What should firms bear in mind when undertaking lateral hires?

What should firms bear in mind when undertaking lateral hires?
Peter Scott, principal of Peter Scott Consulting, and John Grimwade, founder and managing director of JDP, examine what firms should bear in mind when undertaking lateral hires, interviewed by Diana Bentley.

How widespread has the lateral hiring of partners in law firms become?

Lateral hiring of partners, using the search process, has been commonplace among the larger law firms for many years and most would say that it is now a key element of their overall competitive growth strategy. Increasingly, smaller firms and boutiques are enjoying success in the strategic lateral hiring of partners.

There is currently a very noticeable trend towards the lateral hiring of teams (ie partners together with their associates), in order to maximise the chances of client portability, although these moves need to be planned and executed carefully to avoid legal pitfalls.

What are the main considerations that prompt firms to hire partners laterally? What are the benefits?

Law firms undertake strategic lateral hiring initiatives for a variety of reasons, including:

  • succession and/or leadership of practice groups
  • bolstering an existing practice group or team
  • reigniting a failing practice group and/or broadening its capability
  • launching a practice group in a new geographical region or complementary sector
  • investment in new practice areas/legal disciplines to plug client perceived ‘gaps’ in a firm’s service offering
  • replacement of departing or retiring partners

Successful lateral hires bring expertise in their chosen sector and legal know-how, which a firm may otherwise lack, together with an existing pipeline of transactions/cases and potentially a cohort of loyal clients and relationships. In addition, many also possess valuable and elusive leadership and client development/rain making skills which can be put to profitable use if a firm is skilled in integrating lateral hires.

What should firms bear in mind when undertaking lateral hires?

There are m

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