Single Partner vs. Group Moves

Whether you move as a single partner (also referred to as a “onesie” – I’ve never liked that word, but it’s used frequently in the recruiting industry) or as a group is an important decision.  This article discusses some of the benefits of each type of move.

If you are moving as a single partner (which can include associates or support staff), some of the benefits are:

  • Less emotional complexity.  You only have to decide what is best for you and your practice.  You are free from the potential burdens (which can be emotional at times) of competing interests that occur when moving as a groups.  When considering a move as a group, it’s not uncommon for questions of loyalty or accusations of selfishness to bubble up at times.   
  • The risk of client conflicts is reduced.  You do not have to worry about conflicts from your partners’ clients potentially impacting the deal. 
  • More confidentiality.  Statistically, there is less risk of leakage since fewer people are involved. 
  • If you are the highest business generator in the group, you do not have the potential issue of “underwriting” lower performers — from your compensation — in order for their compensation to be at the level that make sense for them to move.   You also avoid some of the awkward tensions that can occur if a new firms values partners in the group differently, especially if the partners are treated as equals at your current firm.

If you are moving as part of a group, some of the benefits are:

  • More market power.  There is often strength in numbers, which can result in higher level of demand in the market and greater compensation overall.  Sometimes firms are more likely to pay more for each partner who is part of a group.  Why? Because there’s a belief that more work will follow because there will be fewer people at your soon-to-be prior firm who can effectively try to keep the work.  It’s more of a “plug and play” and clients are more likely to follow a group, especially if all the key attorneys (including associates) who service the work are also joining.  As a result, the downside risk is less.  As a group, 1+1 can equal 2.5 or 3 in the eyes of the new firm. 
  • Some firms have a strong preference for hiring groups, especially if it’s a new practice area for them.  I’ve routinely heard firms say, “We’d hire this person if they were with a group, but not as a onesie.”
  • Easier to port clients (assuming you are in the same practice area and service the same clients).  The importance of this cannot be overstated.
  • Easier integration at the new firm because you have “the team” intact.
  • The more the merrier.  If you enjoy working with your partners, it can be a very fun and exciting experience to move to a new firm together.

Overall, many firms do have a preference for groups as opposed to “onesies” (I’ve never liked that word, but it’s used frequently).

Questions to ask yourself: 

  • “How much do I stand to gain moving as part of a team?”
  • “Am I willing to make sacrifices for the greater good of the team?  If so, what are the areas I’m willing to sacrifice, and what areas will I not bend on?”

Rule of Thumb:  If you are moving as part of a group, it’s essential to lay ground rules at the outset of your search in terms of open and honest communication.  When I begin working with a group, we have a dedicated meeting that focuses on communication, what can be shared/what is to remain confidential, and how to deal with competing interests.  Honesty throughout the process is essential.  Once this is breached, or side-deals start being made without the others’ knowledge (even if they are not part of the deal), there’s a higher risk of the deal falling apart.  “When in doubt, talk it out.”  

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Picture of Author: Dan Binstock

Author: Dan Binstock

Dan co-owns Garrison & Sisson, where he focuses on lateral partner and practice group placements. He has consistently been recognized as one of the Top 100 Global Legal Strategists and Consultants by LawDragon, and authored "The Attorney's Guide to Using (or Not Using) Legal Recruiters." Dan is the Immediate Past President of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants (NALSC), where he also served as Chair of the Ethics Committee. Visit here to learn more about Dan, or contact him confidentially with any questions at (202) 559-0492 or dbinstock@g-s.com.

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