Posted by: johnocunningham | October 10, 2011

Lateral Hiring and Communication

According to a 2011 report by Altman Weil, 92 percent of law firms in the U.S. have pursued a growth strategy in 2011 that includes an emphasis on hiring lateral partners (based on a survey of 805 firms with 50 or more lawyers).

That same report notes that the median five-year retention rate for laterals is more than 90 percent overall, but only 78 percent for firms having more than 1,000 lawyers.

Furthermore, the median rate of laterals who “perform as anticipated” over a five-year period is only 75 percent overall.

Thus, the largest of domestic firms are losing 22 percent of their laterals within five years, and they are disappointed with the delivery for 25 percent overall.

The situation for U.S. firms overseas would appear to be worse, where Motive Legal Consulting has determined (based on a study of 1,944 lateral moves in a five-year period) that 42 percent of corporate law partners taken on by U.S. firms in London had left within just three years of being hired.

So what is behind this problem?

To a large extent, it is an issue of communication. Communication is lacking about expectations, integration of practices and clients, and issues regarding trust and interaction by and among the laterals and existing partners. Of course, there needs to be a better process for successful lateral integration as well, but that too requires significant internal communication.

For some tips on lateral hiring that include communication suggestions, check out the following:

1. Ten Ways to Boost Lateral Partner Integration, by Katie Rutter, who conducted lateral integration programs successfully at firms like Goodwin Procter and McDermott Will.

2. A report on lateral hiring by Kimball Legal Search and Consulting.

3. A Do-It-Yourself Lateral Hiring guide from Altman Weil.

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