The War for Lateral Partners 101: Part One


Alyson Galusha

Alyson Galusha is a Senior Director in our National Partner Group. She focuses her practice on representing individual partners and groups as well as law firms in connection with partner hiring and office openings. Alyson also recruits attorneys at all levels for the New Jersey market, which includes Northern and Central New Jersey, and surrounding areas.

By now, everyone in the legal world knows and appreciates the war for talent, especially for lateral partners with portable books of business. I am asked the following question by clients all the time: “What do we do in order to land top lateral partners?” The second most asked question is: “Where did we go wrong?” Whether you are an AmLaw 100 firm or a boutique practice, one thing I have learned throughout my years of recruiting, and especially recruiting and placing partners is that the first impression remains the most important!

I have witnessed candidates walk away from the most well-intentioned firms after a poorly planned first interview. The war to attract these partners is hard enough, but once you get them in the door, it becomes your duty to make a stellar first impression and to solidify why the partner should choose your firm. If you have chosen to interview the partner, you can be sure many other firms have likely selected them for an interview as well. 

So, what can you do to make sure the candidate moves on to the second round, and hopefully, joins your firm? This three-part series will explore the answer to that question: 

  • Part 1: The War Is On–First Impressions
  • Part 2: Next Steps–Navigating the Minefield
  • Part 3: Sealing the Deal

PART 1: The War Is On–First Impressions

7 Ways to make sure the candidate comes back

From the time the candidate or recruiter submits the initial resume up until the first interview, stay in touch to let them know the firm is excited to meet with the candidate. Keep the momentum and communications both prompt and positive.

1. Send a formal interview schedule with details

Start by sending a formal interview schedule with specifics, including:

  • Logistics such as date/time, office or parking information
  • The name of the person who will be greeting the candidate
  • Information on individuals who will be interviewing the candidate, including their name, title and bio links
  • Let the candidate know what to expect and how excited the firm is to meet them. 

Giving the candidate an overview of what they can expect alleviates their anxiety about the interview and allows for a more authentic conversation. This process is also a direct reflection on the organization of the firm, and indicates you are communicative, well organized and thoughtful.

2. Have someone designated to meet the candidate

The designated contact should be there to greet the candidate and get them situated, offer water or coffee, and let them know who will be coming in the room next. The more organized the interview and setting is, the more comfortable the candidate feels, and it will be a direct reflection on how the firm operates on a day-to-day basis.

3. Choose your first impression interviewers carefully

It is extremely important to choose someone to meet the candidate who can accurately represent the face and voice of the firm. This person should be an ambassador of the firm, well-versed and confident in the goals and direction of the firm as well as the people who comprise it. This initial interviewer should stay involved throughout the entire interview process.

4. Discuss the transition

Remember, candidates are looking to make a smooth transition and it helps to talk about what that process will look like. They want to know they will be supported when transitioning clients and files. Hesitation comes when they can’t picture how the transition will take place and they start to envision every pitfall. You want them to be able to visualize the transition and to know that the firm will have their back. Give specifics and identify successful transition best practices in your experience.

5. Identify ways in which you’ll support their growth and exposure

Most lateral partners are looking for a new platform to grow their existing book of business. Be clear and tell them how your firm will do that, the benefits to joining your firm over others, the willingness for other departments to refer work, and specifics of the process. Most lateral partners don’t want to join a firm only to feel like an island. They want to know they’ll be fully supported to grow their practice and have an understanding of how the firm will support them.

6. Make the exit as meaningful as the entrance

Make sure you have someone planned to escort the candidate out of the interview. This should ideally be one of the hiring partners. If you’re interested in continuing on to the next step, be clear about the firm’s interest, and don’t be coy. You want the candidate to walk away feeling positively about the interview, the firm, and be ready to take the next steps. If the interview didn’t end on a positive note, they’ll remember it. Likewise, if you receive a post-interview communication, like a thank-you note, you should respond!

7. Top 3 things NOT to do

  1. Do not pick an interviewer who doesn’t exude positive energy, excitement and speak positively about the firm and the people at the firm.
  2. Do not grill the candidate about the size of their book of business at the first interview. Numbers should be saved for the second round.  You should be selling the firm and gaining an understanding of their strengths, not cross-examining the candidate.
  3. Do not act uninterested! I can’t tell you how many partner candidates share feedback that the interviewer seemed uninterested or disengaged. Do not check your phone. Do not make a call. Do not walk out of the interview. Stay focused and make the interview a priority. Keep eye contact, ask questions, talk about the firm, and act like the person in front of you is the next lateral partner at your firm.

During PART 2 of the series I will discuss the next steps which include the LPQ process, second meeting and lines of communication during this time period.

Alyson Galusha is a Senior Director in our National Partner Group at Parker + Lynch Legal–the attorney recruiting division of Special Counsel. Connect with Alyson via Linkedin or email today!

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