Be Sure About Your Law Firm’s Business Objectives Before Hiring Laterals |

Be Sure About Your Law Firm’s Business Objectives Before Hiring Laterals


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In many firms, lateral hiring resembles a revolving door: Lawyers come in, spend three or more years with the firm, and then depart. Indeed, when it comes to integrating laterals, most law firms do a good job of detailing the programs, policies, and paperwork needed to cover the administrative aspects associated with joining a new firm, but they fail to describe the business objectives they have for the lateral.
Be Sure About Your Law Firm’s Business Objectives Before Hiring Laterals

One reason: Many law firms suffer from skewed priorities. It is estimated that in their efforts to integrate laterals, large law firms spend almost 85% of their time discussing administrative paperwork, 10% on practice-group and client issues, and 5% on firm interests. Small and midsize law firms miss the boar on this, too, she says: They devote about 75% of their efforts on lateral integration to administrative paperwork and 20% to practice groups. Laterals are basically expected to "get their assignments and start working quickly."
A better approach: When you get a request to find a lawyer with expertise in a particular area, first search your database of existing talent to see if anyone in the firm has what is needed. If not, you need to get more detailed information from the practice group before you pick up the phone to call a headhunter. To find and integrate the "right" laterals:
  1. Develop a recruiting profile. This will describe the types of candidate you'll want to interview and those you'd never want to hire. Questions for the practice group:

    Do you want candidates whose clients at their present firms were drawn to them because of their particular area of expertise?

    Along with the expertise, are you looking for client and management skills, leadership abilities, confidence, and organizational talents?

    Once you have the general answers to these questions, you have to refine them to be sure of getting and integrating the right person. "It's very nice to say you need laterals to have this expertise, [that] you want them to handle day-to-day client matters and to assist in managing the practice group. But those are all kind of blurry things." Your integration plan should begin by making them clear and sharp.
  2. Evaluate what's right and wrong with the group as it now stands and whether the lateral hire will enhance what is right, solve what is wrong, and help the group meet its business objectives. The goal is to find the right person and not just react to a partner who has the clout and business to say, "I need a body now." There's nothing wrong with this, but it's essential to ask the partner to justify the request. How should your firm handle such situations? How will the internal working of that practice group enable that [lateral] to, for example, assist in managing the group or handling day-to-day client details? This is a critical question that should be the foundation for an integration program."
  3. Consider how your firm's structure could prevent successful lateral integration. For example, say the firm needs someone to assist in managing a practice group. If the other members of the group entered the firm as new associates, they'll be less likely to accept a newcomer unless he or she is uniquely suited to the role. How should your firm handle such situations? Spell out the competence levels that the firm expects in three, six, and 12 months. And hold the practice group accountable by asking laterals to project revenues and then taking a look at the end of the year to ensure that the new hires are on track. "If you're hiring a senior person, paying large headhunter fees, and expecting that this person is going to pick up a lot of slack, there ought to be some accountability. The integration program should start with the business plan."
  4. Have a plan to introduce laterals to the firm's clients. Typically, firms offer clients a quick marketing speech about a new lateral hire and little more. But such an introduction, which leaves it up to the new hire to jump in and get to know his or her new clients, leaves much to be desired. How should you go about it? Have a partner go with the lateral associate on an onsite visit to a client, scheduling half a day to meet with the various people in the client's office who deal with the firm. This makes a much better working introduction, which gives the lateral a presence and a chance to begin to understand the client's business and make some connections with all the relevant people.
  5. Address problems associated with recruiting rainmakers for the sole purpose of boosting an ailing practice group. A department may be trying to gain respect, to pump itself up, to keep business away from competitors. It's trying to get a reputation, so it needs the lateral because it's not yet good enough.
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About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.

With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.

Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.

Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.

One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog,, and, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.

One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.

Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.

In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.

Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.

In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit

Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives

Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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