Almost any job search starts with the same first step: updating your resume. 

For lateral partners, especially those who have been with their firm for a long time, this task may sound like a painful headache from the bygone days of law school.  

Good news: Lateral partners don’t need a traditional resume.

The reason, which may or not be the bad news, is that your prospective new firm is more interested in your current book of business and the growth potential your practice implies. They care much more about the future than that one great $20 million year you had twenty years ago. 

Of course, they will be interested in your recent history. 

  • How much business did you do last year? 
  • Is your practice on an upward trend?
  • Are there opportunities to build on that book of business? 

Your prospective new firm wants to see your numbers, your business plan, and a narrative account of your career that gives information relevant to the firm while describing your practice, clients, and areas of specialization. 

They DON’T need to see a static piece of paper listing dates, times, places, everywhere you’ve ever worked, and where you went to school.

Let’s dive deeper into this topic to understand better why lateral partners do not need traditional resumes, what they should prepare instead, and what their exact right, perfect-fit law firm is looking for in a lateral candidate. 

A Lateral Move Isn’t a Hiring; It’s a Merger

For an associate early in their career, securing a job at a firm is much more like a traditional hiring process; the associate needs to prove they have the skills and experience necessary to complete the kind of work the firm needs from its associates. 

A strong resume is still an essential part of that pursuit. 

But lateral partners aren’t looking for work — they’re bringing their work, adding their value to the business. 

In some ways, as a lateral partner, you are more like a “firm within the firm.” In that sense, you aren’t looking for a job, per se. It isn’t about your qualifications or education for your potential new firm. 

(You went to law school, after all…you’re a lawyer!)

Instead, the firm cares about your existing book of business: How many clients do you have? How much is your practice worth? And how much will it be worth at their firm?

These questions are far more important than an arbitrary review of your past. 

Looking at it that way, it’s clear that your lateral move is less like a hiring process and more like a merger. You’re integrating your practice into the firm, merging with the firm’s existing practices, and working with the firm’s resources in the interest of growth. You’ll grow your book of business and thereby expand the firm. 

Like a merger, a lateral partner move requires careful planning, negotiation, and execution to ensure a successful transition.

Your Business Plan Is Your Business Case

It’s simple: Your business plan is your roadmap for success. It serves as a tool to communicate your goals, strategy, and vision to a potential new firm’s management, practice group leaders, and colleagues. 

A business plan offers far more relevant and compelling information for someone considering a lateral candidate than that found on a traditional resume. 

It outlines your expertise and client base, demonstrating how you can contribute to the firm’s growth and profitability. It also helps you identify areas where you need support from the firm, such as marketing and business development resources or practice group integration.

Bottom line: Your business plan is your business case for your lateral move. 

It defines and articulates your practice’s value proposition, the unique benefit you’ll bring to the firm, and your business development strategy. For example, are there opportunities for potential cross-selling or expansion into an industry the firm is interested in…perhaps an industry in which you specialize? 

And, of course, it should also contain a summary of your experience. 

However, this will generally be presented in a narrative format: providing relevant information for the firm but also describing your clients, areas of specialization, and what your book of business has looked like over the past three years. 

You will also tell the story of your career, including your training and some of your career evolution, but nobody’s interested in your resume. 

A business plan is not only for the firm. It also helps you set goals and objectives, both short-term and long-term, for your practice.

 Moreover, it can help you manage expectations and align with the firm’s culture, practice areas, industry focus, and client base, demonstrating how your practice is compatible with its strategic objectives. 

Finally, a business plan can help you navigate the transition and integration process. It can guide your communication with clients, colleagues, and staff, outlining the steps you plan to take to ensure a smooth transition.

To read more about how to develop a comprehensive, in-depth, and practical lateral partner business plan, look at my previous entry on this blog.

Consider the Firm’s Point-of-View

Hiring a partner is a time-consuming process that uses a lot of resources. So your prospective new firm needs to know why they should have you join the firm. They should see the prospect of working with you as an opportunity. 

Even a partner who has a million-dollar business right now becomes a lot more interesting if they have turned away a lot of business, have an excellent plan for how to turn that million into more business, has a particular expertise that might attract more work from their client base or can take on some work that the firm is currently having to refer out. 

It’s all about the value proposition. How will you make 1+1=3? 

In terms of cross-selling or cross-marketing, there is enormous value in combining expertise.  

An ESG expert may be able to help a partner with private equity clients who need an audit or some clarity around regulations. Your experience in healthcare may support the firms evolving cannabis practice. 

Whatever the angle may be, you must understand how you can add value and effectively communicate that to your potential new firm. 

Ready to Craft the Perfect Business Plan for Your Lateral Move?

A robust lateral partner business plan can be beneficial even if you are not considering a move. With an updated plan, you can keep your options open and be ready to explore new opportunities if they ever arise. 

It’s also a good idea to review your plan periodically to identify areas for improvement. 

If you don’t have a plan, it’s a crucial first step in any lateral move. 

Don’t hesitate to schedule a call if you have any questions or need assistance creating or reviewing your plan.