Firms are Searching for a New Way in the Lateral Integration Process - Gillman Strategic Group

The lateral partner integration process is becoming an issue of increasing focus in law firm partner recruiting and retention.

I read an article on the topic that stated “In the not-too-distant past, law firms held the partners they poached from their counterparts at arm’s length, hiring them primarily for their books of business, plopping them into an office with freshly printed business cards and sending them on their way.”

At Gillman Strategic Group we know that these days, recruiting and bringing on a lateral partner is much more of a collaborative process, with the goal of blending them seamlessly into a new firm that will be a good fit for the new hire as well as his or her new partners.  Many firms have developed integration plans that begin trying to welcome new partners even before the recruiting process has concluded.

While “law firms are constantly on the hunt for top talent,” future retention is an issue, so the partners they hire need to be carefully selected with the best interests of everyone in mind. One firm’s management pointed out that  “‘you can have a formal integration program, but if it’s not linked with the recruiting side, you’re going to have less favorable results.”

Recruiting efforts should be geared to evaluate both what a potential new partner could bring, as well as whether a new firm has the right environment to help a lateral hire succeed.  One way that legal recruiters can assist in this effort is to help partners honestly evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses, and have the base of knowledge to be able to advise them in deciding which firms might be a good match going forward.

As the article pointed out, “it’s a two-way street. As law firms vet laterals, the laterals themselves are also vetting their potential new homes.”  Firms that have well-developed integration programs are able to use those programs to distinguish themselves from the rest of the market.  One partner who made a successful move recently said “partners like him are constantly being blasted by recruiters, and it takes a concerted effort for a firm to rise above the noise.”

When joining a firm that treats its lateral partner integration process “with the same care as they would a business deal,” new partners can feel comfortable that there will be plenty of help from the firm during the entire process. In fact, many firms have professional staff whose sole task is to assist with integration, and a number of firms assign partner sponsors or mentors to further aid in the process.

It appears that lateral partner integration is becoming an ever more important part of the process of attracting and retaining the best talent.  Firms would do well to examine their own integration programs to maximize their position in the lateral market.  And partners who are considering a move may want to add a well-developed integration plan to their list of must-haves at the new firm.

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