When it comes to lateral hiring, Steve Nelson is one of the most thoughtful executive search professionals I know. Understanding that the relationship of a lateral partner in a new law firm is, well, a relationship, not a transaction is the first example of his rigor. He knows how often these relationships fail and consults with his law firm clients on improving their odds and success rate.
What Laterals Need to Know
Guest Post by Steve Nelson, Managing Principal, The McCormick Group
Over the past few years, we've seen an explosion of lateral partner recruiting brochures, designed to present a positive picture of a law firm to both potential recruits and headhunters. Many are well-produced, attractive documents with a fair amount of useful information. But there are some essential things that laterals want to know that aren't included in these brochures:
- Reasons for joining your firm. This encompasses both the case for your firm as a whole and the individual practice area. Too often, the case that is articulated tends to be a very superficial one based on profitability, rankings, and some unsupported references to culture. Laterals want specific information on how a move to your platform will benefit their practice. Examples include the strength of adjoining practices and the access to client opportunities. Your firm must be able to present an equation in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts - where both the firm and the new lateral will be made greater from the combination.
- Your record with regard to laterals. Last year, we organized a panel of about 20 law firm recruiters. We were surprised that only a few firms had actually done any empirical analysis of how they have performed. Firms that have a good record with their lateral hires should find ways to make the case in their brochures. Testimonials by laterals is certainly one way to do that, but firms should add some real data on lateral success, as well as indicating how many laterals are playing key leadership roles within the firm.
- Your integration program. Moving clients is a precarious business. In today's climate of cautious clients and institutionalized business, extracting entrenched clients can be a delicate exercise. Many firms tout cross-selling as a benefit but too many leave the mechanics to chance, often to the detriment of a new lateral. Having a defin(ed and dependable process for integration, joint marketing and business planning will make your firm more attractive. See TMG article on Lateral Partner Integration in PD Quarterly.
- The health of your firm. The recent demise of several large firms, due in part to risky financial propositions, has left many lateral partners feeling a bit shy about changing firms. They can't help but wonder if the new firm is on sound financial footing. Be prepared to show off your financials at the same time you ask them for due diligence information. The more transparent you are, the more trust you will instill.
Steve may be reached at (703) 841-1700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.