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Partners in Practice: Lateral Hiring Done ‘Wright’ (Part II)

Ed. note: This is the latest in a series of posts on partner issues from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post marks the conclusion of a two-part narrative about lateral partner hiring, and was written by Larry Latourette, Executive Director of the Partner Practice at Lateral Link. You can read the first part here.

PROVIDE RECRUITERS THE INFORMATION NECESSARY TO DO THEIR JOBS (CONTINUED)

At the typical meeting with firms to discuss hiring needs, several partners will quickly go through a vague wish list (such as “IP litigators” or “government contract partners” all with “more than $2 million in business”), and give no more direction. When they are asked why a lateral might come to the firm, there is almost always a brief pause, followed by a blanket statement that the firm has a collegial atmosphere and a “no a-holes allowed” policy.

In contrast, with Dickinson, I met all of the D.C. partners to talk about what kinds of lawyers might best complement their practices, and had numerous follow-up discussions with both the individual attorneys and the hiring partner about what would and wouldn’t make sense. I also spoke to numerous lawyers in their other offices to get a sense of what kind of attorneys would be a good fit. Of critical importance were our detailed talks as to which existing and new business opportunities Dickinson might offer laterals, what leadership positions might be available, the recent steady growth of the firm, and where the firm was headed.

They also kept me informed about the process, which allowed me to bring further value. When one group I brought to them mentioned in a meeting with Dickinson that they were considering another firm, I put together a spreadsheet demonstrating that the competing D.C. office had lost half of the lateral partners hired in the last ten years. This was in stark contrast to the much higher retention rate at Dickinson. I later learned that the spreadsheet was a primary factor in helping to seal the deal….

RESPOND QUICKLY

Delay can destroy recruiting efforts. When I was a managing partner, I often had desperate department chairs who would demand more help immediately, but then take weeks, or months, to take the five minutes necessary to review a candidate’s résumé. As a recruiter, I have seen such delays be killers — candidates who have been very positive toward a firm can cool to the point of not wanting to continue. Such treatment during the courtship doesn’t bode well for a marriage.

With Dickinson designating a senior partner who has hiring as a major priority, delay was never a problem. While some decisions took up to a week to circulate past the necessary people, I always received a definitive answer in a timely fashion.

DON’T WASTE EVERYONE’S TIME

I recently had a candidate have a first round of interviews with an international firm; fill out an initial questionnaire that identified all major business issues and conflicts; go through additional rounds of interviews during which the firm appeared to be in full sell mode; and be told that he only needed to fill out a voluminous additional questionnaire that rivaled a Hart-Scott-Rodino Second Request (but raised no new substantive issues), only to be told afterward that the firm had decided not to move forward because of a potential conflict that the firm had known about from the beginning. Needless to say, this was an enormous waste of everyone’s time and seriously hurts a firm’s reputation among candidates and recruiters.

Dickinson rejected several of my candidates after several rounds of interviews, but did so as soon as they determined there was an insurmountable problem. Because the highest levels were involved, the ultimate decision makers knew relatively quickly the nature of the business deal and the personalities involved, and thus saved everybody a great deal of time and effort by being able to terminate the process sooner rather than later.

BE IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL

Finally, some firms don’t seem to understand the long time frames involved in growing an office. Frequently, a firm will call in recruiters to give them a wish list and then never follow up. Others make it a priority for several months and then lose interest if results aren’t immediate.

Dickinson, however, demonstrated the perseverance to get the job done. In one case, after a host of twists and turns and multiple meetings, a group finally came on board 13 months after my initial contact.

RESULTS

In the last five years, in addition to Washington, Dickinson has expanded its offices in Phoenix, Nashville, Las Vegas and, most recently, Toronto.

That’s what happens when you do lateral hiring Wright.

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