The Case for a Partner

A strong law partnership can be the start of a lifelong two-person firm. Or it can be the beginning of something larger. After all, Reed Smith started with just two people. In a recent post, Roy discussed the ups and downs of two solos partnering up. Unfortunately, I think he focused more on the risks and down sides of a partnership, as opposed to the benefits a partner can bring.

Of course partnering with someone is a very personal decision. It, like marriage, should not be decided lightly, and choosing the right person is tough. But having a partner has many benefits. Partners can balance out each other’s weaknesses. They can split up the many skills any solo practitioner must learn. Finally, and most importantly, a partner can be just that: someone else in the game with you.

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A Balancing Force

My partner is the yin to my yang in many respects. Where I love to be in the courtroom, he loves researching and writing. I have very little business sense, while he has learned how to do everything necessary to keep our firm running. The point is, we balance each other out. We compliment each other’s weaknesses. It goes beyond bouncing ideas off another attorney, which Roy rightfully points out as a nice benefit of a partner. The advantage of a strong partner is that hopefully he or she shores up your weak areas, and he or she does the same for you.

A Second Brain

Running a law firm is a lot like running a business. And by a lot I mean it’s the exact same thing. Unfortunately, most lawyers didn’t go to business school. Few of us have degrees in marketing. I doubt many even know what PHP stands for, let alone know how to build a website. That means there is a lot to learn when opening a new business. If you only have to learn half these things, your life is much easier. You will also have more time to practice law.

Your Partner

As I write this, I’m about a year into my law partnership. We are out of the honeymoon phase, we still have our lights on, and we haven’t tried to kill each other. More importantly, we are there for each other. We can cover court for each other. Help one another work through tough legal, moral, and business issues. The partnership also creates a sense of responsibility. I know that I am in part responsible for someone else’s livelihood. That is a good motivator to put in those extra hours when necessary.

A Bit of Caution

Most solo attorneys I’ve spoken to consistently recommend staying solo. I can definitely see where they are coming from. If a partnership goes south, it can be devastating in many respects. That’s why, although I think partnerships can be a great idea, they cannot be entered into lightly.

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  • Yah, I don’t agree with Jay Foonberg on not having a partner. My practice wouldn’t work without Leo. His presence allowed me to go on vacation this year without having to worry about stuff.

    It’s also impossible to hire someone who cares about the business as much as you do, who is willing to be there by your side through the thick and thin. I would not be able to cut it as a true solo.

  • I didn’t get the sense that Roy was knocking partnerships. Rather, the message I got was that solos with (successful) existing practices should strongly consider remaining solos. In your case, you started your firm as a partnership, so it’s an apples and oranges situation.