Business Planning: what does it mean for candidates?

3 May 2013

Business plans mean different things for both candidates and clients but both face challenges when it comes to assessing and producing them accurately.

For candidates, the challenges can start at inception. A business plan can initially seem an onerous thing to create, a required part of the recruitment process that has little impact on their application or career path. In actuality, the opposite is true. Candidates need to learn to see business plans as their career blueprints. A successful and accurate business plan can project the candidate forward on to their desired career path.

Honesty and accuracy is paramount. Candidates need to critically assess their clients, before they can embark on the inclusion of fee predictions. How long have you worked with them? Did you initiate contact or did they? Do you know more than one main contact at the client?

Using the answers to these questions, candidates should be able to honestly assess whether their clients see them as a trusted adviser or ‘just a lawyer’, to be called on when needed. In turn, these assessments, along with an understanding of the average fees generated from each client over the last few years, should allow candidates to forecast best, worst and median levels of future fees. Potential employers appreciate the commercial pragmatism this brings and contributes to their overall understanding of your judgement.

Once in possession of a candidate’s business plan, clients need to be able to assess them honestly, rather than skipping to bottom-line economics.

A candidate’s business plan may bring several attractive clients to the table, but these are useless if they do not fit into the client firm’s existing business model. Likewise, the candidate needs to be able to demonstrate that the relationship with their clients does indeed sit with them, rather than residing with their current firm.

Research shows that it can take around a year and a half after recruitment for senior lateral hires to start making a profit for their new firm. With this in mind, hires should primarily be about longevity, not quick fixes.

Similarly, a candidate’s following can just as easily ‘follow’ them out of the door, as it did when they joined in the first place. Clients must bear the above in mind and plan long-term to ensure new hires are embedded successfully. A failure to do this guarantees that both parties are only budgeting for a short-term solution.