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LawBiz® TIPS – Week of November 20, 2018

How to Decide When It's Time to Leave

The members of a successful law firm need a fundamental basis for working together. Lawyers who physically share the same office environment should share common goals and agree on how to achieve them. Lack of such an outlook will sooner or later mean the dissolution of the firm in its current form, when one or more of the lawyers inevitably decide, "I no longer want to work here."

Sometimes the source of the disagreement is financial. It's true that people will accept less than the top compensation as long as they like their colleagues. While the money must be at least nearly competitive, other factors can come into play, such as the exchange of ideas and the education of one lawyer by another. These are important to a successful lawyer but the question becomes, are they essential?

It's important to have a framework for making a decision. I recommend analyzing three threshold levels, in ascending order, as a way to decide whether to leave a firm:

Threshold One – Personality: Do you like the people you work with?

Threshold Two – Economics: Are you earning enough money to make staying worthwhile

Threshold Three – Values: Does the firm take a shared approach to compensation and clients, or is it every lawyer for him/herself?

Even if, after such an analysis, the decision to leave seems clear-cut, leaving won't necessarily be easy. Leaving a law firm is an emotional process. You must want to do so, and believe that you have no other alternative. Even if you are going to another firm, a successful transition will require all the traits of an entrepreneur: motivation, acceptance of risk, resiliency, commitment, and persistence. There is no one way to find out if you have what it takes. Deep introspection is advised. Perhaps start with a traditional SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) of yourself and your practice. Talk to others who have been in similar situations. Seek advice and counsel from respected advisers and consultants.

To some extent, any such analysis will be subjective, but it does create a structured framework for planning. You must decide what you want to be, what you want to do, and where you want to do it. A more fulfilling practice and a better life could await you.



How to Decide When It's Time to Leave

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