Archive for the ‘Laterals and Hiring’ Category

September 27th, 2013 | Author: Scott Love  | No Comments »

Beating the Lateral Game: Process

I’ll never forget the first time I was kicked out of a casino.

About eight years ago I was a professional card-counting blackjack player.  Two alumni of the legendary MIT blackjack team mentored me, so for a year and a half I had a ‘side business’ of exploiting casinos through the legal means of gaining an advantage over them by counting cards.

Getting busted by a casino for counting cards meant that, once they discovered me counting, they would either ban me from the tables or they would assign a ‘pit boss’ to track my moves and tell the dealer to reshuffle anytime I made a big bet.  It rendered my advantage back to a negative percentage, which meant I was gambling with negative expectation just like everyone else.  It’s pointless to gamble unless you can control the circumstances and give yourself a positive edge over the competition.

The game of blackjack has a ‘memory’ and there is an inherent defect in the game that we can turn to our advantage if we learn how to bet in proportion to our advantage, and we can predict the future by paying attention to the cards that have already been dealt.  The first time I was busted was at the Mirage in Vegas.  The pit boss tapped me firmly on the shoulder and told me I had to refrain from blackjack for the rest of the evening but I could play as much craps and roulette as I wanted.  “But that would be gambling,” I quipped.  “Why would I want to play at a disadvantage?” He didn’t appreciate my humor so I left and came back six hours later during the next shift.

During this time I became adept at making decisions based on probabilities, and learned the art and science of ‘game theory.’

I use ‘game theory’ in helping my law firm clients gain a competitive edge in the game of lateral hiring.  Lateral hiring is a zero sum game which means that there are not enough rainmakers with big books of business to go around, and those firms not growing their headcount through lateral hiring will end up in a downward trajectory and will lose out to law firms which are adept at this skill.

Tip #1:  PROCESS: Flow out your process using a visual diagram.

Recruiting isn’t rocket science and is actually a simple concept: Offer a compelling opportunity to those candidates who can benefit from your offering.  That about sums it up.  But the execution of the strategy is where you find most problems.  Most law firms have an incomplete process, or in some cases utilize a shoot from the hip approach in how they recruit, onboard, and integrate laterals.

During my Navy days after my sea tour, I was a Total Quality Leadership instructor and taught W. Edwards Deming’s concepts of continuous improvement. At that time I learned statistical process control, which is the use of charts and graphs to measure variables so that managers make effective decisions. Deming was an American management consultant who pioneered the quality movement in the 1950’s and stimulated a major economic impact in the Japanese economy by showing the Japanese how to manage their manufacturing output in their recovery from the Second World War.  In the 1980’s, his revolutionary ideas came to America, and the rest is history.

This personal early career experience shaped the way I viewed the world. If anything can be measured, it can be improved.

In looking at how law firms recruit and integrate prospective lateral candidates, I find that there is a need for a clearly defined process that is communicated to those involved internally in partner hiring.  To help your firm improve, I am offering a free process flow chart tool to help you improve your effectiveness in recruiting and placing laterals.  You can download this pdf tool here: LATERAL HIRING PROCESSIf you would like a Microsoft Word version of the tool which you can modify as your own template, please email me at and I will forward that to you.

This tool can be a talking point during management meetings among hiring partners, practice group leaders, managing partners, and recruiting departments.  I would recommend using it as a baseline in shaping your internal protocols. By using the tools of measuring process, we can make improvements.  My hope and intention is that that this flow chart helps your firm begin discussions in smoothing out the rough spots in your internal recruiting process and gain a competitive edge in the game of lateral recruiting.

Copyright © 2013 Scott Love

Scott Love grows law firms and accelerates attorney careers by facilitating law firm mergers and conducting partner-level recruiting for law firms.  He has been a career ‘headhunter’ since 1995 and is a graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy.  Scott lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, two children, and a toothless rescue dog named Smoky.  He can be reached at 202-737-5555.


August 08th, 2013 | Author: Scott Love  | No Comments »

The anemic growth is why demand for partners with loyal clients is high.  Everyone wants those partners who have the clients in key areas that do offer positive hope for growth. This does not mean the sky is falling in big law. It means that firms want to grow, need to grow, and must grow. And the only way they can do that is to either raise their rates or recruit laterals with loyal clients.

September 14th, 2012 | Author: Scott Love  | No Comments »

Kevin Price, the host of “Price of Business” interviews Scott Love on the importance of authentic relationships within the client development and recruiting process.

August 14th, 2012 | Author: Scott Love  | No Comments »
1) It’s usually best during the interview process to have no more than three partners from your firm attend the meetings with candidates at a time.  Anything more than this might seem too overpowering and make that lateral prospect seem uneasy.  This is especially important during the very first meeting as the prospective lateral candidate is assimilating quite a bit of information.

2) Prior to the interview, I would recommend establishing an objective with the partners involved.  For example, if the lateral candidate needs to know that the potential for synergy will be higher at your firm, make sure that the partners attending the meeting know this and speak specifically to this issue.  If you know that the lateral prospect has a specific professional frustration, make sure that those attending the meeting can talk about how the move can ameliorate this burn and solve his problem.

3) Remember to smile.  Yes, this sounds like a ridiculous and obvious recommendation, but some people need to be reminded of this.  Perhaps they are so obsessed and consumed by the thoughts of their work that they neglect those around them.   I attended a meeting last year with partners who wanted me to sell their firm to prospective laterals, and neither of them smiled during our meeting.  Successful partners want to work with happy colleagues.

February 16th, 2012 | Author: Scott Love  | No Comments »

A big mistake I have noticed during interviews with lateral partners is how the stage is set incorrectly during the very first five minutes of the meeting. The biggest bomb a managing partner or hiring partner can drop which will instantly kill the potency of the meeting is to ask this question: “Why are you looking to leave?” Most of the time the partner who is presented by a third party recruiter, or headhunter, isn’t actively looking. They are just curious.

Ever since I began my headhunting career in 1995, I learned that the best professionals are not necessarily those who are actively looking. Instead, I am retained and engaged to actively seek those who are not looking but who are amazing. It is the authentic relationship that I build with these star attorneys that moves them forward and I do this by focusing on a single goal during my initial conversation with them: I get them to choose to open up their mind.

An open mind should also be the primary objective during this first meeting when you meet with a prospective lateral. You must probe through intelligent question-asking about what is missing from this partner’s career, and what frustrations and problems could be ameliorated should a transition occur. Focus more on asking than selling. Sure, you have to sell, but the key fundamental concept of sales is to discover and uncover the buying motives of your prospect, and sell to that.

For example, if the prospective lateral doesn’t feel that his practice group is a priority for his current firm, this very well may be enough to incite a move. Don’t start off discussing your open comp system or other aspects of your firm unless you know what is important to the candidate.

Think of a waiter in a restaurant. You don’t come in to the restaurant, sit at a table and he brings you a meal. Instead he brings you a menu and asks you what you are hungry for. A few minutes later he delivers a food choice that was in alignment with your gastric ambitions. You eat, and feel that happy because you received exactly what you wanted.

Conduct mock interviews with other partners in your firm. Be prepared prior to the meeting. If it’s an important use of time, then you shouldn’t practice with prospective laterals. With careful thought and appropriate questions, you will set the stage for a positive meeting and increase the odds of a positive result.