Lateral hiring enables law firms of all sizes to acquire experienced attorneys with specialized skills, valuable client relationships, sought-after competencies and industry connections.

Many firms utilize lateral hiring to grow their practices, expand into new markets, more effectively serve their client’s evolving needs, bolster their reputation and establish a presence in niche areas of law.

Of course, the most important reason to hire laterals is to attract additional high-value clients.

Attorneys with established practices and client relationships can bring valuable business to their new firms and offer more comprehensive services to clients by hiring lateral attorneys with specialized expertise.

Lateral hiring can also be an effective succession planning strategy for law firms. In addition, lateral hires can help firms obtain new business and expand client relationships and enter new markets and industries, leading to revenue growth. They should be developing business with others/existing clients and develop new clients or expand existing business with new services available to the client.

Of course, law firms want to ensure they are making a smart investment when it comes to their lateral partner hiring – lateral hiring success is so much more than just adding lawyers with substantial books of business.

In fact, 48% of laterals leave their new law firm within 5 years, 62% fail to bring their promised book of business and 35% fail to fit in at the new firm – so a robust vetting process and implementing success strategies – on both the lateral’s side and the firm’s side – is crucial.

Your lateral hiring due diligence must extend beyond a lateral partner questionnaire and interviews. It’s important to also ensure that your firm has a robust lateral strategy and vetting process to assess fit – this way you can assess whether a candidate’s experience, expertise, skills and resources align with your firm’s strategic objectives and culture.

In addition, it’s important to implement a strong latera integration program that consists of marketing support and resources, internal relationship development, cross-selling opportunities and IT/HR orientation.

Before a firm brings on laterals, leadership should create a lateral hiring talent strategy to ensure there is consensus on the type of candidates they are seeking and how that aligns with the firm’s goals for growth, considering factors such as business development opportunities, new or expanded offices in specific geographic markets or cities, promotions/elevations, retirement and newly developed (or expanding) practice groups.

Your lateral hiring talent strategy should consider the following:

  • In which markets does the firm want to enter or expand its capabilities?
  • Which areas require succession planning and/or additional bench strength?
  • In which practice areas does the firm want to grow or enter?
  • In which areas can the firm expand its offerings to existing clients?
  • Where are there gaps/opportunities in the market?

As part of your due diligence when vetting lateral candidates, Aderant suggests asking the following questions:

  • In the last three years, has your book of business grown?
  • If so, what percentage of growth stems from new matters with existing clients?
  • Similarly, what percentage of growth stems from new matters with new clients?

Here are some strategies that can help law firms attract (and keep) lateral partners:

  1. Develop (and Communicate) Your Value Proposition. It’s crucial to be able to convey why your firm is right for a candidate and what makes your firm unique compared to its competitors. Make sure you can not only articulate this in the recruiting process but also in written materials. Highlight the firm’s reputation, expertise, client base, marketing and business development resources, culture and support infrastructure. Emphasize how joining your firm can enhance their practice, provide opportunities for growth and support their long-term career and marketing/business development goals.
  2. Targeted Recruitment Approach: Tailor your recruitment efforts to attract lateral hires who align with your firm’s strategic goals and practice areas. Leverage your network, industry events, legal associations and online platforms to proactively identify and engage with potential lateral candidates.
  3. Streamlined Recruitment Process: Create an efficient and responsive recruitment process to minimize delays and demonstrate your firm’s commitment to a candidate’s time and career aspirations. Establish clear communication channels and assign a dedicated recruitment team member to guide candidates through each step of the process.
  4. Integration and Onboarding Support: Develop a comprehensive integration and onboarding program tailored specifically for lateral hires. Assign a mentor or integration liaison to provide guidance, establish a clear communication channel, and facilitate the lateral hire’s assimilation into the firm’s culture, practice groups, and operational processes.
  5. Manage Your Online Brand: Have you checked out your firm’s Google search results lately? You should. Indeed, Glassdoor and Google reviews come up on the first page of your Google results. Your firm will inevitably have both good and bad reviews – make sure to get ahead of them and be able to answer candidate questions on the negative ones. Encourage star performers to post positive reviews to counterbalance the negative ones.
  6. Create Dedicated Lateral Marketing Materials: These materials should live on your web site, your social channels, and be modular pieces you can easily PDF to a candidate, a recruiter or a law school. Your client pitchbook materials won’t cut it – recruiting materials must be tailored for laterals to highlight what it’s like to work at the firm, what professional development resources you offer, firm highlights (such as awards and matters), firm facts, marketing resources, lateral integration, etc.
  7. Showcase Financial Strength and Stability: Lateral partners with significant books of business often seek stable and financially strong law firms. Demonstrate your firm’s financial stability, profitability and long-term viability. Share financial metrics and success stories that showcase the firm’s ability to support lateral partners in growing their practices.
  8. Conduct Market Research: Identify potential lateral partners with compatible practice areas and target markets. Conduct comprehensive market research to understand their client base, industry connections and professional networks. This knowledge enables you to approach them with a tailored pitch that highlights opportunities for collaboration, and growth.
  9. Leverage Existing Networks and Relationships: Utilize your existing networks and relationships to identify potential lateral partners. Engage your current partners, clients, alumni and professional contacts to provide referrals or introductions to individuals who may be suitable candidates. Personal connections can be a powerful way to attract lateral partners with books of business. Implement a referral program for your current attorneys to encourage them to refer potential lateral hires. Offer incentives, such as bonuses or recognition, for successful referrals.
  10. Define Your Target Audience: Determine the specific types of attorneys you want to attract. Consider factors such as practice areas, years of experience, expertise and cultural fit.
  11. Develop a Compelling Employer Brand: Craft a strong and unique employer brand that highlights your firm’s values, culture and benefits. Showcase your firm’s track record, notable cases, client base and any awards or recognition received. Emphasize the advantages of joining your firm compared to competitors.
  12. Enhance Your Online Presence: Optimize your website and social media profiles to reflect your firm’s strengths and values. Create a dedicated “Careers” section on your website that provides detailed information about lateral opportunities, benefits and the application process. Regularly update your social media accounts with engaging content related to your firm’s success stories, client wins and professional development opportunities.
  13. Leverage Professional Networks: Attend legal conferences, seminars and industry events to network with potential lateral hires. Establish relationships with legal recruiters, industry associations, alumni associations and law school career services offices to tap into their networks and receive recommendations.
  14. Conduct Personalized Outreach: Identify attorneys at target firms who may be a good fit for your firm. Personalize your outreach by highlighting their expertise, achievements or shared interests. Offer them opportunities to meet partners or key decision makers in your firm for a casual discussion or informational interview.
  15. Create Thought Leadership and Content Marketing: Publish articles, blog posts and whitepapers on legal topics relevant to your firm’s practice areas. Encourage your attorneys to contribute their insights and expertise to legal publications. Develop a content marketing strategy to showcase your firm’s intellectual capital and establish your attorneys as thought leaders in their respective fields.
  16. Leverage Employee Testimonials and Case Studies: Collect testimonials from current attorneys who have successfully made the lateral move to your firm. Highlight their positive experiences, career growth and client successes. Create case studies showcasing the impact of lateral hires on your firm’s practice areas and overall growth.
  17. Showcase Competitive Compensation and Benefits: Develop competitive compensation packages that align with the partner’s book of business and industry norms. This includes a combination of base salary, performance-based bonuses, partnership track and other incentives such as flexible work arrangements, professional development programs, mentoring opportunities and access to cutting-edge technology. Conduct market research to ensure your compensation packages are attractive and competitive.
  18. Highlight Marketing and Business Development Resources and Support: Emphasize the marketing and business development support your firm provides to lateral partners. Showcase the resources, tools and expertise available to help them grow their book of business, enhance their brand and enter/expand in new markets. Highlight client referral networks, public relations opportunities and trainings, and established relationships with industry influencers and thought leaders. Illustrate successful examples of how the firm has supported other lateral partners in expanding their practices.
  19. Emphasize Collaboration and Cross-Selling Opportunities: Highlight the firm’s collaborative culture and its potential for cross-selling opportunities. Demonstrate how lateral partners can leverage the firm’s diverse expertise, client base and practice areas to enhance client service and drive revenue growth. Provide examples of successful cross-selling initiatives within the firm.
  20. Highlight Professional Growth Opportunities: Highlight the firm’s commitment to ongoing professional development and advancement. Showcase mentoring programs, access to high-profile clients and cases, opportunities for leadership roles, and the potential for partnership track progression.
  21. Showcase Your Collaborative Work Environment: Emphasize a collaborative and inclusive work culture that values teamwork, knowledge sharing and mutual support. Showcase instances of successful collaboration and the firm’s commitment to fostering a positive and respectful workplace.
  22. Foster a Supportive and Inclusive culture: Cultivate a positive and supportive work environment that values diversity, inclusivity and collaboration. Lateral partners often seek a firm where they can thrive and feel supported. Showcase your firm’s commitment to professional development, work-life balance and the overall well-being of its attorneys.
  23. Develop a Robust Integration Plan: Develop a comprehensive integration plan to facilitate a smooth transition for lateral partners. Provide support and resources to help them integrate into the firm, understand its culture and processes and establish relationships with other attorneys and staff. This includes assigning mentors, facilitating training programs and introducing them to key stakeholders within the firm.
  24. Monitor and Evaluate Efforts: Track the effectiveness of your lateral hiring marketing strategy. Measure metrics such as the number of qualified applicants, conversion rate, time-to-hire and the retention rate of lateral hires. Continuously refine your strategy based on feedback and results.
  25. Provide Continuous Feedback and Performance Evaluation: Establish regular feedback mechanisms to ensure open communication channels between lateral hires and firm leadership. Conduct performance evaluations to provide constructive feedback, recognize achievements, and address any areas for improvement.
  26. Implement Retention Initiatives: Implement retention strategies that promote job satisfaction and engagement. This can include offering meaningful work assignments, flexible work arrangements, mentoring programs, professional development opportunities and a clear path for career advancement.
Laterals considering joining another firm are weighing quality-of-life issues, caliber of work, reputation of colleagues and of course compensation in their decision to make a move.
Professional growth and advancement opportunities are also important factors for laterals, so ensure your firm can offer an attractive package in these areas while also being able to articulate your firm’s strengths.
Lateral hiring is a powerful strategy for law firms looking to maximize growth, expand their expertise and enhance their reputation. Attracting lateral partners with strong books of business requires a well-defined strategy, a compelling value proposition and a collaborative and supportive environment. By implementing these strategies, law firms can position themselves as an attractive destination for lateral partners seeking new opportunities.
Reach out to me for help with your recruiting marketing strategy!