The Hero’s Journey and Lateral Hiring

Joseph Campbell, the famous American mythologist, writer and lecturer, talked about common themes and similar patterns that are found in myths and narratives from around the world. He described this concept as ‘The Hero’s Journey.’

Think about any movie that captures your attention. It is comprised of a formula that includes the main character (the protagonist or ‘hero’), the adversary, the conflict between the two, and the resolution. There are other players involved in the story, such as the mentors and helpers. The journey begins with a Call to Adventure and you find the main character embarking over the Threshold into the Unknown, facing Challenges, experiencing Revelation, going through Transformation and reaching Atonement. Most stories that we enjoy follow this formula. In some ways it is a part of who we are, and we want to experience this in story as it gives a framework and context to our own personal journey.

These stories bring us together as a society. Campbell suggests that these stories are what give us meaning and purpose in our lives. In fact, they are so powerful that stories serve as a binding agent, almost like a mortar, between us.

Your law firm is a unique social ecosystem with layers of interdependent actors who are trying to accomplish different goals in different areas, but can only reach those goals by working together as a unified team. Law firms can be fragile, and as I have mentioned before, a law firm is a collective of peers held together only by conditional promises to each other.

When you are discussing your firm’s story with prospective lateral partners, see if you can follow this Hero’s Journey pattern to help give you some structure to the story, and to increase the odds of a successful hire. Here are some ideas on how you can tell the story of your firm in a way that attracts and even bonds prospective laterals to you, and incites them to move their practice to your firm and become part of your firm’s story.

1. Interview new colleagues. Ask relatively new partners, such as those who have been with the firm for less than two years, to submit stories about how their condition improved as a result of joining your firm. Ask them to identify problems they were having prior to joining and how the move to your firm improved the outcome. Get specific results, rather than opinion. Specificity in your story builds credibility.

2. Get testimonials from former colleagues. Those who have nothing to gain from a new hire add the most credibility to your story. Perhaps a video testimonial is more believable, with them telling their story of how they grew or accomplished major career and professional milestones as a result of being a part of your firm.

3. What is the bigger vision? The visionaries will win the lateral hiring game. Those who know their firms, including and especially the firm’s shortcomings, will know how best to grow them. They have to see the future, keep their thumb on the pulse of industry trends, and know how different practices relate to each other and how best to structure those practices and grow them. This can only be done by a leader who is facing forward and whose gaze is set on at least five years in the future.

4. Beyond Profits Per Partner. To win the hearts of high performing attorneys, you have speak to their heart. Recruiting is an emotional game and you have speak in terms of personal satisfaction that a partner might experience, or deep friendships and feelings of working together. How did your team cross the abyss and fight the monsters together? How did they grow from that? What emotions did they experience in working together to achieve Transformation? There has to be substance in the infrastructure supporting all of this, but after the prospective lateral is sold on that, this story will get them to choose you over a competitor.

Remember, this game is about getting a small edge over your competitors in attracting talent. By working on a clearly defined and congruent story, you will increase the probabilities of a successful result and win the lateral hiring game.

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.