The Lateral Partner Questionnaire is a crucial step in the lateral partner recruiting process.
The LPQ is an overview of your recent legal career. It includes information about your book of business, your future expectations, and how much you charge. Firms use the LPQ to determine your value to the firm, so you want to fill it out as accurately as possible. You don’t want to be unrealistic with your answers, but you also don’t want to undersell yourself.
But the LPQ isn’t only for the firm – since they are using this document to determine your value, it is your opportunity to present your value; your case for why they should want you to join.
Generally, firms will ask you to complete an LPQ only once they have some interest. This may be the second, third, or fourth round of interviews or right before they make an offer.
We have you complete a business plan when we start working with you (and we recommend that you do this whether or not you are working with us) because this helps us decide which firms to target. The lateral partner business plan is helpful when it comes time to fill out the LPQ, but the LPQ asks for more specific information.
The business plan is an excellent overview of what you want, while the LPQ is an in-depth look at the last three years and the potential in joining a new firm.
The Purpose of the Lateral Partner Questionaire
Firms use the LPQ to understand the potential business implications of hiring a lateral partner. It is a part of their due diligence process and helps them put together an offer.
At the most basic level, it confirms that you are who you say you are and that you can practice law. But the more critical part of the LPQ is establishing how well you will fit into the firm and the economic value of your joining the firm.
By the time you complete the LPQ, we will have done enough work to understand the potential and establish your interest in joining the firm. So, from your perspective, the LPQ allows you to communicate to the firm the upside you see.
The Information in the Lateral Partner Questionnaire
Every firm has its unique LPQ. They all generally ask for the same information, but the questions are often worded differently or might be in a different order.
Some firms are very clever about asking questions to avoid ambiguity and over- or under-estimating.
Below, I give you an idea of what to expect from an LPQ.
When completing the LPQ, you want to be honest, straightforward, and realistic.
It is important to represent fairly your practice and the potential you represent. Avoid exaggeration, but also demonstrate the potential. The error I most often come across is underestimating the potential. If the prospective firm’s platform will allow you to grow your book of business, show that in the LPQ.
Remember that firms will look for anything that doesn’t make sense. So, if, for example, there is a gap in your billing, maybe you made an exception due to COVID or a natural disaster, explain what happened.
LPQs generally ask for the following:
Basic personal and professional information.
This section is very straightforward: it is the “who are you” part of the LPQ and generally covers:
- Education, including Degrees and Graduation Dates
- Bar and Court Admissions
- Current Employer Information and Previous Employment History
- Professional Organization Memberships
- Board or Officer Positions
- Pro Bono and Charitable Involvement
Legal issue disclosure
Firms will want to know if you have faced any ethical or legal issues that could impact your ability to practice or negatively impact the firm’s brand. So they will ask questions about the following:
- Disciplinary and criminal history
- Adverse legal claims, including harassment, discrimination, malpractice, and investigations.
Firms will want to know how much revenue you have generated over the past 3 years. So they will ask questions about your:
- Billable hours
- Non-billable hours
- Hourly billing rates
- Realization rates
Information about your past and future book of business
Your book of business is the crux of the negotiation with the prospective firm. Therefore, the firm will want an in-depth understanding of your portable book of business. I go through how to value your book of business in this blog post, but in summary, they will be looking for:
- List of clients, including a history of representation.
- How likely the clients are to move with you.
- Specific client billing, collections, billing rate, and work histories.
- Your expectations for the future if you join the new firm.
Your expectations are essential since often, by making the move, you will be accessing new resources, new geographic locations, or new practice areas that you didn’t have before. You want to be realistic, not overly optimistic or overly pessimistic when estimating the future potential.
Often, firms will ask for low, medium, and high estimates of your portable business – they will often phrase this as average year, good year, and bad year. They may, then, use these to qualify your first year’s compensation. If they do use the low, medium, and high projections, they will often create an offer based on the low projection, with incentives to reach the medium and high projections. This protects the firm from overly aggressive estimates and allows you to earn more compensation if you perform well.
Information about your team
If you are considering bringing a team with you, the firm will want to know more about them as well. They will want to know:
- How much they are paid.
- How many hours do they bill?
- What are their hourly billing rates are.
- Any other information they need to understand the economic viability of your team.
The firm will also want to understand all the components of your current compensation, including:
- Your base or guarantee
- Any bonuses
- Equity distributions
- Paid-in capital
Your expectations and needs.
The firm will want to understand what you require to generate the business you have outlined. This generally includes:
- Budgets such as marketing,
- Staffing, and administrative support needs,
- Compensation history (if not covered in the compensation section)
You may have to disclose any known or expected conflicts. Some firms conduct their own, more thorough conflict checks separately, but firms often ask for information regarding conflicts as a part of the LPQ.
- Professional references
- Disclosure of other business relationships or ownership
- Reason for leaving and probable move date
To wrap up.
The LPQ is a project; there is no way around that.
But it is an integral part of your presentation to your prospective firm. Generally, firms won’t ask for the LPQ unless they have some possible interest in hiring you, so you won’t have to fill them out for every firm. Ultimately this is about your career and your fit with the firm, so it is worth the time and effort to get it right.
We can’t complete the LPQ for you, but we can advise you. If you are wondering how to explain a discrepancy or present the opportunity, we’d be happy to help. Just schedule a time to talk.