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Once you have reached a certain level of qualification, if you have ever considered a new job, you are more than likely going to have come up against positions that require you to ‘bring a following’. Firms often expect this at a certain level of seniority as they see it as an indicator of a person’s ability to generate business and to bring in new work. Obviously your ability to generate a personal following and how portable this following is likely to be is influenced greatly by where you are currently working. International, national and regional firms will welcome any following you can personally bring to the practice and you may well be the account manager for that client, however once that client has met and developed relationships with Partners in various Departments across the firm as their legal work has required, you will find it increasingly difficult to count them as part of your potential personal following and the likelihood of them moving with you to another firm will decrease with time. Clients of these types of practices tend to be clients of the firm as opposed to individuals.
So, if a job that has caught your eye requests you to bring a following, how vital is it that you are able to do this? Now this could mean that the firm that is recruiting would rather not shoulder the risk of having to pay your salary up front without there being any concrete fees in evidence from the outset or they might wish to expand a certain legal specialism but the work isn’t there to be done at the moment, hence they want you to have something to keep you occupied from day one, however what it does not mean is that you have to be able to transport your entire client base and caseload to your new employer.
As part of the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct, you know that your clients have freedom of choice with regards to whom they wish to instruct as their solicitor, so at the end of the day it is your client’s call whether they decide to move with you or not. It is not that easy to ask your clients whether they would still refer work to you if you were to join ‘Firm X’ unless you are on particularly good personal terms with them, as no-one wants to flag up the fact that they are seeking a new job until all the terms of that new job have been finalised and the job offer has been formally accepted.
One thing to bear in mind though, if you are lucky enough to have that loyal client following and you are intending to make that move, it might be prudent to sound out whether they would still be happy to instruct a practice of ‘Firm X’s’ standing, as your clients might require the firms of solicitors they instruct to meet certain criteria, so they might even dictate which firms you are able to consider. Just a thought!
Whether you genuinely do need that following for your dream job or not, depends very much on the reason behind the position arising in the first place, therefore, why not give me, Tracy Harris at BCL Legal, a call in strict confidence to see whether you really need to be concerned about the portability of your personal following or not? I place solicitors and legal executives at all levels into private practice across the West and South Midlands (Staffordshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire) and the Thames Valley (Oxfordshire and Berkshire) in a wide range of disciplines to include commercial property, corporate, employment, commercial litigation, property litigation, construction and family law. I look forward to hearing from you shortly to discuss whether you truly need a portable personal following or not and, if it transpires that you do, then you may be interested to read what actually makes up a personal following in my August Blog – as you could well be pleasantly surprised!