take part in Partner-wide meetings. Sadly most such meetings tend to be attended by only a core of the Partnership. These are meetings that are worth attending - take the time!
  • Finally - how is financial and operational planning done? Who decides about cost-cutting measures? Who makes decisions about budgets? Are the qualified to do so (ok - this is a tricky question for a new Partner - but you will have had to ask more difficult questions in the past and will, I'm sure, find a delicate way to ask it)? What is the involvement of experts in these decisions?

Remember - as a new Partner, you are now an owner of the Firm and, as such, responsible for the way that it works. Don't just undertake extensive, in-depth, reviews for your clients. Ask the difficult questions in your own Firm. You can then be assured of sleeping better - and possibly help your Firm to become more efficient.

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