Changing firms is a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. This is especially true for successful law firm partners.
Moving to a new law firm should accomplish something more
besides a change of scenery and new people.
In other words, making such a leap should improve your life, practice, or bank account balance. As I only work with partner-level attorneys, it’s my mission to find candidates the exact right perfect fit law firm for them.
When I first meet a potential law firm partner candidate, they want to know what is involved in making a lateral partner move. After all, these people are very busy and don’t have time to waste. So, to help you understand what is involved in making a lateral law firm partner move, I have broken it down into several categories:
- The Why
- Gillman Strategic Group’s Proprietary Process
- The Timeline
Why Are You Considering a Move?
Before changing law firms, you must first consider why you want or need to change law firms. Sometimes you know the reason before you reach out to me.
Other times, you might contact me because you are curious about the market. You are at the very beginning of your journey – just putting your toes in the water. You want to know about the current state of the legal industry and the trends that I am seeing, and where you may fit into the overall picture. I call this the “reality check.”
I often use the following example when
explaining the reality check to others.
Jennifer, I really hate practicing law. I also don’t like my partners and my firm, judges, timesheets, deadlines, adversaries, and wearing a suit. But I do love baking cupcakes and cookies with my kids on the weekend. Can you help me?
In this case, I would refer you to a coach who could help you start a new business. We have many resources for lawyers who have decided they don’t want to practice law any longer, but I wouldn’t be able to find the person in this example the exact right perfect fit firm.
I am only able to address problems that can be changed by working at a different firm. The following are some of the most common reasons rainmakers switch firms.
A Different Platform to Service Your Clients and Grow Your Practice
Sometimes your move is client driven.
Perhaps one of your key clients has national or international needs. You could be in jeopardy of losing the client if you can’t handle its needs wherever they do business.
Or maybe you need a bigger platform that will enable you to grow your niche practice through cross-selling opportunities and complementary practice areas.
On the other hand, sometimes an important client will ask you to switch firms because your rates are getting too high and they want you to find a place where they are more reasonable.
More Support to Get Things Done
Law firm partners have busy lives. However, your life may be unnecessarily busy at your current law firm.
Are you stuck in the office late at night or on the weekend because you don’t have enough qualified associates to handle the work?
Do you spend too much time on administrative tasks?
If you had more support, could you generate more business and have more time to do things that interest you – both professionally and personally?
A Better Compensation System for You
Partners often consider a move for compensation reasons. There are different ways to make more money depending on your contribution to the firm and how it is valued.
Maybe your current firm pays the most for billed hours but as a rainmaker, you have a proven track record of bringing in millions of dollars of business. You get dinged at your current firm because your hours are relatively low. This is an easy fix. Other firms have different models that would reward you.
Time for a Change of “Scenery”
This is more than merely a change of scenery. There could be issues at your current firm that motivate you to make a change, including:
- A bad culture fit
- Losing confidence in the firm’s management and direction
- Lack of a clear succession plan
- Not feeling like you have a voice
- Being overlooked for firm leadership positions
- Working in a practice area that is not supported or respected within the firm.
- You’re at a different place in your life milestones than the rest of the firm.
What is the Lateral Partner Recruiting Process?
Gillman Strategic Group has developed a five-step proprietary process for lateral partner recruiting. Throughout each step of the process, we will be available to you via text, email, phone, and in-person. We are your partner from our first call through integrating at your new firm and beyond.
#1. You Connect with Our Team
It all starts with a meeting – in-person or over Zoom to decide if we can work together.
We start by doing the “reality check.” We’ll give you an honest answer. If we can’t help you we’ll tell you and offer resources to help you get to where you want to go.
If what’s making you unhappy can be fixed by changing firms, and we agree to work with each other, we then dig deeper into the “why” you are considering a move. We’ll explore your concerns about your current firm and goals for any future firm. Using this information, we create your wish list.
#2. We Craft Your Plan
We require all candidates to complete a Business Plan to put you in the best possible light to prospective law firms. But don’t worry, we know you are busy. We will help you craft the plan and even have resources available if you would like someone to do it for you.
#3. We Put Together Your List of Perfect Fit Firms
After we receive your Business Plan, we put together your list of perfect fit firms. We use our knowledge of the legal industry, along with additional research, to make sure we include all the firms that match your wish list.
Then we go through our findings with you and explain why each firm is included. You then consider what we have outlined and choose the firms that most appeal to you.
#4. Connect With Firms on Your Behalf
We take it from there by contacting the firms you selected and presenting your information, including the business plan, for their consideration.
If a firm is interested in meeting with you, we will schedule the initial interview and any follow-up meetings.
Not only do we schedule these meetings, but we will also help you prepare for them.
We will debrief after all meetings with the firms so we can see where your interest lies. Also, we gather feedback from the firms.
We take this opportunity to reach out to other firms you are interested in to let them know you are interviewing and let them know your progress with other firms so timing never becomes an issue.
You never have to worry about any of the details. We’ll handle it.
#5. Close Your Deal
Once we’ve narrowed down the firms you are interested in joining and they are interested in you, we’ll help you complete all the details the firm needs, including the Lateral Partner Questionnaire.
It is common for our candidates to receive interest from multiple firms during this process. Therefore, we will negotiate offers from all of the interested firms on your behalf. Then, we will help you select your perfect fit firm.
While this process is designed to allow you to focus on being a rainmaker and serving clients, we are flexible. Some candidates want to leave all the details to us, while others want to be intimately involved in the process.
We are happy to do all the negotiations. On the other hand, we have had candidates negotiating billion-dollar deals for their clients. Since they do this for a living, they would rather negotiate their own terms with the new firm.
Sometimes it isn’t about the money. It could be about other aspects of the offer such as marketing budget or having a management role at the new firm.
Remember that you are often in a stronger negotiating position
when you have a third party asking for what you want.
When Can You Expect to be at a New Law Firm?
The typical time for a lateral partner placement is 3-6 months. Of course, many variables can change this timeline. Delays and the need to accelerate the timeline can happen on both the candidate and firm sides of the equation.
First, a lot depends on how motivated you are to change law firms. A super-motivated candidate will promptly do a business plan, gather information, schedule interviews, and handle all the other necessary details. A less motivated candidate may drag their feet a little.
However, there are legitimate reasons for needing to slow down the process. These could be business reasons or personal reasons.
Business Reasons Impacting Timing
As I said, there are legitimate business reasons for delaying or accelerating the process. These are just a few examples:
- You are in the middle of a big trial or transaction and cannot focus on anything else at the moment.
- Depending on your current firm’s fiscal year or compensation system, you may have earned money that will be paid out soon. If you were to leave now, you would leave significant money on the table.
- Need to change law firms sooner because you have a new matter that the current firm can’t handle.
- You land a major new client that would be easier to transition into a new firm immediately.
Personal Reasons Impacting Timing
Candidates also have legitimate personal reasons for either delaying or accelerating the process. Examples of these reasons may include:
- Getting married or going through a divorce
- Vacation plans
- Maternity leave
- Family responsibilities such as college visits
- Relocation of your residence
The Law Firm
There are reasons that the law firm may appear to be delaying the process. Rest assured, this has nothing to do with you, the candidate. Some of the variables that can shape the law firm’s timeline include:
- Who makes decisions at the firm? Some firms have a Managing or Hiring Partner that will make the decision. Other firms decide by committee. Obviously, the more people involved, the longer it can take.
- The firm may be interviewing several lateral candidates at the same time. Therefore, the same firm representatives may have to be at many meetings and interviews. Scheduling delays may happen.
- Like the number of decision-makers involved, some firms may have a partnership agreement that dictates how offers are made to lateral candidates. For example, they may have to conduct a formal vote with all firm owners.
- The firm’s management team may be focused on other big initiatives. Perhaps there is a law firm merger going on, or they are in the process of opening a new office. These significant events require resources – time and people.
- Some firms will do more due diligence on candidates than others. Perhaps they got burned by bringing in other laterals who did not have the promised portable business or expertise in a particular practice area. Obviously, you cannot blame these firms for taking their time.
Again, delays on the law firm side usually are not related to interest or disinterest in the candidate. But there are times when the firm needs to be nudged along or risk losing a very appealing candidate.
Maybe you have multiple offers and are motivated to make a move. The delaying law firm may miss the boat on you if they don’t act. This is when I will call them and honestly tell them that you will accept another offer if the firm does not move forward. Because of my relationships, the firms know I am serious and not using it as a negotiating ploy.
Home Run Candidate
Rest assured, we can close a deal on any schedule you want if you are a home run candidate.
What is a home run candidate?
The firm wants you immediately because you check all the boxes. You have a verifiable and significant book of portable business without conflicts, and you are in an in-demand practice area. You show interest by promptly scheduling meetings/interviews and quickly completing your business plan and LPQ, and you have a high degree of likability.
Timing and Solos
Larger law firms are attracted to certain solo practices or small law firms. Of course, they have to fit into the larger firm’s practice mix or strategic plan. For example, an international law firm probably is not interested in your plaintiff’s workers’ compensation practice. But on the flip side, your business immigration or high-end estate planning practice may be appealing.
From my experience, solos can often move quicker than a lateral partner. After all, the solo calls all of the shots, has access to required information, and can directly communicate with and transition clients. Delays can happen, though – maybe getting out of a lease is problematic, or steps have to be taken to close the firm. That aside, solos should be able to move as quickly as they desire as long as the firm can.
The Market is Hot, Let’s Talk
Hopefully, this gives you all the information you need to think about and start planning your journey to the exact right perfect-fit law firm. Don’t put it off any longer. There are firms that want you! The process begins with a call. In the meantime, let us know if you have any questions or concerns.