As you follow the enlightened path toward lateral recruitment success, remember the encouragement from my last blog: it’s essential to define your firm’s business strategy and understand your areas of profitable growth early in the process. If you do, you’re well on your way to a good outcome. If you don’t, it’s unreasonable to expect any lateral to fill-in-the-blanks and determine who you are and how you’re going to grow.
When you conduct the proper analysis and create a lateral acquisition strategy that’s realistic and data-backed, you remove a tremendous amount of noise and shiny object distractions. You should be able to quickly hone in on lateral candidates who fit your success profile. Now, it’s just a “simple” exercise to pick the specific lateral or group you’ll invite to join your firm. Right?
Of course, that brings up another point of concern. While analyzing this process, I’ve noticed a tendency to over-rely on recruiters during the identification and vetting effort. Admittedly, recruiters can play a significant role in the hunt for laterals, but the firm always bears responsibility for doing its own outside analysis and vetting. Top recruiters will go out of their way to bring in first-class talent and viable candidates; they’re building a solid foundation and partnership for future work. Despite good intentions, recruitment specialists lack the detailed insights needed to really analyze what a potential lateral or a book of business can mean to a firm. Consequently, that in-depth analysis is often overlooked.
The good news is, now that you’ve acknowledged the firm is responsible for its own destiny, you can explore ways to clarify values as a decision-making guide. Even if your methods don’t deliver 100% accuracy, some due diligence will get you closer to the truth and more comfortable with your investment than just interviewing alone.
Start with competitive intelligence products or consultants. You should find a wealth of information about a lateral’s past work, and also be able to gauge relationship strengths between laterals and their clients. One point of concern, especially during law firm consolidations, is the likelihood a book of business will follow the candidate. Analyzing the lateral-to-client-to-law firm connections can mitigate or confirm those concerns. Again, competitive intelligence tools can highlight the type of work a lateral handles versus the firm, and often clarify the scope of work and individuals assigned to big cases. When the breadth of work covers multiple areas of law and taps into multiple partners at a firm over time, the book of business may be up for grabs. Perhaps this seems like common sense, but data-backed common sense serves as a great reality translator.
Relationship intelligence tools are another data-driven technique firms should apply. If you represent a mid-to-large size law firm, chances are good someone at the firm has a connection to the lateral prospect, their firm, or better yet, their book of business. Without crossing any ethical lines, you can leverage those relationships to clarify the situation. It’s no different than getting a referral; it is, however, a smart and proactive way of vetting candidates before decisions are made.
You can always throw other activities into the mix with competitive and relationship intelligence tools. There are benchmarking tools, annual and general counsel reports, news articles and a host of online sources that can help complete the picture on lateral prospects. Just remember to: have a solid strategy first; identify likely talent needs second; and confidently select the right lateral who matches your cultural, strategic and economic profile third. We’re almost done. The final piece on “integration” gets covered in Part 4 of this series.