As lawyers our services are a commodity. As a consequence, our value in the market is impacted by a variety of factors. Some are simple market forces or supply and demand and others are reputation based and even location. All of these factors are constantly shifting and impacting our value in the marketplace. Between drafting documents, responding to emails, and keeping track of our billable time, lawyers rarely have spare time for much else. Lawyers tend to focus the majority of their time dealing with their clients’ issues and developing their client base but rarely seem to reflect on their own needs. It is only when there is an external stimulus, a review, year end compensation negotiation or other reactive situation that we reflect on our own needs or wants. We prepare our clients to act from a position of strength and power…we should do the same.
When it comes to understanding our value in the legal market, information is critical and it must be current. There are indicators that are obvious, when the economy is firing on all cylinders it is not going to come as a surprise to anyone that bankruptcy and restructuring practices are not going to be expanding. Conversely, in a declining economy M&A practices are likely to be slow. That said, full service firms’ needs are constantly changing and a practice that may not have garnered much attention six months earlier may suddenly be in demand.
For partners, firms are often willing to provide a baseline comparison, a check against what their current firm is offering. Particularly for partners that are “homegrown” i.e. started their careers at the same firm and worked their way to partnership, information relative to the value of their practice may be a complete unknown. Once again, knowledge about trends or particular firms’ needs is necessary to choose the right targets.
Associates have it a bit easier. Tools exist to compare salary and to find firm openings. However, while “big law” is more of an open book, online research doesn’t always provide the whole story. For many, mid-sized and boutique law firms may be the next career step and information on those firms can be harder to come by. Inside knowledge is required to evaluate your opinions.
If you have questions about anything in this post or if I can be of assistance, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (617)271-3958.