The largest portion of clients see lateral movement as a disruption to their own operations and a fraction of these will absolutely follow their partners in a lateral move. BTI research shows clients think about laterals in 5 different ways — each with different implications. Broken down by percent, they are:
- 11% of clients plan to follow their partner wherever they go
- 10% are likely to follow
- 12% want to know more before they make a decision and are open to a pitch
- 48% indicate it’s a disruption to their ongoing operations
- 19% say its an inconvenience — they adjust and life goes on
Clients shared their thinking with us:
“Frankly. It’s a puzzlement. Why would you move to that firm? I don’t see it — what am I missing?”
Says a long-term, big-spending client. And this partner had moved from one Wall Street firm to another equally respected and large-deal law firm. The client didn’t see a reason for the move — and wanted to understand why.
“I’m so glad he made a move. He brings so much more energy to our case now, and he was great before. It’s like he was unleashed.”
Says a top GC after giving a new case to a litigation partner who moved to a new firm.
“Talk about pain. We had to transition a new partner in and get them up-to-speed. You would have thought they (the firm) would have planned better for this. It will add at least 15% to my budget because they expect me to pay for all this time. I guess it’s just part of the game.”
Says the GC of a large biotech company.
Clients have clear and unequivocal opinions and questions about laterals. As you can see, they are not always obvious. They want to see a strategic fit with the new firm — and look for it. The really big and long-term clients want to know why the partner didn’t seek out their opinion before making a move. And these are the best clients.
I recommend the following to get the most out your laterals:
- Target client-vetted laterals — those whom your clients like and respect. You can build these questions into your client feedback. This feedback also helps ensure the lateral fits into your culture.
- Develop a screening process, including the 5 most important things you want in a lateral. Develop it before you start your search. Use this screen to ground-truth your candidates and the fit.
- Perform due diligence. Few law firms in the US interview potential lateral’s clients. You can conduct the interviews without revealing a move — and good client feedback can tell you a lot about how many clients will follow.
- Make sure your new lateral’s clients know about the move before it goes public. Clients who learn about a move through a press release don’t feel valued.
- Actively pitch major clients where your new partner had substantial relationships. The team will be critical, as will perceived access to the new partner. Clients expect these pitches to be customized and specific. You are proving the lateral brings a deep understanding of the client to a new firm.
- Assign a buddy. Help this new partner navigate the firm and make key introductions.
- Actively include the lateral partner in new pitches and pursuits. Bring them into the process and treat them as a member of the team.
32% of clients are open to doing business after a lateral makes a move. This drops to 21% if you don’t pitch the lateral partners’ former clients. Lateral partners may bring other benefits including market entry, leadership, or a show of strength to the market. But whatever the reason, clients and opportunities are left behind — or follow the lateral — depending largely on your integration strategy.
And knowing the odds of success increases the likelihood of a better bet — and payoff.
Be well. Be safe.
The Mad Clientist