Philly Program Recap: One Big, Happy Family: Integrating Laterals Through Strategic BD

On Wednesday, April 3, 2019, the LMANE Philadelphia Local Steering Committee hosted a lunch and learn educational workshop attended by numerous legal marketing professionals from various markets throughout the Northeast!  Presented by Jessica Grayson (Stradley Ronon LLP) and Stuart Goodman, J.D. (Goodman Business Development), the workshop provided attendees with an overview of lateral partner hiring and integration trends in the legal industry.  Jessica and Stuart also discussed with program attendees the common (and many!) roadblocks associated with lateral integration and revenue generation. Lastly, the presenters shared with attendees real-world examples of both successful and failed lateral integration efforts.  

All attendees left the program with proactive strategies they can introduce at their law firm or within their marketing department to increase the likelihood of a successful and revenue enhancing lateral integration process.    

Key workshop lessons learned and takeaways included:

  • Lateral Partners Don't Come Cheap! In today's economy, law firms identify "hiring lateral partners with a client following" as one of their primary growth strategies (with a "greater focus on business development" following behind).  What law firms sometimes fail to account for in their growth strategy is the ultimate cost of hiring a lateral partner:  $2.3 million (average).  The average lateral partner cost is even more significant when you consider that a reported 62% of laterals are said to underperform expectations.    
  • A Plan for Successful Lateral Integration is Key. Integrating a new partner into an established law firm is not an overnight switch.  Rather, lateral integration is a step-by-step process littered with an array of business development challenges.  Challenges include the obvious - the incoming attorney has (1) few (if any) internal relationships, so a significant focus must be paid to internal branding; (2) a limited understanding of the capabilities and legal specialty areas of the firm, resulting in a need for comprehensive training on the firm; and (3) underdeveloped "sales" or business development skills.  With all of these challenges, how can lateral integration be successful?  The answer is AMAX:  Advance planning; Messaging; Awareness; Execution/Follow through. 
  • Form or Rethink Your Standard Lateral Attorney Committee. Law firms should have a lateral committee in place that includes attorneys and administrative department leads. Specifically, lateral committees should include representatives from marketing/business development, operations/finance, attorney recruiting, and practice group administration/operations, along with attorney practice group heads, a conflicts partner, and a lateral partner liaison.  This committee should oversee every aspect of the lateral process from interviews through to the actual integration process. 
  • The Plan for the Initial Weeks Post Lateral Joining. Within the first few weeks of a lateral partner joining, there should be a business development/marketing introduction meeting, so that the marketing team can get a better understanding as to the legal specialty strengths of the joining partner and the partner’s business development plan moving forward.  Additionally, the meeting will give the joining partner an opportunity to better understand the marketing and business development capabilities of the firm.  Outside of this initial meeting, the firm should focus on maximizing internal and external promotion of the new attorney and the attorney’s cross-selling potential. 
  • Track, Track and Track the Progress. Lateral integration does not stop a few months after the arrival date of a lateral partner.  Keep the momentum of integration through check-in meetings with the lateral.  Continuously track lateral partner process!      
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