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| 3 minutes read

Lateral Partner Recruiting Must Focus on Honesty and Clear Data

How can law firms attract, integrate, and retain top talent across all levels while gaining a competitive advantage? This is the proverbial question that remains top of mind for recruiters and business development professionals throughout the legal field. It is also a question that Brian Carrozza, Director of Client Development at Goulston & Storrs, Courtney Cook Hudson, Business Development Manager at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, and Megan K. Senese, Co-founder and principal at stage, a women-owned business development and legal marketing firm, addressed in a Bloomberg article focusing on the importance of recruiting, integrating, and retaining talent. 

In this three-part series, Brian, Courtney, and Megan have once again partnered with Bloomberg to take a deeper dive into the state of recruiting  with a business development/marketing overlay, and what it takes to successfully recruit, integrate, and retain talented laterals.

  • Legal experts explain the state of lateral partner recruiting
  • Hiring teams must build trust and manage expectations

Increasing competition for shrinking profit margins has only escalated the war for talent. Meanwhile, 44% of lateral partners cited a lack of confidence in firm management and strategy, according to a 2023 Major, Lindsey & Africa report.

The report found this lack of confidence to be the biggest reason law firm partners consider leaving their firms. Effective integration of laterals into their new firms was the best predictor of their satisfaction.

Lateral partner recruiting should begin with, and be driven by, plans that assess where the firm is right now, where it wants to go, and how lateral partner hiring is going to help deliver its goals. Hiring plans should align with the firm’s overall strategic plan—as well as plans of key practices—to ensure consensus on types of sought-after candidates to target.

A strategic framework helps stakeholders share why the firm’s culture is different, the firm’s value propositions, and its core principles. It also shares how a particular attorney or practice fits into the firmwide strategy.

Firms should be able to articulate how they allocate resources to support individual and practice growth, enhance client service, and drive revenue. Hiring committees should partner with their firms’ marketing communications and business development teams to share this messaging in a way that builds trust and manages expectations.

Next-Level Recruitment

Firms need to focus on telling compelling stories about how potential lateral partner candidates can help achieve longer-term goals—a firm’s ability to support its partners in a top “pull” factor, the report noted.

It’s important for firms to emphasize their clients, capabilities, and commitment to relevant practice areas, as well as the marketing and business development support for lateral partners. Firms also should show how they foster cross-selling and cross-pollination opportunities.

While it’s important to be enthusiastic, firms shouldn’t overpromise. They should use this early contact as an opportunity to set a tone.

Right Fit

Many firms require lateral partner candidates to complete an extensive questionnaire, or LPQ, which solicits essential information for the due diligence process. The responses tell firms what a prospective candidate hopes to bring and allows the hiring committee to vet those clients, including for potential conflicts of interest.

LPQs are an important part of the process, but they are only one diligence tool. Ultimately, hiring should be driven more by the strategy at the center of the firm’s lateral partner hiring plan rather than by a potential lateral partner’s projected book of business.

It’s important to contextualize LPQ information. Further diligence, probing questions, and verification often can help distinguish between projected potential business and projected portable business, such as clients with a high likelihood of following the lateral partner to the new firm.

Future potential business may include existing clients and whether they’ll follow the lateral partner candidate to the new firm, and prospective clients that the lateral partner candidate will continue to cultivate in hopes of bringing them aboard.

Big Picture

Recruitment processes that used to take four to six months before the Covid-19 pandemic are now taking four to six weeks.

Firms should develop a standardized, efficient recruiting process that respects candidates’ time and sensitivities inherent in meeting with a potential new firm. Many attorneys have spent their entire careers at one firm—this process may be the first time they’re entering the lateral partner market.

Firms should realize that for every lateral partner candidate hired, there often are dozens more who weren’t. Some of those who weren’t hired (or who didn’t move forward in the process of their own volition) could be future clients, prospects, referral sources, or simply a better fit for the firm later. It’s critical that they walk away with a positive impression of the firm.

To gain the best talent, firms will need to adopt a data-driven, deliberate approach to lateral partner hiring while emphasizing transparency throughout the recruiting and hiring process.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.

Reproduced with permission. Published May 10, 2024. Copyright 2024 Bloomberg Industry Group 800-372-1033. For further use please visit


"Effective integration of laterals into their new firms was the best predictor of their satisfaction."