Lateraling to another firm as a Partner necessarily involves more logistics than previous career moves as an associate. For associates, the focus is on skillset, experience, and grades. For partners, it is inherently more complicated to move an entire practice to another firm. There are many moving parts: Clients, conflicts, personal fit, support etc. I’ve heard many partners refer to a lateral moves as a necessary logistical nightmare. 

To fully engage in the process in a timely fashion, a little preparation in advance can save a significant amount of time and angst in the process. If you are at all contemplating a move or thinking of moving or exploring a bit in the next year or two, now is the time to prepare.

1. Timing is Tricky, Plan Ahead

Timing, by far, is the trickiest component of any lateral move. If you read one sentence in this article, please let it be the next one. It almost always takes longer than candidates anticipate to execute a lateral move. There are a variety of factors that play into this that are out of your control: Timing and speed in process of the firms you are meeting with, balancing of offers that may come in at different times with deadlines, fiscal year differences at the destination firms, holiday interruption where several interviewers may be unavailable, etc. The candidate will have timing issues as well depending on holdbacks, notice requirements, fiscal year, and the logistics of getting several busy partners in one room (or Zoom) at a time for interviews. 

So, how long should you plan for your lateral move? It’s hard to pin this down, but planning for 6-9 months in the process is a good measuring stick. That means if you want to move in the first quarter of 2023, you should be well into conversations now.  If you have holdbacks, bonuses, or notice requirements that will impact your personal timeline, the earlier you start, the better.

2. What’s Important to You?

Spend some time assessing what is important to you aside from the “tangibles” (i.e. compensation, industry and practice fit). The metrics and clients have to work or it doesn’t make sense to move, but what else is important? 

Some factors to consider:
   – Culture: Do partners collaborate? Are there islands/silos? Hint: Origination credit and compensation systems reflect firm culture
   – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 
   – How the firm is organized (region/practice group)
   – Flexibility on remote/hybrid
   – Available associate, legal support professional, and marketing/business support
   – Lateral partner retention rates (can point to culture integration)
   – Geographical locations (including specific international offices)
   – Management structure of firms/offices, term limits, and equity partner voting rights/buy-ins
   – Relationships with partners that are already at the firm (some partners won’t move to a firm unless they know someone there)

Identifying these factors before you start engaging in conversations is enormously helpful. I’ve seen many partners spend a frustrating amount of time engaging with firms that match up organically on practice/industry, but have “features that are incompatible on a cultural level.

3. Gather Thy Metrics and Clients

One of the major components of a lateral partner move is the exchange of information. For most firms, this means filling out the lateral partner questionnaire, which dives into metrics and client information. It can be time consuming to fill out properly, but a detailed and thoughtful LPQ provides the foundation for the firm to make the best offer they can. Pulling together data in advance of engaging with other firms can make this process a lot faster, plus it gives you a fresh look at your metrics to prepare you for conversations with firms about your practice. 

Information to gather:
   – Hourly rates: Rack/published rate and discount rates going back three years
   – Origination: Personal originations going back three years.
   – Originating, billing and working attorney hours going back three years
   – Portable clients and clients represented in the past three years (for a conflicts check)
   – Update/create a CV or resume (most LPQ’ ask for this as an attachment) 

Being aware of timing issues, understanding what specific feature you want (or don’t want) in a new platform, and having all your client and fiscal information already pulled and ready will save time (and frustration) in the process.

We are here and happy to chat with partners about what a lateral move can look like even if you are more curious than anything else. 


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