Ed. note: The Aspiring Lateral, a new series from Levenfeld Pearlstein, will analyze a variety of issues surrounding lateral moves, drawing on the firm’s experience in the lateral market as well as the individual experiences of LP attorneys. Today’s post is written by Brian Kozminski, a partner in LP’s Real Estate practice.
For those thinking about switching firms, one of the most important things to consider about any prospective new firm is the way in which it is managed. Preferably efficiently, transparently, and in a business-like manner. But because you are in the legal profession, that is likely not the case. Sound harsh? Let me explain.
In order to understand how fully stacked the decks are against good management in law firms, it’s instructive to step back and compare how management choices are made in law firms with other industries.
If you owned a restaurant, for instance, you probably would not assume that your best chef would also make the best restaurant manager. If you owned a movie studio, you probably would not assume that your best director would also make the best CFO. If you owned a basketball team, you probably would not assume that a great point guard would also make a great coach and president of your team. (Or you would, then regret it later.)
The restaurant, movie studio, and basketball team owners (with the exception of the Knicks) understand that the skills of their top producers — however impressive — are not necessarily transferable to executive positions. Law firms are only learning this lesson now. Following a historic practice that continues to this day, many firms are run by the lawyers with the biggest books of business.
It does not go too far to call this practice absurd. Certainly, yes, at any law firm it makes sense to place lawyers in the leadership positions of, for instance, managing partner and chairman. And there may be some overlap between the qualities needed to succeed in those positions — charisma being one — and those helpful in becoming a rainmaker. But to ask those lawyers to also make the trains run on time — to administer the business operations of the firm — is courting disaster, for any number of reasons…
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post is written by Michael Allen, the Managing Principal of Lateral Link, who focuses exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.
Merger season has arrived, yielding a fruitful harvest of potentially enormous mergers between Patton Boggs and Locke Lord and between Pillsbury and Orrick. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these mergers is the potentially “super” practice groups these mergers will make.
Patton Boggs has recently undergone a period of mild strife, as we detailed several months ago. Though they lost a significant number of energy and environmental attorneys after the fallout of the Chevron litigation, this merger with Locke Lord could be effective not only as a stopgap, but could also vastly strengthen each firm’s energy department….
Did a bunch of bad law schools hire Sterling Cooper to handle their marketing? Name changes are the go-to move for the titular ad agency in Mad Men. But here in real life, it seems like law schools are more interested in changing their name than changing their product.
We discussed Thomas Cooley Law School’s name change to the “Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School.” As the internet has caught onto the business model of Cooley, the administration figured that associating themselves with a larger university would throw people off the scent.
Evidently, the Infilaw-owned Phoenix Law School couldn’t find a research university dumb enough to allow its name to be sullied by association with a low-end law school. So Phoenix Law just made something up…
Pop quiz, hotshot: Can you identify your law school logo on sight? Can you describe it blind? The answer is probably yes, because law schools emblazon everything from your first acceptance letter to the most recent letter you got begging for money with their logo.
It’s a critical part of law school branding. Long-established schools are rocking heraldic shields to convey gravitas. Schools interested in a more modern edge employ slimmed-down, Apple-style minimalist symbols. Either way, a lot of time and effort goes into creating and packaging the logo to sell the school.
On the other hand, a school trying to desperately attract more students to pay tens of thousands of dollars a year could post an open job listing online for a graphic designer to make them a logo for a whopping $50. Fifty bucks won’t get you much in 2013.
Ed. note: The Aspiring Lateral, a new series from Levenfeld Pearlstein, will analyze a variety of issues surrounding lateral moves, drawing on the firm’s experience in the lateral market as well as the individual experiences of LP attorneys. Today’s post is written by Laura Friedel, a partner in LP’s Labor & Employment practice.
In this column, we’ve been talking about the process of making a lateral move. Everyone knows the major stages of that process: deciding to check out lateral opportunities, evaluating potential new firms, interviewing with those firms, and, eventually, accepting an offer. That’s it. For lateral candidates, landing at a new firm is the endgame, right? Wrong.
The lateral journey does not end when you place the potted plant and picture of your family on your new desk. In a very real way, that’s just when the lateral journey starts. Beginning on their first day with a new firm, laterals who want to be successful need to make a concerted push to win over their new colleagues, one that involves a lot of hard work and time spent getting to know partners.
This may seem a little unfair. After all, by the time a lateral begins working at a new firm, she has been thoroughly vetted, the finances of her practice have been closely examined, and she’s on a first-name basis with several maître d’s due to those never-ending interview lunches. At which point, the lateral may feel an understandable — but mistaken — certainty that upon her arrival, her new partners will be leaping over themselves to herald her arrival and shower her with work…
Ed. note: This post is sponsored by NexFirm. At NexFirm, we see dozens of new firms launch each year, and we seem to bond with both the people and the practice every time around. Their accomplishments feel like our success, and their disappointments, our failures. It makes for a great professional relationship, but it can also be painful when we see them repeat the same, predictable, new firm mistakes — especially ones that can be avoided with some guidance and forethought.
Attorneys who are launching their own firms tend to wring their hands over every small decision and miss the big picture. You feel overwhelmed, so you want to work feverishly to tackle your to-do list. After a long day full of “doing” without much “thinking,” you feel like you’ve really accomplished something. It’s an easy trap to fall into. It’s crucial to be thoughtful about the big things, set time aside to think about them, and treat them like the other action items on your list.
Start with these, the low hanging (albeit important) fruit:
1. Leave, Don’t Quit.
Focused on the unpleasant task of giving notice, worrying that you might piss someone off or — worse yet — be impeded from transitioning matters, you can easily miss the best marketing opportunity you will ever get. Use your resignation to ask your employer to give you business. Beg them, guilt them, scare them, do whatever you need to do, but make it happen. There is no one that knows you and your work better. If you can’t convince them to help you, in at least some small way, you are in trouble…