I asked the candidate how the interview went, and the first thing she told me was that one of the two partners in the meeting kept checking his blackberry during the interview. The candidate felt the firm wasn’t making the search process a priority, so she joined another firm.
Two months later, this same law firm interviewed another partner. I asked him how the meeting went, and the first thing he told me was that one of the two partners in the meeting kept checking his blackberry during the interview. A month later, he joined another firm.
I think we see a pattern here.
If hiring successful lateral partners with loyal clients is a priority to your firm, then you need to act like it is. At this level, the deals are lost from the little things. You can get them through the scope of your firm’s strategic plan, you can make the introductions to various related practice group leaders, and all of that will move the deal forward. But what will kill it are the little things. The small courtesies are what lateral partners subconsciously consider as ‘tells’ in ascertaining a firm’s true nature.
One suggestion I have made to firms on this subject is to make lateral partner recruiting a priority on the same level as client development. If you want to grow your firm, you have two options: get new clients, or recruit those who already have them.
Your recruiting process is as close to a branding exercise as going through a branding exercise. Each meeting, each email and each message during the process contributes to how others in the market consider your firm. So be intentional about it and tactical as well.
From my experience of having hundreds of candidates fall off of my magical recruiting circus bus over the years, here are a few suggestions:
1. Serve the good wine first.
Consider who will best represent your firm and have them start the process of introducing prospective laterals to your firm. Once a good impression has been made, then bring in the others who might be the next choice in the process. Get the rainmakers involved early in the process because usually they have mastered the skills of developing authentic and meaningful business relationships. Not every lawyer has developed that skill yet, and it is indeed a skill more than a talent.
2. Prep those in the meeting.
Discuss two key aspects: the motivations of the candidate to move, and the unique advantage your firm has in helping achieve these motives. Prep them to ask questions to the candidate to draw this out. I have created a significant advantage in the lateral hiring process with my clients when I facilitate a conference call with the key leaders in before a meeting. That way everyone is on the same page and knows what to discuss, what to stay away from, and what questions to ask.
3. Accept the fact that this takes a lot of time. A LOT of time.
If your entire lateral recruiting process is nothing more than a flurry of time-efficient exchange of emails, then you are losing an edge because you cannot discuss information in a more effective way that can provide key solutions to bringing that lateral over. When you are emailing, you don’t think of asking a certain question the way you would in a phone call, and that one small piece of information could possibly be the single greatest resource in getting that candidate to consider joining your team.
You need to spend time on this, and recruiting lateral candidates needs to be as great of a priority to your firm as acquiring new clients. If you are not committed at that level, then your competitors will get all the best talent and you will get the left-overs.