If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
3. Is there a partner in charge of your office’s partner-level hiring? It’s fine to have staff manage the associate process, but partners want to deal with peers. This can be an office managing partner, a practice group leader, a hiring partner, or even a firm-wide dedicated partner-level lateral hiring coordinator. Thisis the ‘quarterback’ of the search that will carry the ball across the field and coordinate with other partners so that the lateral prospect doesn’t wonder who is doing what. There should always be a connection to the firm that is on a peer level. This is helpful in getting colleagues to work together to meet with the prospect and it also sends a congruent signal that the prospective lateral is very important to the firm.
4. Is there an internal ‘sponsor’ that can develop a meaningful connection with the lateral prospect? In addition to the quarterback, I believe this is extremely helpful for the lateral prospect to find someone (outside of leadership) with whom to connect. This is especially effective if the prospect already knows someone in the firm. Once the conversations have started between the leadership and the prospective lateral, then it’s always a good idea to let this relationship build on its own between the prospect and the ‘sponsor.’ This is usually best when there is good chemistry between the two, knowing that a prior friendship can serve as a catalyst to keep the magic alive with the candidate.
5. Momentum: Does your firm always know the next steps for each part of the process? After each meeting or each action step, the immediate goal should be to determine who is doing what, and when. For example, once the initial meeting takes place, you should already start thinking about other partners the candidate should meet with, and move quickly to set up those meetings internally. The process of moving a candidate from initial conversation to start date is a series of small forward-moving steps. Each step adds momentum and positive energy to the process. Any delay may deflate the candidate’s interest.
6. Execution: Does your firm come together when it’s time to sell the opportunity? Do your partners have the ability to drop everything and take action and spend valuable time meeting with this prospective lateral? If not, then you might need to remind them that lateral partner hiring (assuming the partner has a solid book) is the most effective form of new client development. Everyone is busy. Everyone has competing time issues and demanding clients, but those firms that make lateral hiring a priority are able to capture talent that other firms loose. I have seen deals fizzle out because too much time has passed between meetings, and the candidate’s interest wanes over several weeks with no action.
How many “yes” answers did you get?
1-2: You need to get the support of the firm’s leadership as it relates to lateral recruiting. Talk to your chairman or the firm’s managing partner and ask for your office to get top-level attention in this area. Have the top leadership speak with the partnership about the importance and priority of lateral hiring. If everyone is not on board, then you will not be successful in your hiring endeavors. This is not a one-person job, it’s a team effort from all of the partners.
3-4: You are doing great, but need some improvement. What are the two or three areas that are most challenging for you? Write down ten action steps that you can take to ameliorate these deficits. Next to each action step, prioritize them, and give yourself a deadline date for each task. Ask for help from other partners who have indicated an interest in eventually getting involved in firm leadership. You can’t do everything yourself, but you need to get help from a partner. Even if you need an assistant quarterback on deals, ask for help.
5-6: Well done! You have a clear idea of the importance of partner-level lateral hiring. By taking care to follow these recommendations, you are giving yourself an advantage in the lateral game and will insulate your firm from the risk of deals falling apart over these issues.
Copyright © 2013 Scott Love
Scott Love grows law firms and accelerates attorney careers by facilitating law firm mergers and conducting partner-level recruiting for law firms. He has been a career ‘headhunter’ since 1995 and is a graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy. Scott lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, two children, and a toothless rescue dog named Smoky. He can be reached at 202-737-5555. To learn more, please visit www.attorneysearchgroup.com.