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North America Partner Market Update

Posted by: Laurence Simons 14/11/13

In addition to our work with associate-level attorneys, we do a significant amount of partner-level recruiting for our law firm clients and therefore speak with countless partners and small practice groups in the marketplace.  We know that the feedback from potential lateral candidates is important to you, and we have identified some of the most pressing issues that the partner candidates who might be interested in your firm are thinking about.

Staying away from silos

One of the most recent trends we’ve been hearing is that law firms are becoming too insular from one lawyer to the next.  For example, if several lawyers go on a successful pitch for a client, will credit be shared for that client?  Are there financial incentives for a partner to include other partners in a pitch meeting?  One of the bigger complaints we’ve been hearing is an organizational resistance (usually in the form of a compensation scheme that doesn’t promote cross-selling). 

Thus, attracting today’s candidates requires the ability to describe specific ways in which lawyers at your firm benefit from each other’s efforts.  Whether that evidence is anecdotal or is illustrated in how lawyers who cross-sell are compensated, this is often a major selling point.

Will my clients perceive this lateral move as a promotion?

We are seeing a greater emphasis on the perception of a firm’s reputation.  To be clear, this is different than ‘prestige.’  It’s not so much that lawyers feel the need to be at the top of the AmLaw 100, but there is a heightened awareness of how clients perceive the firm.  This may include the web presence of a firm, including social media.  Certainly, the profile and practices of existing lawyers at the firm are carefully scrutinized as they will impact a new partner’s ability to pitch new business and win work.

An acquiring firm should be aware that today’s partners care about a firm’s presence on media, including LinkedIn.  They are also interested in the firm’s commitment to bar and practice area communities, and the caliber of existing lawyers.  Being quick to identify recognizable clients and recent big wins is important to potential new hires. 

Who else cares about my business? 

Partners are much more willing to entertain a lateral to a firm that values their clients and takes the time to integrate the clients into the new firm.  We are often asked whether a target firm has a community around these new clients that will keep them happy and connected to the new firm.  Partners are also looking for a firm that will not prohibit them from bringing one or more of their clients to the firm based on a difference in billing rates or because of a perceived business (not ethical) conflict.    

Thus, a focus not only on the dollar amount associated with a book of business but what that partner needs to keep those clients happy can be a great and valuable recruiting tool.  Clients have monetary value, obviously, but they are – at their essence – relationships..  The lateral recruitment process must include a discussion of cultivating those relationships.

While every lawyer is motivated by different things, we’ve noticed that these are the themes that arise more and more during our discussions with partners.  For more information on the lateral partner market, please contact us directly