What Is a Lateral Partner in a Law Firm?

A lateral partner in a law firm is an attorney who joins the firm after working at another legal practice. This type of lawyer typically brings with them additional experience and expertise that can benefit the overall practice. The addition of a lateral partner often enhances the firm’s reputation, as well as increases its pool of resources and potential clients.

Lateral Partners Compared to Other Ways to Create Partners

Some of the other, traditional ways law firms add partners come with some serious drawbacks. Partnership can be achieved through internal promotions, with lawyers moving up the ranks of their current firm and eventually becoming a partner. This requires the firm to spend many years teaching and training junior attorneys. It also creates the risk that those junior attorneys may take all that paid training and jump ship to their own practice or another firm. Cultivating partners internally can be costly and take a long time.

Law firms can also acquire partners by merging or forming an alliance with other legal practices. Through this process, two or more firms can combine forces to create a larger practice with additional resources, expertise and capabilities. This method is expensive and complex. It involves a multitude of stakeholders and requires careful negotiation over the terms of the merger, including division of profits, management roles, equity holdings, and other important considerations. It also requires the firm to grow faster than it might be ready for.

Adding lateral partners can bridge the gap between the two. Lateral partners typically have several years of legal experience in their chosen practice areas and have an established client base. They bring with them a level of expertise that new attorneys may not possess. Additionally, lateral partners often have established relationships with other law firms, potential business clients, or referral networks which can help the firm increase its overall revenue.

In return for providing these benefits to the firm, lateral partners typically receive a salary, benefits, and potentially equity in the firm. Like other law firm partners, lateral partners may also take part in managing the business operations of the firm.

What to Look for in a Lateral Partner

When selecting a lateral partner, law firms should look for attorneys with proven skills in their chosen practice areas and an established list of clients. They should also be experienced negotiators, dealmakers, and problem solvers who can bring value to the firm beyond their legal work. Additionally, they should have sound business acumen

 and be well-respected by both the legal community and their peers. It is important for the firm to conduct due diligence to ensure that the candidate has no disciplinary record or other negative history in order to protect its reputation. Finally, it is essential for lateral partners to be able to work well as part of a team and have excellent interpersonal skills.

Ultimately, law firms should be looking for lateral partners who can provide skills, resources, or a client base that the firm is lacking. With the right lateral partner, a law firm can become more well rounded and better serve its clients, such as a personal injury firm adding workers compensation expertise to its team. This can help the firm increase its revenue, expand its capabilities, and foster an environment of growth and success.

When to Seek Help in Recruiting a Lateral Partner

Lateral partner recruiting requires considerable thought, effort, and resources. It is important for firms to take the time to assess their own needs carefully before beginning the recruitment process. In many cases, law firms find it beneficial to seek help from professional recruiters or search consultants who are experienced in identifying lateral partners with the right skills and experience for the firm. These professionals have the resources and expertise to find the best possible candidate who will meet the firm’s needs. Additionally, they can provide valuable guidance throughout the recruitment process and can help manage any potential conflicts of interest that may arise.

By hiring a professional recruiter or search consultant, law firms can save time and money while ensuring that they make the best possible decision when selecting a lateral partner. Ultimately, the right lateral partner can bring significant value to a law firm and help it become more successful. For these reasons, it is wise for firms to consider enlisting professional help when recruiting lateral partners.