Chapter Events: Lateral Integration: Opportunities & Challenges (Luncheon, January 22, 2015)

by Rosemarie Yu on March 17, 2015

The chapter’s first luncheon of 2015 followed in the footsteps of the successful 2014 programs with a sellout audience gaining insight into marketing lateral hires.

The January 22 event, Lateral Integration: Opportunities & Challenges, hosted by Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, discussed how law firms can improve their lateral recruiting process by addressing candidates’ main concerns.

Moderated by long-time chapter member Joe Calve, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at McGuireWoods, the panel of senior level experts also featured two lawyers, Ropes & Gray LLP partner Jerome Katz and Andrews Kurth LLP partner Roger Griesmeyer (husband of chapter member Lindsay Griesmeyer), and two legal industry recruiters, Jon Lindsey, founding partner of Major Lindsey & Africa, and Allen Rose Group founder Carol Allen.

Mr. Lindsey quickly put a marketing spin on the discussion. “Few firms have their marketing staff meet with lateral candidates beforehand,” he stated. “Laterals should ask prospective firms, ‘What are you going to do to introduce me, get me out there?’ Firms that can demonstrate this can do much better in the recruiting process.”

Much of the discussion centered around the most recent results of Major Lindsey & Africa’s Lateral Satisfaction Survey, which examines partners’ views on the hiring and integration process. Their concerns, it turns out, are mostly about culture, which laterals reported as the number one reason for leaving their former firm and the number one reason for choosing their new firm.

For example, Andrews Kurth, according to Griesmeyer, is “extremely transparent,” where everyone knows everyone’s financial details, while Katz’s firm is “entirely black box” to a point where partners don’t even know their own compensation until the end of the year. Both extremes have their perils, yet both make it work. And incoming laterals need to be comfortable with one or the other style.

Although compensation came sixth in the order of most important factors for laterals, “the first five are all money related in some way,” said Lindsey. Still, he said, “money is not the beat all,” as most partners would forego a marginal increase in pay for a good cultural fit.

According to the MLA survey, there has been a marked improvement in firm’s efforts at lateral integration, but panelists agreed that their use of marketing professionals had much room for improvement. Said Katz, “We pre-integrate people. Every candidate meets around 30 partners. But we are derelict when it comes to getting marketing people involved.”

Allen agreed that marketing professionals could contribute a great deal if they were brought in earlier in the recruiting process. It’s the marketing people who know what’s happening in the market, what’s happening at the firm and how the firm’s brand is perceived in the marketplace – knowledge that is valuable to have when making hiring decisions. Her advice: “Be proactive…If you don’t have a relationship with the head of recruiting, develop one.”

Rosemarie Yu is Principal of Rosemarie Yu, LLC, a New York-based communications consultancy specializing in professional services. She can be reached at ryu@rosemarieyu.com.

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