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Clients are using a new calculus to decide whether to follow their partner to a new firm. Clients have spent the last three years watching:

    • Partners change firms
    • Corporate counsel changing companies
    • Experiencing the extremes of client service on both ends of the spectrum
    • A string of retirements

The combination of the partner movement, clients inheriting new partners, and the general swirl of attorneys bring the idea of working with new partners and firms more into the mainstream than ever before.

We asked corporate counsel if they would follow their primary attorney to another firm both pre- and post-covid. The difference in the numbers is a game-changer.

Our just completed survey reveals 44% of clients would follow their primary law firm’s partner to a new firm. Compared to pre-pandemic levels of 12 to 15% — this number has nearly tripled.

But even this 44% has a few concerns:

    • It has to make sense to your client
    • Conflicts
    • New law firm branding
    • Ease of transition or onboarding
    • Nature of the work
    • How they learned about the move

Almost every client indicated personal communication was a central part of the equation. Clients who learn about lateral moves from the news or through announcements could have their minds changed.

These practices saw the largest increases in the number of clients who are likely to follow their partner:

M&A: more than 30% of M&A clients are open to following their partners — up from 12% pre-pandemic. Most of these clients have been in their role for two years or less.

Litigation: the flow of litigation makes it easy for clients to move new cases to their partner at a new law firm.

Labor and Employment: the plethora of new regulations and industry-specific needs drives clients to stick with partners who understand them.

While the number of clients following partners has tripled — it is still less than half. Laterals are not a slam dunk — yet. Here are my recommendations for success:

    • Develop a transition plan for each client you want to bring to the new law firm
    • Provide partner and BD support to ensure the transition plan is successful
    • Use business professionals to take care of administrative procedures to onboard new clients
    • Develop a clear and concise onboarding process
    • Ensure that the clients you want to come with you get a personal call before the news gets out
    • Extend a leadership greeting to the most important clients
    • Design specific integration plans to bring new partners into the firm to be able to service clients

Don’t mistake the lull in lateral movement as a decline. Expect more and higher profile lateral movement. It will happen sooner than you think, now would be a great time to figure out how to keep your partners.

Best in the market ahead –

The Mad Clientist

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