Regional Career Advice

Hi all 

Anonymous first time poster looking for some advice from the RoF community.

I’m 6 years PQE at a small regional firm (most you probably wouldn’t even have heard of it but we have like 200 staff in 4 cities). The work is pretty boring but easy enough (I’m in finance doing mainly mid market corporate banking). The pay is crap but the people are quite nice and I’ve got a pretty clear runway to partner within a couple of years. PEP is about £200-250k on average most years which is a half decent take home where I live.

I’m presently courting an offer from a regional office (same city) of a much, much larger UK regional firm  (not quite silver circle but pretty well though of). The work would be of a much higher quality and pay better but the partner track much longer.

I’m fortunate enough to be in a sector that’s going pretty well at the moment but there is of course the obvious spectre of a double dip recession that makes me think it may be better to stay put given I’m reasonably happy (and in a pretty strong position internally) where I am.

Any advice from Roffers who’ve been in a similar situation would be appreciated.

And before anyone says it, yes I know finance at a regional firm is pub league football but I’m too old for the City/family won’t move/can’t be arsed.

 

"I’ve got a pretty clear runway to partner within a couple of years"

Is this actually true? Are you a senior associate/legal director? 
 

"The work would be of a much higher quality"

who cares tho  

"and pay better"

how much better and how much higher are targets/working hours?

"but the partner track much longer"

see above are you actually on this 

How tightly held is the equity where you are?

You can have a great life on £200-250k outside of London, but even if made up, when would you get to that kind of level. If the answer is "it's a proper, traditional partnership", where everyone called 'partner' genuinely gets to share the profits, then that sounds like a good gig to me, especially if there's not too much stress day-to-day.

Hi Linda

1. Yes

2. true 

3. like 25% pay rise but probably targets about 300hrs pa more. I wouldn’t expect to be getting to slaughtered

4. Yes the carrot has already been dangled 

 

If you have confidence in yourself, I would take the track, take the partnership and, if you’re good enough you’ll be able to trade up.  There’s always a question about practice portability (and in most cases it’s ephemeral) but if you’re on the mid market bank panels you should be able to leverage those.  In my experience, banking lawyers outside London generally trade on volume and familiarity with bank standard forms.  

Being a big fish in a small pond can work although the risk is you’ll think you’re some way better than you are.

Thanks Terry 

Good point - It’s held pretty tight but there’s a bit of an old guard that will probably retire within the next 5 years or so. I reckon I could be at that level within a few years 

300 hours is quite a lot though isn't it, even for a 25% raise. How many hours do you spend working per week to produce 30 hours chargeable? You've got to find an extra 10 x that 

(depends what your target is now ofc)

The carrot has been dangled as in if you do x this year and y next week we will be able to offer you partnership, or "you are just the kind of solid chap we want"

heh 

yeah if you're talking about moving to Osborne Clarke or somewhere like that then do 

Linda - is this advice based upon your own experience?

I got the impression from your musings on here that you are some way off being  a Partner...?

So?

it's based on thinking an extra 300 hours sounds quite sucky

and knowing from watching it that law firms string people along 

One of my trainees got poached by Burges Salmon on qualification. 

I almost shat myself with surprise. 

Yearofthepig - good point and yes its definitely a churn over quality game. I’ve a modest following already but would likely lose that if I moved as its probably not of the pedigree the new firm would want. These things come and go I suppose as you says.

Linda - my current target is pretty low tbh so probably not that much more work. As regards carrots - probably more the latter. I guess we’ll see if threatening to leave elicits the former. If not then the decision is pretty easy I guess.

PEP is not the same as drawings. You do not and would not 'take home' anything like those figures. 

So they’re paying you poorly now, but ‘promising’ jam in a couple of years. Yeah, I’ve done that as a retention tool too. The jam never materializes of course....

Most of the bigger regionals operate a partnership track that starts with some kind of fixed share partnership (on nothing like £200k). It's quite difficult to make the jump to full equity often. Being a junior partner means putting up with a lot of the partnership shit without seeing that much of the reward. There is also a big difference between firms in how junior partners are viewed by the partnership generally. At some firms they are very much autonomous and part of the strategic decision making. At others they are treated little better than the senior associates.

Unfortunately it can be very tricky to find out these things, particularly when joining a new firm, unless you already know partners there and they are prepared to be frank with you.

If you know that in the main your current firm is a nice place, the partners all seem to get along by and large (definitely not a given) and they have genuinely given you the tap on the shoulder (not just stringing you along) then I'd be inclined to stay put. It's common now for people to move at partnership level so you've by no means burned your bridges by staying. 

@lizlemon - yeah I’ve had the more jam tomorrow thing before. I guess my best bet is try and leverage a hard offer. If one doesn’t materialise then I just leave - which I might as well as there wasn’t any point staying.

How long to partner where you are, and what's the percentage chance of it coming off. 

Ditto for new shop.

Consider the pay uplift.

 

Consider the team in new place (are there 3 people on 7-10 pqe where there's one or 2 partner slots to fill). 

2 years at current shop =/= half as long as 4 years at new shop if you work 20% more hours (and are competing with "better" lawyers). 

 

Personally, I'd day, get the badge where you are (if you're honestly sure it's as nailed on as can be), then do 3 years and bounce up. 

do salaried partners tend to have a say on day-to day running of firms? i.e. are they equivalent of directors of a limited co with equity partners the equivalent of shareholders

Follow the money. Leverage the offer now to get more wedge then get partnership where you are and then move to the other firm as partner.

don't go to Eversheds - hard agree

also see Shoosmiths, Hill Dickinson, Womble Bond Dickinson

Tbh it sounds like you enjoy the work and the people where you are, and you seem quite well thought of, so on that basis don’t let your head get turned by a salary that is probably on an hourly basis no higher than what you’re on. 
 

300 hours a year is 1.5 hours a day chargeable. Think on that. 
 

 

“300 hours a year is 1.5 hours a day chargeable. Think on that.”

Yep