Four Main Frustrations Causing Lateral Partners to Move

This article presents an overview of the four most common frustrations that lead partners to consider other law firms.

Reason 1People and Philosophical Differences

  • “In my gut, I don’t feel aligned with my firm’s management and/or colleagues from a personality standpoint.”
  • “As much as I hate to say this, I don’t trust management and/or my colleagues.”
  • “Management is not transparent.”
  • “When push comes to shove, my firm seems to only truly value the opinions of partners with the biggest books of business.  I don’t feel valued because my practice is not $10M.”
  • “The internal politics are exhausting.”

Reason 2Practice Needs.

  • “My practice area does not fit within the few areas the firm has deemed as investment ‘priorities’, and my practice area is being marginalized.”
  • “Difficulty hiring or paying talented (or dedicated) associates or support staff who can add value and support my practice (e.g., firm will not hire laterally, and instead I am asked to use retooled people from other practices who do not have enough work).  This requires me to spend too much time training, only to lose those I’ve trained when they are presented with a new opportunity (even within the firm).”
  • “The pressure around billing rates is excessive and too high.  I’m tired of having to negotiate with my own firm on behalf of my clients.”
  • “Conflicts — including vague ‘business’ or ‘philosophical’ conflicts — are significantly impacting my ability to attract/expand my client base.”
  • “I want to focus on servicing my own clients, but there is significant pressure to spend time on institutional clients.”
  • “The credit structure, which is antiquated, does not incentivize sharing.  The “old guard” (who continues to benefit from this) know they need to change but they are reluctant to do so.  The result is lower morale from the younger business generators, less collaboration, and decreased incentive to cross-sell.” 
  • “My firm’s brand awareness is not enough to compete for sought-after work”
  • “My firm’s bench strength in my practice area is not enough to compete for sought-after work.”
  • “I am not satisfied with the support I receive regarding business development.  My firm nickel-and-dimes every marketing expense.”
  • “I need ‘boots on the ground’ in other cities/countries and my firm won’t be building there.”

Reason 3Compensation and/or Profitability.

  • Our firm’s profit margin is at 31% and I can join a firm with a profit margin of 46% and make more money for the same amount of work and billing rate.”
  • “Our compensation structure is not fair and does not recognize the scope of my contributions.”
  • “Our firm is investing in offices in ______, which has no impact on my practice.  These investments are impacting profits and I don’t wish to keep underwriting these investments.”

Reason 4: Lack of Confidence in Firm or Practice Group.

  • “Our firm has been successful for the past ___ years, but I’m not sure our model is going to remain successful for the next 5-20 years.”
  • “We have suffered a string of departures over the past ____ months and I am concerned.”
  • “Our new managing partner lacks ______ which means ______.”
  • “Our practice group was a leader in the industry for many years, but as our most senior partners get close to retirement, the firm is not investing — like they used to — in strategic planning.  Our practice group really has no strategy other than ‘keep doing what we’ve always been doing.’  It won’t continue to work.”    

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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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