The Solution to Law Partner Analysis Paralysis


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“I’ll run it by my partner,” he said.

I hoped it was his way of saying “Thanks, but no thanks,” and it was more comfortable for him than simply saying no.

Many of us have a hard time rejecting someone when they’re trying to sell us something.

I was wrong.

He really did run it by his partner

He was trying to decide whether to become a premium member at Rosen Institute. He did, in fact, join us after consulting his partner.

The first thing I did was berate him about the fact that he had to discuss the decision. It’s a poor approach to running a business.

If you’re talking to your partner about most decisions, you’re wasting time. Time is really the only thing you have. Lawyers who bill by the hour are particularly attuned to that fact. But even those of us who use fixed fees have at least a sense that time is money.

It’s the first rule in Rosen’s Rules

To quote myself: “Operate with a single decision-maker.” That’s Rosen’s Rule Number One.

Why? Because most decisions are trivial and lawyers argue about everything.

A lawyer will argue about whether the shirt is dark blue or black, totally losing sight of the simple ‘no shirt, no service’ rule which inspired the discussion.

We like to argue. It’s our superpower. We keep arguing long after our partner has moved on and gone back to work.

Ownership doesn’t mean leadership

I get that lawyers are pack animals. We’re good in groups.

But somebody has to be the alpha dog. The problem is that everyone wants to be the alpha dog.

We end up arguing over whether the logo should be blue or green (anything other than blue would be smart).

We have opinions about everything, we debate issues of no consequence or value, we can’t ever let anything go. We’re awesome in court, but we’re terrible at business, and the business runs on our decisions.

Save your bandwidth for things that matter

There are some things on which you and your partners should collaborate.

You should work together on the creation of the vision. A great vision requires buy-in, and that mostly happens at inception.

You should collaborate on marketing by jumping in together to build referral relationships, contribute resources, and provide subject matter expertise for the creation of articles, blog posts, webinars, seminars, videos, and more. A team effort on marketing moves the needle faster, driving up revenue, and ultimately profits.

There are plenty of things partners can do together. They can each contribute to the hiring process by providing candidate insight and observations. Some partners are better at supervising the accounting. Some are great with technology. Everyone should contribute, but the decision-maker should decide.

Contributing is different from deciding.

Agree to the decisions in advance

Somebody needs to make the decisions. Most decisions don’t require much analysis, and when extensive analysis is required the decision rarely requires much debate after the analysis is concluded.

As I already said, most decisions are trivial. They just need to be made so that everyone can move on to whatever’s next.

The fastest way to break a law firm is to slow down the decision making. That’s what happens when every decision requires debate.

The debate can be ended, in advance, with a great partnership agreement.

A partnership agreement is a valuable tool. It ought to say, in a nutshell, that everyone delegates the management of the law firm to the person managing the firm. Provide further that you’ll keep your mouth shut, be supportive, and give your best efforts to the success of the firm.

Agree in advance to focus on things that matter and stay out of the 99% of law firm decisions that make very little difference. Spend your energy making your firm more successful, instead of providing input on issues that don’t matter.

Be a great follower as your net worth soars

Each of us has great ideas and thinks our way is the best way. But for the most part, it’s better to work together, in alignment, on any idea–good or bad–so long as we all row in the same direction.

Law firms in which the owners are in alignment go further, faster. The engine gets ignited, it picks up speed, and the momentum drives the business toward fulfillment of the vision.

Law firms plagued by debate get started, change course, put the engine in neutral while they drift, and are frequently sold for parts before the engine ever picks up speed.

The problem with most law firms is that everybody has an opinion and nobody can keep it to himself–even when it doesn’t matter.

Which decisions require your input?

If you’re currently thinking, “I love this message and I’m going to print it out and hand it to my partner,” you should stop and think. If most decisions are trivial and don’t require debate, then someone needs to be the follower. You’re insightful enough to see it now. Is it better to convince your partner to follow you, or should you simply stand down and start following?

Remember: the thing about which you think you know better doesn’t matter. Your success is more dependent on the business having followers than it is on making the right choice on trivial issues.

Every firm needs followers if it’s going to become a lucrative source of compensation for the owners. Do you want to be part of the solution, or part of the problem?

Yes, you’ve got great ideas and they should be heard and understood. But seriously–is the outcome of the debate about whether the copier should have the built-in stapler going to determine the future of the business? Same question for the new website, replacing the receptionist, or switching task management systems.

Should you ‘run it by your partner,’ or should you just accept the decision of the partner you liked and trusted so much that you formed a business together?

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