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Your First Meeting with a Prospective Lateral, Continued

In my previous article for this column, I wrote about using the four P’s as a framework to facilitate a productive dialogue during the first meeting with a prospective lateral, and discussed the first P, your firm’s PLATFORM. You can read that article here.

The four P’s are:

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

PRACTICE: After giving an overview of your firm, start drilling down on specific variables related to the firm’s practice group that is interested in the partner you are pursuing.

As you discuss the practice group, use this format:

1. Current status
2. The practice group’s value proposition
3. Client development
4. Potential synergies

Current Status: Some firms want to add bench strength to an already established group. Others want to build a new practice group from scratch because of a void in the office. Both situations have advantages and can be attractive, depending on the career itch and motivation of the partner. Communicate this status and vision with the executive recruiter you have retained to make sure that candidates are prescreened with realistic expectations for this issue. Make a credible and attractive pitch. If you have yet to build out this group, explain the background behind not having it. If you lost a group, tell the story in a truthful way that makes sense and is still attractive to your prospect. “The niche within their practice was better served at a different law firm, so we were sad to see them go but can understand why they left and we wish them well.”

The Practice Group’s Value Proposition: What is unique about this practice group? Think through attributes that are unique on both a professional and personal level and articulate a message that is relevant and compelling. What are some key trends that you see within your clients’ industry that give your practice an edge based on this uniqueness? For example, suppose that a regulatory agency is increasing its pursuit of noncompliant corporations. The fact that your partner worked at that agency five years prior gives this practice group a competitive advantage. Or the trend within litigation in a particular industry is in alignment with your partner’s previous career in that industry. Try to connect the uniqueness with trends, external variables, and the demand for your firm’s services.

Client development: Share stories of how demand from clients can help grow the practice of the partner you are trying to attract. Discuss what your partners have done to develop and reinforce a brand based on their rainmaking efforts, such as speaking at conferences and getting published, to help capture this demand. How does the entry point for business in that area coincide with the strengths of the partner you are considering? How could the particular niche expertise of that prospective lateral serve as a catalyst to uncover new client development opportunities?

Potential synergies: The word ‘synergy’ is one of the most overused words in describing law firm recruiting and management, but it certainly is a critical word. This is what everyone is looking for. Look for a convergence between at least two or three variables that, when combined, would result in leverage to accomplish goals. Each law firm leader must answer this question that is in the mind of a prospective lateral through the whole process: “How will this move mitigate my risk and improve my condition?” This requires knowledge of the practice group, so if you are the managing partner or hiring partner and are not a part of the group that is looking to grow, it helps to have domain knowledge of the biographies and strengths of the partners in that group. How do the strategies of related practice groups, industry trends, and the group’s value proposition converge into potential demand for this prospective lateral’s expertise?

PEOPLE: Think of four ways to describe the ‘people’ aspect of your firm and the practice group:

1. Legends
2. Heroes
3. New Players
4. Key Supporters

Legends are those mature partners who, not necessarily serving in a leadership role, are instrumental in shaping the group’s brand.

Heroes are those who have won high profile cases or achieved significant success within the group.

New Players are partners who have joined your firm in the last two to five years. They will have a highly credible voice when they talk specifically about how your firm has improved their conditions.

Key Supporters are those such as associates, key partners, staff, and anyone else who is an essential team member. What is unique about them? Some firms will highlight clerkships among associates or tenure among staff to differentiate the team. One recent client of mine mentioned the nine full time marketing staff in their corporate office who help drive the marketing efforts of the partners.

NEXT ARTICLE: How to discuss your firm’s POTENTIAL with your lateral prospect.

Scott Love grows law firms and accelerates attorney careers by conducting partner-level and group searches for law firms and facilitating law firm mergers. 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.