Lateral Hiring

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.

You would think that most lateral partners climb the proverbial Am Law 200 ladder to the “Holy Grail,” but our research has shown that predicting partner moves is not merely an exercise in linear extrapolation. Instead, myriad factors are relevant in predicting when and where a partner is likely to move.

Though the basic Am Law rankings are enormously useful in many aspects, they fall short in predicting lateral movement, at least if one adheres to the conventional wisdom that “bigger is better.” We have instead found that, on average, a lateral partner tends to move to a firm ten rankings below their previous firm. This is why we utilize a smorgasbord of other indicators, including PPP (profits per partner), firm reputation, practice size, and other analytics, to better match candidates to firms.

The foremost objective is to predict partner moves, which is why we utilize advanced statistics in our database to assess the likelihood of partner moves….

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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 Shelly Leonida, LP’s Director of Human Resources.

It’s 10:30 on a Wednesday morning, you’re cranking away at that brief, and your office line rings. You don’t recognize the number. You put your head down, waiting for voicemail to pick up so you can get back to the finer points of Massachusetts estoppel law. Because you know, inevitably, that on the other end of that line is yet another headhunter.

Sure, it’s annoying. But don’t let that experience turn you off from recruiters when it comes time to make a move. For one thing, let’s be honest: having too many people trying to get you a job isn’t the worst thing in the world. For another, recruiters taking the scattershot, cold-calling approach — testing your interest in a real estate practice in LA, when you’re quite happy at your corporate group in Chicago — are not the best representatives of the profession. The fact is, they can help. And I don’t just say that because I used to be one myself.

Brokers fill important roles in many markets, and recruiters — though not “brokers” in the strictest sense — do just that in the market for legal talent. First, and maybe most importantly, they are valuable sources of information. That may sound like a superfluous role in the Internet age, given all the information available on law firms’ websites and candidates’ LinkedIn profiles. But neither firms nor prospective laterals put everything out there for the world to see, and that’s where recruiters can be handy…

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Put your new firm under the magnifying glass.

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 Elizabeth Katkin, a Senior Director at Lateral Link, where she focuses on partner and practice group transitions and developing strategic relationships with top international firms and companies in the Middle East and Europe.

Do you have one or more of the following frustrations with your current law firm? Inadequate overall or relative compensation. No platform to support or develop your practice. Feeling shut out of management decisions — or even having a voice.

Perhaps you are just beginning the search for a new firm, or perhaps you know where you are headed next — a place with a great footprint, support in the practice areas you need, and a group of lawyers that feels like a good fit. In the world of law firm management today, you already know that what you see is not always what you get. It is essential to gauge the financial and management health of a firm before you move, both to ensure your happiness and viability at the firm and to ease your exit in the event that there is trouble in paradise.

Here are five things you should understand before giving your withdrawal notice to your current firm:

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David Bernick

As we mentioned earlier, prominent litigator David Bernick is leaving Boies Schiller for Dechert. Bernick joined Boies Schiller just a year ago, to much fanfare, so some were surprised to see him go so quickly.

But others were not shocked. As the always insightful Alison Frankel observed on Twitter, “Is anyone who knows David Bernick surprised he was mismatch at firm dominated by David Boies?”

Perhaps not. Some of our readers predicted this union wouldn’t last long….

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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 Nicholas Goseland, a Director at Lateral Link, where he oversees attorney placements and client services in California and Asia.

Seeking to chart a course for China, Fenwick & West recently moved quickly to recruit a pair of corporate partners, Eva Wang and Carmen Chang (who will serve as a part-time advisor), to spearhead the firm’s new office in Shanghai. The move is already paying dividends.

Less than two months after her arrival, Wang, who once served as VP and general counsel of Spreadtrum Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: SPRD), has secured a mandate to represent Spreadtrum in its announced acquisition by Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd. for $1.78 billion. The deal will present numerous cross-selling opportunities for Fenwick partners in the coming year and generate a lucrative stream of fees for the firm, which has already assigned 16 attorneys to the matter….

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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 the firm’s chairman, Bryan Schwartz.

I spent all of July on sabbatical from the law. I didn’t field a single work-related email, or phone call, or even check the news. For an entire month, I focused on fly-fishing, golf, and family. I focused on myself.

Now, I don’t say all that to make anyone jealous. (If I were going to do that, I would have mentioned my week in Punta Cana.) I say that because, as I sit down to write about how law firm “culture” should impact lateral decision making, I keep coming back to my sabbatical. I was as unplugged from legal practice as I’ve been in years — okay, decades — but it told me more about culture than any month in the office.

As anyone who has been through it knows, the recruiting process is rife with talk about law firm culture. Interviews that pass without glowing reference to a firm’s “collegial culture” are as rare as sightings of the Dodo bird. But let’s face it: some minimum amount of camaraderie among peers is a pretty low bar to meet.

The cultural questions that should concern laterals most do not have to do with the frequency of happy hours, the annual barbeque, or the degree of a partnership’s collective inebriation at the holiday party. Instead, the most important question of culture is this: does this firm have a motivating purpose beyond the production of income for its individual lawyers?

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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 Angela Hickey, LP’s Executive Director and a member of the firm’s Executive and Compensation Committees.

Gladys Knight had the Pips, Han Solo had Chewbacca, and Walter White had Jessie Pinkman. To be successful, you need the right support — and that lesson is as true in legal practice as it is on the Millennium Falcon

Lateral candidates, however, often travel to their new firms alone. How can they tell, ahead of time, whether this new firm will give them the support they need for their practice to flourish? What questions can they ask to discover what their new support system will look like? The first step in getting answers is to define what the oft-used term “support” really means…

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a new 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.

An intriguing demographic dilemma is approaching a powerhouse law firm, Jones Day, as several senior partners and chairs are straddling the mandatory retirement age. The firm currently has over eight partners — including numerous practice leaders and partners in charge — above their proclaimed mandatory retirement age, and over ten partners nearing the cutoff, which probably signals that Jones Day gives some partners a pass when it comes to retirement. For example, Mark Sisitsky, Hugh R. Whiting, and Bob Mittelstaedt, just to name a few, are all very respectable partners who are refining with vintage.

Jones Day generally restocks from within by promoting partners in the first quarter each year. In 2013, the firm internally promoted 29 partners in the first quarter, each with an average of 12.5 years of experience. Although Jones Day is five months away from the next round of promotions, Lateral Link has identified around fifty associates who are in the running for a partner promotion (although only a handful will ultimately get the nod). We have an idea who fits in both categories and have been fairly accurate in our projections from the past….

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Davis Polk: no more Mr. Nice Guy.

Some things haven’t changed at Davis Polk. The genteel, uber-WASPy firm is still a student favorite during on-campus interview season. Perhaps this is because it still puts on a great summer associate program.

At more senior levels, however, Davis Polk is evolving. Under managing partner Tom Reid, the firm is increasingly focused on the bottom line. It’s adding lateral partner talent, which it historically hasn’t done very often, and it’s asking more from its existing partners in terms of business development (and subjecting some less productive partners to, shall we say, heightened scrutiny). It’s offering buyouts — rather generous ones, it should be noted — to reduce the ranks of support staff (and the associated expenses).

The old Davis Polk, prioritizing prettiness and peacefulness over profits, might have quickly and quietly settled a lawsuit with a recruiter, without regard to the legal merits, just to avoid the ugliness. The new Davis Polk, in contrast, won’t go down without a fight….

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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 Rob Romanoff, the Managing Partner of Levenfeld Pearlstein.

When it comes to the ultimate departure, you can’t take it with you. When it comes to professional departures, however, it’s a different matter entirely. Whether or not you can take it with you — that is, whether your clients will follow you to a new firm — is a very open question indeed, and a critical one in any lateral candidate’s recruitment.

But how much portable business is enough to catch the eye of suitor firms? How can lateral candidates even determine the amount of their portable business? And how do they actually go about moving it? Let’s consider these questions in turn…

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