Top 10 Tips for Lateral Partners from those Who Made a Move

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Keeping up with the latest on lateral partners and their movement in the industry is what enables us to help our readers. Every year, hundreds of lateral partners move from their firms, but what value does this knowledge hold? To put it into the proper light, a survey that was conducted by portable lawyers from Major, Lindsey & Africa and ALM Legal Intelligence reports that 52 percent of lateral partners are satisfied and 31 percent are somewhat satisfied with their moves to new firms. 80 percent say that they would join the same firm all over again if time rewound.

36.6 percent of the partners surveyed reported that they reviewed the financial statements of their new firm and almost half (40 percent) of respondents claimed that they didn't even read the partnership agreement before joining the law firm.

The survey featured open-ended questions regarding what they learned and what changes they'd likely make to the process. Everything was kept anonymous to help encourage honest answers. In the answers, we saw that some felt that they should have tried harder to get a better status or longer guarantee, while others felt that there was nothing they could have done to prevent unwanted surprises at their new firms. Out of this, we've put together a list of the top ten tips to lateral partners who are thinking about making the move.

Have a Plan to Integrate

We've seen numerous laterals mentioning that having a solid integration plan was highly important for becoming one with a new firm. It's necessary to be proactive in providing the new firm with what they need, such as cross-selling their practices, announcing arrivals and learning new computer systems. Simply relying on the firm to do it will make you seem dispensable.

Be Diligent and Skeptical

Even if it means being an annoying potential partner, laterals advise you to be very diligent. One rule of thumb to follow is the Reagan Rule, which suggests that you trust but verify. Make sure to ask for the things that are important, including client lists, strategic plans, marketing budgets, bonus pools and compensation grids. Don't hesitate to verify statements made by the higher ups.

Don't Wait to Negotiate

The best time to negotiate is now. One lateral states, "This is your best chance."

Make Sure it's in Ink

Getting everything down in writing will provide you with stability. Partners don't always stick around and practice group leaders don't always have the best of memory. Having things written down will help keep things in order even after they leave or forget.

Get Reliable Sources within the Firm

It's common for candidates to be introduced to a circle of partners. But it's best if you break away from that group and instead find lawyers who recently left or joined the firm and have one-on-one talks with them. Having such an acquaintance that you can have candid conversations with can be quite resourceful.

Learn to Balance Over and Under Promises

There's nothing worse than over promising and not following through. To make sure that expectations are kept at manageable levels, you should instead under promise. In fact, if you still aim high and achieve your goals, you will stand out for keeping and exceeding your promises. However, learn to balance out your promises, because some laterals in the survey stated that they regretted low-balling their practices because they earned less during those years than those who over promised.

Don't Feel Offended

It's commonplace for some firms to ask new laterals to bring their clients along and make them clients of the firm. Some feel offended by this, but you just have to learn the art of appreciation - at least you're in a firm where you can practice.

Know Who You Are

As a lawyer, do you know what you can offer to and what you expect from a firm? You should treat moving to a new firm like a courtship - first know yourself and then get to know the firm to see if there can be a reciprocal relationship that is give and take. You should feel like you belong within the firm. Some surveyed said that they were even willing to trade some money and status in exchange for a team-oriented environment. What would you give and for what?

Update Your Resume

Even when you've been with a successful firm and have a great presence in person as well as on the web, you need to have an updated resume in hand to give to potential new firms. No good firm is going to take you seriously about wanting to be with them if you can't give them a good resume to back up your work. You need to have everything updated to represent all of your qualities and aspirations to show the new firm how you can bring to them what they may not already have.

Research What Other Law Firms are Looking for

With the economy being as dismal as it has been over the last several years, most firms are not looking so much for the lateral that can simply bring in more money. Instead, most are looking for laterals that can bring commitment to the firm and will be loyal in the long-run. While the firms know you may be looking to gain more monetary benefits from being a lateral, you need to be able to show them more than monetary reasons for your venture.

Deciding whether to move to a new firm can be tricky, even for a lawyer. But when making the final decision, try to make professional and personal considerations.

Want to make a lateral move? Click here for all available partners opening.

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