I venture to say more original partnerships in law were created because two or more lawyers were sitting around talking and said “I have a great idea!”. And with that thought a business venture was created, worked for awhile, and then began to fall apart over the years as the honeymoon stage went by the way-side and the day to day grind of trying to make it wore out the excitement.
I believe that partnerships are just like marriages. You absolutely must think of the commitment with the right person and it is more than just sitting around talking. Because in the end what sustains the law partnership is the common held beliefs and values that allow good decisions to be made during the worst of times.
Value based law firms are simply those where everyone but most importantly, the partners share the same core values. Partners do not have to think alike, act alike, or look alike but they have to be value liked.
When we do retreats for the first time with partnerships that are in trouble we go back to the basics. We make them talk about their personal goals and their professional goals and then we make them work together to agree on common shared values.
Know thyself! …and know they partner. We have a value exercise that allows you to work through your own value system. A healthy partnership makes money and allows you to practice the art of law the way you are meant to.
When a partnership is in trouble you think of it the same way you do a marriage. The partnership probaly has children (firm members) who are feeling the brunt of the issues. The relationships are fragmenting. All of the family (entire firm) is taking sides or hiding their heads. And it spiral downwards. We helped with a dissolution of a very fine upstanding big law firm. We were called in too late. It was heartbreaking because we recognized that the partnership was having problems well over two years before. Counseling and working on core values in our opinion would have saved it. To this day sometimes I believe both partners have regrets.
We were also called in before a partnership dissolved and with hard work and commitment we were able to define a new path for the partners, a better form of governance, and a way to bring it back in a new way.
There are no magic cures with partnership blues but I can tell you what was worth starting is at least worth trying to save. Just don’t wait until too late.