Hiring “the lawyer, not the firm” is not a toxic notion; it is sanity.
Hiring the firm would be nuts, for at least two different reasons. First, the firm has many invidious institutional incentives: Let’s suppose you “hire the firm” by calling the managing partner (or head of litigation, or whoever) to say that you have a new case that you’d like the firm to handle. The managing partner naturally pokes around to see “who has time.” Presto! Your case would be staffed with the partner who has nothing else to do, because the firm can’t foist that guy off on any other sorry client. That inept partner would likely be assisted by a few associates who also “have time,” and you’d be wallowing in B-team city.
Not for me, thank you very much.
If you’re an intelligent client, you don’t want the lawyers who “have time;” you want the lawyers who “are good.” There’s no reason to think those two categories overlap, and plenty of reasons to think they do not.
Ed. note: This is the latest in a series of posts on partner issues from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. This post was written by Tricia McGrath, Senior Director at Lateral Link, who works with partner and associate candidates on law firm searches, most often in the New York, California, and Washington, D.C. regions.
When a firm is considering a lateral partner candidate, the firm will perform due diligence on the candidate. The firm will be interested in reviewing materials such as a partner business plan and a lateral partner questionnaire, and will investigate and evaluate the partner and their practice. It is equally important for a lateral partner candidate to conduct his or her own due diligence on a prospective firm. As an equity partner, you will become part owner in a “business,” and should verify that there will be an appropriate return on your investment of time, energy, skill, and capital.
Of course, neither the firm nor the partner can ascertain with 100% certainty that a lateral relationship will work. However, appropriate due diligence can minimize the risk of failure, as important facts are revealed and future expectations can be managed. While there are many areas in which you’d like insight, three top concerns are (1) the firm’s financials, (2) the firm’s management, and (3) the firm’s culture….
Ed. note: This is the latest in a series of posts on partner issues from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post marks the conclusion of a two-part narrative about lateral partner hiring, and was written by Larry Latourette, Executive Director of the Partner Practice at Lateral Link. You can read the first part here.
PROVIDE RECRUITERS THE INFORMATION NECESSARY TO DO THEIR JOBS (CONTINUED)
At the typical meeting with firms to discuss hiring needs, several partners will quickly go through a vague wish list (such as “IP litigators” or “government contract partners” all with “more than $2 million in business”), and give no more direction. When they are asked why a lateral might come to the firm, there is almost always a brief pause, followed by a blanket statement that the firm has a collegial atmosphere and a “no a-holes allowed” policy.
In contrast, with Dickinson, I met all of the D.C. partners to talk about what kinds of lawyers might best complement their practices, and had numerous follow-up discussions with both the individual attorneys and the hiring partner about what would and wouldn’t make sense. I also spoke to numerous lawyers in their other offices to get a sense of what kind of attorneys would be a good fit. Of critical importance were our detailed talks as to which existing and new business opportunities Dickinson might offer laterals, what leadership positions might be available, the recent steady growth of the firm, and where the firm was headed.
They also kept me informed about the process, which allowed me to bring further value. When one group I brought to them mentioned in a meeting with Dickinson that they were considering another firm, I put together a spreadsheet demonstrating that the competing D.C. office had lost half of the lateral partners hired in the last ten years. This was in stark contrast to the much higher retention rate at Dickinson. I later learned that the spreadsheet was a primary factor in helping to seal the deal….
Cravath partners enjoy discounts at Subway, among other perquisites.
It’s rare for partners to leave Cravath, given the prestige, pay, and perks associated with partnership at the firm. And it’s especially rare for a Cravath partner to leave for a rival firm, as opposed to a Wall Street investment bank or major corporation.
Cravath has a very specific system for running itself, and that system has served Cravath very well over the years. As its competitors expend increasing amounts of effort to climb the prestige hierarchy and expand across the globe, Cravath remains at the top, serenely servicing its clients — and printing money for its partners. Part of the reason why Cravath so rarely loses partners to other firms is that it’s so profitable overall that even a partner being paid under Cravath’s lockstep system still does better than a “star” partner at many other firms.
So that’s why today’s news is so notable. A prominent young partner at Cravath has decided to leave Worldwide Plaza and take his talents across town.
Who is the partner in question, and where is he headed?
Ed. note: This is the latest in a series of posts on partner issues from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. This two-part post about lateral partner hiring was written by Larry Latourette, Executive Director of the Partner Practice at Lateral Link.
The call came in on a dreary Saturday afternoon in November. A senior partner from the Detroit-based firm of Dickinson Wright was going to be in town on Monday and wanted to meet about lateral hiring for their D.C. office. Having been a lawyer at three D.C. branch offices (including a stint as managing partner for Preston Gates) and having attended dozens of similar meetings as a recruiter with out-of-town law firms, I didn’t have high expectations; almost all out-of-town firms think they can successfully compete in the brutal Washington market already rife with marginal offices on life support and shuttered offices of those that didn’t make it. Nevertheless, I agreed to meet since I always learn something from these encounters, and one thing life has taught me is that you never know how things will actually turn out.
The meeting and my subsequent experience reconfirmed that lesson as together we almost doubled the size of their D.C. office by adding 10 lawyers in the subsequent 15 months. While many firms do a decent job at partner recruiting, most have some weaknesses either in strategy or execution. Dickinson, however, put in place the best hiring structure and followed through as effectively as any I have encountered.
To bring more rationality to an often convoluted and inefficient process, the following distills the elements of that approach. While its solutions aren’t unique, the Dickinson model offers a useful benchmark from which other firms might improve their own hiring efforts….
Ed. note: This is a new series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” will take a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.
A Wharton School professor has analyzed the performance, and pay levels, of external hires versus internal staff promotions. He used personnel data from a division of a major U.S. investment bank for 2003 to 2009, and the characteristics of that talent market are remarkably similar to our own.
Investment banking, Professor Matthew Bidwell writes, represents “an interesting context in which to study the effects of internal versus external mobility [because] organizational performance often depends on the skills of the workforce, [thereby] increasing the importance of personnel decisions.” In addition, workers in banking are “notoriously mobile, making this a context in which organizations regularly engage in external hiring at all levels.”
The genesis of his study was seeking an answer to this question: what has the increased mobility of workers over the past 30 or so years meant, as firms turn away from offering lifetime employment in favor of relying on the external labor market to find experienced workers at all levels of the organization?
Ed. note: This is the latest in a series of posts on partner issues from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post marks the conclusion of a three-part narrative detailing the make up of a lateral move, and is written by Larry Latourette, Executive Director of the Partner Practice at Lateral Link. You can read the first part of the series here, and the second part here.
A TEMPORARY UNCERTAIN PROCESS (CONTINUED)
Résumés: In this digital age, some lawyers and recruiters don’t even bother with resumes — this is a big mistake. First, by taking the time to prepare a résumé, the candidate signals he or she is serious about actually moving. Second, a good résumé can highlight experience and clients in a way that a Web-based bio cannot: it can also be tailored to the specific needs of the recipient firms. I ask all of my candidates to have résumés — if need be, I even prepare the first draft for them.
Business Plans: Along with a potent résumé, partner candidates should also prepare a business plan, which presents an overview of the candidate’s practice, billings, collections, rates and hours worked over at least the last three years, key clients, and a discussion of how the practice would thrive at the prospective firm, should he or she join. If the initial meeting goes well, a firm usually wants to see these details before deciding whether to go forward. When I was a managing partner, I put a great deal of weight on these overviews; as a recruiter, I review them carefully to ensure that the candidate provides their information effectively, frequently going through several drafts to get it right.
Since Bill needed to move in a hurry, we combined the résumé and business plan in the initial submission to firms (going through a half dozen drafts in the process), which allowed them to evaluate Bill as quickly as possible….
Ed. note: This is the latest in a series of posts on partner issues from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post marks the second of a three-part narrative detailing the make up of a lateral move and is written by Larry Latourette, Executive Director of the Partner Practice at Lateral Link. Read the first part here.
HOW FIRMS EVALUATE CANDIDATES (CONTINUED)
Client Diversification and Conflicts: To diversify risk, firms prefer candidates who have spread their business among a number of clients, rather than concentrating it in just one or two large ones. While they generally like high-profile clients who can raise their profitability and status, the more dominant a company, the more likely it is to create conflicts with others in that industry, whether or not a firm has an immediate conflict; further, such high-profile clients often expect that firms will voluntarily forgo representing even potential competitors (sometimes referred to as the “Microsoft conundrum”). Thus, a candidate with such a client has no chance at any firm that currently represents a competitor.
Bill had worked with a marquee high-tech client over the last decade, which constituted about three-quarters of his portable business. The client had followed Bill through several moves, but its conflicts policies necessitated the moves. So while the heft of the marquee client and its loyalty to Bill mitigated the diversification issue, a number of firms would likely shy away from hiring him because of definite or potential conflicts with his showcase client….
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on partner issues from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post marks the first of a three-part narrative detailing the make up of a lateral move, and is written by Larry Latourette, Executive Director of the Partner Practice at Lateral Link.
The call came on a cool, clear Thursday morning in April: “Bill” was in trouble. He had joined a midsize firm as a partner nine months earlier. Now, despite assurances to the contrary, the firm had accepted a representation that would be adverse to Bill’s main client. He needed to move, and he needed to move fast.
We met for more than an hour that afternoon covering all the critical issues: his professional history; his expertise; his clients and potential conflicts; his billings, collections, and rates; whether he would be bringing anyone with him; the kind of firm and culture that he was looking for, including additional support he would need; how much longer he wanted to practice; and the level of compensation he could expect.
Each year, about one in 20 partners faces a lateral move. The process can seem irrational and daunting, especially to first-timers. Having gone through a lateral move myself, and overseen the hiring of numerous laterals as a managing partner, I’m more familiar with this arcane ritual than most. Now, after 10 years as a recruiter guiding dozens of candidates through the process, I offer an “anatomy” of a lateral move, using Bill’s experience to demystify the journey and explain how firms evaluate candidates, which materials candidates should typically produce, the normal sequence of events, and how candidates can best prepare for them….
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
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