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Optimising a lateral move – strategic business plans

September 2021

Numerous articles and analysis have been written and conducted by legal publications and legal industry commentators about lateral partner recruitment and its relative success or failure. 

What has always surprised me about the process, is just how little emphasis and attention is placed on the business plan element either by candidate or the hiring firm. 

Business plan you say……yes, that little two or three pager that seems to accompany most candidate enquiries. 

Such great emphasis is placed on compensation and portability that the build out of a plan that looks to the short, medium, and long term, as well as a focus on integration are sometimes overlooked. Here’s what we have typically seen from candidates and their recruiters during our time working for law firms:

  • A CV
  • A transaction list and
  • A set of metrics: portable income, a combination of billable hours, billings, and hourly rates and maybe some recovery/realisation thrown in.

Very rarely have we seen a strategy built around the above and aligned to the hiring firm. In fact, I can recall two occasions where we (the law firm) received a comprehensive strategic plan for how the candidate(s) were going to add value to the firm they were joining. One of these came from a senior leveraged finance associate at a Magic Circle law firm that was hired by my then current US firm as a day one partner. The other, by a well-known senior private equity partner (who has since exited big law) who along with his fellow partner put together the most detailed business plan I’ve seen. 

A strategic plan helps focus both firm and candidate alike. It helps a candidate identify why they are looking to move and what they offer the prospective firm(s). It prepares them for the discussions ahead and frames the conversation with their prospective new firm. In fact, it ensures a candidate stays on point, fine tuning the message they need to deliver to each firm (if they are talking to more than one as is usually the case) with a little nuance depending on the audience. In effect, it ensures consistency of message, without too much hard work on the candidate’s part.

From the perspective of the law firm a business plan (if well drafted), will assist senior management or the sponsoring practice leader to ‘sell’ the hire internally and achieve buy in. Most lateral hire processes are not necessarily quick and efficient – particularly when you are dealing with individual shareholders with their own personal interests in play.

A prospective firm wants to see how a potential hire will align – that fabulous word, ‘synergies’. Which clients and contacts offer up new opportunities and entry points or strengthen existing client relationships?

A detailed plan also ensures a prospective firm can plan future resource requirements that may be needed to support the candidate – a no surprises approach to ancillary products or associate support is again an easier sell internally. 

Whilst law firms have improved in terms of the information they now tend to ask of candidates, with many now incorporating lateral partner questionnaires into their process, there is still some way to go for many firms.

Before making the move to search and recruitment I was involved on the other side during the boom period of the early noughties and in the late noughties working for two US firms building out and establishing their London operations.

To discuss this topic further and see if LTN & Partners can help you in your next career move, please contact your usual LTN contact or Nick Georgiou –

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