Looking for leverage to attract lateral partner hires? We’ve put our collective experience together to share the top questions and concerns we hear most from partner-level candidates about prospective firms:
1. Leverage/Support: Partners have always been interested in associate and administrative support, but with the massive associate lateral movement that has occurred in the past two years, many firms are struggling to hire and retain associates. Lack of consistent support is one the main reasons that many partners are considering moves right now. Partners are becoming more granular in their request for support information before they agree to talk to a potential firm. They want to know the specific number of associates and paralegals in the group and retention rates among associates. Additionally, partners often ask for partner-to-associate ratios firmwide, in their practice group, and in the office they are interested in.
2. COVID and/or REMOTE Policies: Most partners ask about current COVID or remote policies and always ask if there is a mandatory return to work date set. Many partners, particularly those that are well established and have a book of business, assume they will have or are used to having the discretion to work remotely a day or two a week if necessary or prudent. However, there are many partners I have spoken with that have no interest in returning to the office full time, and will lateral if necessary to retain the flexibility. Generally speaking, associates seem to be interested in full-time remote options more so than partners.
3. Culture/Environment: This is a question we get in almost every conversation. Indicating that a firm has a “good culture” can ring hollow to partner candidates since every firm always indicates they have a good culture. Specific statistics that point to a good culture are important to share, including partner and associate retention rates, testimonials or interviews with partners at the firm, origination credit paradigms, and third party reviews (Vault/First-Hand and Chambers).
4. Metrics: Perhaps this goes without saying, but hourly rate structures are a gateway issue, and partners ask about metrics up front, specifically required portable business and hourly rate structures. Many partners will also ask about the process for obtaining a reduced rate or alternative fee agreement in the firm’s paradigm.
5. Compensation System: Not surprising, partners want an idea of compensation. Questions usually fall into two basic categories: the “how” and the “what.”Almost all partners will ask “how” the compensation system works. Partners that have large practices and/or make a large amount of money will share their hourly rates, books size, and current compensation and ask “what” specifically they would make on the proposed platform. Compensation questions probe culture, too. Does the system reward sharing client work and matters? Are there specific examples of partners growing their practices due to the collaborative nature of the firm?
6. Firm Management/Center of Power: For firms with several offices, most of these questions center around the partner evaluating if there is a “mother ship” office that all decisions run through and where the office they are interviewing sits in the “power” map. This is especially true with partners from very large firms that are considering a smaller platform. Other questions center around the make-up and term lengths of the executive or management committee .
7. Office and/or Practice Group Integration: Partners often ask about integration. They ask about specific integration plans or committees for new hires, but also about integration amongst the firm’s different practice areas and/or offices. Origination credit allocation methods often come up in this context as well.
8. Debt/Financial Status of the Firm: In a post-Dewey world, we always get questions about debt, capital leases, and deferred compensation along with revenue and revenue per lawyer. Partners are less interested in PPP, which most view as “gameable”.
9. Diversity: Partners want specifics and are adverse to performative diversity statements. Are there diverse partners leading groups? Are diverse partners on the management committee or other governing bodies at the firm? Is the firm able to attract and retain diverse associates and staff?
If you’d like to talk more with us about what our partner candidates are looking for and how to put the best foot forward, reach out to us to continue the conversation!
Sign up to get our quarterly newsletters tracking partner moves and hiring trends.