Growth through lateral additions is a hit or miss proposition at best. Numerous survey reports indicate that far fewer that 50% of lateral additions meet the expectations of the hiring firm. There are a number of reasons for this poor performance. Three that almost always foreshadow disappointment in the near term include:

  • Exaggerated estimation of portable business,
  • Lack of cultural fit and,
  • Lack of strategic fit.

All three of these can be addressed by taking two steps that most firms fail to take.

Step 1

Clearly define strategic growth objectives. Strategic growth is growth that:

  1. Allows the firm to better serve current or emerging needs of existing clients,
  2. Allows the firm to capitalize on an emerging market opportunity of significance,
  3. Shores up a weakness that is limiting the firm in a material and defined way, or
  4. Strengthens the firm in an area in which it holds a strategic market advantage.

The strategic growth objectives should be enumerated in writing with specifics as to level of experience required, area of expertise needed, physical location, and any other characteristics that define a successful candidate for the specified strategic objective.

Step 2

Seek input from your firms attorneys. Depending on your firm’s size, solicit specific lateral recommendations from all attorneys — or, in larger firms, to an appropriate segment of partners/shareholders. A prioritized list of strategic growth objectives should be distributed along with a simple question – what attorneys do you know personally that would a) fill one of our strategic objectives and b) be someone you would really like to practice with?

Potential hires that meet strategic growth objectives and are personally connected to one of your attorneys greatly increase the odds of a successful lateral addition.

A friend and great thinker on this topic, Eric Fletcher, recently posted an article that is worth a read. The article includes a model for successful lateral pursuits. Do yourself a favor and check it out!