Why did a lawyer just join your firm? Clearly for the purpose of business development. He or she saw an opportunity at your firm to partner with your lawyers to grow his or her business. Your firm offered a better opportunity than the one the lawyer had and the one that your competitors offered. Now market the heck out of your lateral and maximize your business development opportunities.
In the 12-month period ending September 30, 2012, 2,691 partners left or joined Am Law 200 firms. That was a 9.7 percent increase from 2011 and a 33.6 percent increase from 2010 - on average 13.5 lateral lawyers per firm in 2012, over one lateral lawyer per month.* The LexisNexis and Am Law Daily affiliate ALM Legal Intelligence report, “Thinking Like Your Client: Strategic Planning in Law Firms,” states that 72% of the 79 Am Law 200 firms surveyed plan to increase lateral partner hires in the next years, while 24% expect their level of recruitment to stay the same. Chances are high that your firm will be getting a lateral soon.
Why do laterals leave their law firm? Typically because of lack of support. Your firm just made a large financial, time and resource investment in your new lateral. Now it is up to the marketing/business development department to help the lateral grow his/her business and feel supported.
Building a marketing/business development lateral integration plan will help you quickly integrate your new lateral into your firm, maximize your marketing and business development opportunities, and increase your lateral’s likelihood of success at your firm. It also sends a message to the lateral market that your firm is invested in helping its lawyers grow their legal practices.
Start by assigning a point person from your department to work with your new lateral on his/her marketing and business development efforts - either the director of your business development department or the business development manager of the lateral's new department/practice. The point person should be part of the lateral’s orientation process.
Before your lateral arrives, you should be drafting a communications plan including announcing to the media, clients and friends-of-the-firm that your firm has a new addition. Information should be gathered about the lateral, including the lateral's biography and the lateral's marketing activities.
When the lateral arrives, your department's point person should be part of the orientation process. He or she should give an overview of your marketing/business development department, go over any immediate action items such as your communication plan and biography, and discuss follow-up meetings and action items. Let your lateral know that you plan to make introductions to partners and groups across the firm and introduce appropriate firm clients to him/her and his/her clients to your firm. Discuss communicating the lateral’s firm move to clients, the media, directories, and organizations/associations. Remind the lateral to update his/her social media profiles. Discuss any marketing initiatives already in progress and how to integrate the lateral's contacts into your firm's database. Most importantly, make your lateral feel special and reassured that you are there to help.
Successful lateral integration is essential to the success of your firm's investment and ensuring that your lateral is happy and feels supported. Read this "Lateral Integration Plan Checklist" for tips to build a successful lateral marketing/business development integration strategy for your firm.
*The Lateral Report”, The American Lawyer, February 2013
In the next Capital Ideas newsletter we will discuss how to “save” clients when a Partner leaves your firm.
By: Helena M. Lawrence, Business Development Manager, Proskauer for the January/February 2013 Issue of the Capital Ideas Newsletter.