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Your First Meeting with a Prospective Lateral

When you talk to a prospective lateral about your firm during their first meeting, the conversation can go deep, sideways, and in circles. There is so much to share and discuss. What path of a dialogue can you follow to get better odds of a favorable conclusion?

Consider this template as a model you can use to discuss your firm’s opportunity. This simplifies the conversation and gives you a mental framework so the discussion is meaningful, relevant and moves things forward.

The Four P’s
In my transition from retained corporate executive search to legal search, I saw that there were many levels of complexity in the move of a partner transitioning from firm A to firm B. In placing an executive in a corporation, it was simple because of the linear nature of relationships in corporations. In a law firm, because of the multi-layered aspect of the interdependent relationships that each partner must manage with others, the dialogue is much more involved.

I distilled this information and systemized it into a simple model of talking points.

When I engage partners in conversations about their openness to move, I use this pattern to keep things simple but on track and relevant, keenly mindful that my goal is to open up the mind of my star prospect to the idea of considering a move. When I bring on a new client and begin advising them on effective growth and recruitingstrategies, I encourage them to use this format as a mental checklist of talking points about their firm’s opportunity during that first meeting. (NOTE: Call them meetings, not interviews. People who are ‘looking’ go on interviews. Partners who are happy but open will ‘take a meeting’ with another firm).

1. Platform
2. Practice
3. People
4. Potential

Platform: Discuss the brand equity of your firm, the geographic footprint, the unique value proposition, and other aspects of your firm as it relates to the big picture. What are you known for? The history of your firm is important, but what holds more relevance is the future strategy and how all the moving parts and people working together can accomplish a collective goal.

This is when you should share your firm’s values, vision and mission. If you are not sure what to say when you discuss this, then get with your firm’s leadership to clarify these talking points. This is a frequently neglected but necessary building block to an organization that can get glossed over because a firm may already have achieved success over multiple generations. But to communicate the true nature of your firm, it needs to be clarified. People want to join a team following a leader who is going places, and this is a leadership issue.

Leadership skills drive growth. Every law firm has partners with good legal skills, but finding law firm leaders with good leadership skills is rare. I know this because I spend my day listening to partners gripe about it. Use that to your advantage in your recruiting strategy. Differentiate yourself from every other vanilla law firm that looks the same as all the others. Spend time learning how to develop your leadership skills because this is attractive to prospective laterals who already have achieved success. Those rock star partners you really want to hire will be motivated by these things. At the core of its being, a law firm is a collective of peers held together by conditional promises. It’s even more critical for a law firm than a company to clarify its values, vision and mission, because nothing else exists to hold the attorneys together except ideals and values, such as loyalty.

Based on my personal observations, the majority of those who are running law firm offices or practice groups have spent most of their careers doing exceptionally well at practicing law and serving clients on legal matters. They have not mastered the core competency of leading large teams effectively. They have not been proactive in their leadership development and are relying on well-intentioned instinct and charisma, which only goes so far. Leadership is a simple concept and is something that must be continuously studied and discussed. For a client, would you try to solve a legal matter that is unfamiliar to you without studying up on it first? That’s the same priority you need to give to your own effectiveness in leadership.

Start by reading books by authors such as John Kotter, Ram Charan, and law firm management consultants like Ed Wesemann. Consider a daily reading habit. Or shorten your commute by listening to leadership books on audio, or even podcasts on leadership and law firm management. Leadership is developed over time and you can always learn more about how to lead because of the complex nature of human dynamics, especially within law firms. If you do this, it will come out in your dialogue with that fresh prospect, and you will tell the story of your firm on a strategic level and weave in meaningful discourse on your firm’s values, vision and mission.

To Be Continued in the next article

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.