Lateral partner moves occur when law firm partners seek a new position, typically with another organization. While a lateral move may benefit the person moving jobs, it can sometimes leave your law firm with a gap both in revenue stream and in headcount.
Learn why partners make lateral moves and how you can work with Collier Legal Search to find a qualified replacement candidate.
Why Make a Lateral Partner Move?
There are many reasons a partner in a law firm might make a lateral move. Common reasons for partners to leave their current position include:
- Long-term client portfolio growth and rate and retention of client base. Moving to a new firm might create better rates, leading to better client portfolios and networking opportunities.
- Improved infrastructure. A new firm may offer a proven, stable structure with strong support systems and people in place.
- Current work culture. If the work culture at a partner’s current position isn’t the right fit, they may leave to find a more suitable culture fit for improved mental well-being and increased productivity.
- Growth opportunities. A new firm may provide better growth opportunities than the current firm regarding advancement or personal fulfillment.
- A better work-life balance. While work-life balance can be difficult for lawyers, the firm culture, location of the firm, and any family commitments can impact that balance. While work-life balance looks different for each person, a firm that offers better opportunities to achieve that balance will help with long-term mental health and work satisfaction.
Growth in Texas
Over the past several years, Texas has gained national attention for its quickly rising population. Making a lateral move to a firm in Texas could create new opportunities for lawyers for the following reasons:
- Job opportunities due to business growth. The Texas hiring market shows no signs of slowing down. Firms are hiring partners in many areas including litigation, banking and financial services, capital markets, intellectual property, health care, and bankruptcy.
- Lack of state income tax. Texas has no state income tax, so partners who move can expect to keep a higher portion of their pay.
- High-paying jobs. Texas also offers plenty of jobs with higher salaries.
- Relatively lower cost of living. Depending on the partner’s current location, Texas offers a lower living cost than many other metro areas.
Retention is a significant factor in lateral partner moves. Between April 2021 and 2022, top law firms hired nearly 404 lateral partners. When a partner leaves your firm and you begin searching for a new candidate, consider the following factors to attract and retain top talent:
- Offer performance-based raises.
- Present a work culture that makes lawyers feel included and visible and ensures they will be treated in a friendly and respectful manner.
- Make clear opportunities for career progression, advancement, and professional growth. Focus on the social governance factors by hiring and cultivating a diverse gender, race, and ethnicity workforce.
Interviewing with Due Diligence
When interviewing for a lateral partner move, it’s wise to adopt an organized due diligence approach for the process. Beyond gathering information about work product, clients, and rates, due diligence may also include focusing on specific aspects of the move, exploring competing interests of the candidate’s former law firm, and recognizing appropriate transition steps.
What to Focus On
When interviewing, due diligence includes focusing on key issues for your law firm and the partner candidate. Obtain information from the candidate regarding reasons for their move and job history. This data can help you determine if they are a good fit for your firm.
During the interview, ascertain the candidate’s skill set, personality, and client experience. Discuss their future goals to assess their development potential. Consider economic and profitability questions such as what salary and benefits they expect and how their addition to your firm may boost or hinder profitability.
Due diligence during the interview process also includes addressing competing interests and the ethics of bringing on the lateral partner. Consider issues such as:
- Both law firm’s operating agreements
- Pre-departure/incoming notice to clients
- Pre-departure solicitation of clients, colleagues, or staff
- Joint notices and ballots have been sent to clients
Appropriate Transition Steps
Due diligence can mean taking the appropriate steps to transition a new partner into your law firm and supporting them in taking proper transitional actions at their former firm. For example, plan for a length of transition and start date that honors their prior commitments with the other firm and inform their colleagues. Announce their hiring early at your firm so staff can prepare for a new addition.
Collier Legal Search Can Help Navigate a Partner Lateral Move
If a partner at your firm makes a lateral move, work with Collier Legal Search to navigate the change. We offer legal recruiting services that can match you with skilled candidates that can step in and help your firm as you make the transition to a new partner or fill the role permanently.
Contact Collier Legal Search to learn more about our recruiting process and how we can help you along the way.