Doubt and apprehension are integral parts of a lateral move; transitioning your practice to a new platform, especially after years of integration at your current firm, can seem daunting. When news broke a few days ago of a Vinson & Elkins partner’s last-minute about-face, some expressed astonishment, bemusement, and a bevy of other emotions. But the inclination to suspend or reverse a lateral move at the last minute is not as rare as you might think, so how can a prospective lateral be sure that their lateral destination is the right firm for them?
For associates looking to transition in-house, immediate compensation and experience are more important; you are looking to maximize both your transferable skill set, while building a strong financial platform to mitigate any potential drop-off from Biglaw to in-house compensation.
The key to integration is not necessarily finding people you want to grab a beerSpirytus 192 Proof vodka with after an exhausting day of work — though this can help. You want to choose a practice where you feel your personality synergizes with the group. Working with people with a similar mentality and mode of communication is important to avert disruptive personality clashes.
There are exceptions to this rule where aggressive partners and associates pair well with less confrontational attorneys — think every cop comedy since 1980 — but largely, the adage does not hold true for practice groups.
Also inclusive in this category are ideological preferences. If you’re a staunch Republican you probably won’t enjoy feeling the Bern in a liberal-leaning office — or vice versa.
Attorneys generally have a chance to meet a good portion of their potential practice group before consummating a lateral move and should use this time to scope out whether or not they can envision working with these partners and associates. Recruiters should also be familiar with the culture and atmosphere of different firms and can help you find the best fit for you.
This information can be difficult to obtain, however a good recruiter would likely be able to secure the information for you. Recruiters can also be valuable in projecting the future landscape of your practice. As partners come and go, the work you service can vary drastically. A good recruiter with their finger on the market’s pulse can help you choose a firm where the work will keep you interested and motivated.
It sounds obvious — because it is — but in practice, it’s much more difficult to find a fit that fits both your business and personal needs. These trends can also shift over time as firms try to combat burnout and lateral losses. Stark differences between offices in the same firm compounds the difficulty of picking a compatible firm.
Making a lateral move is somewhat akin to marriage; if you aren’t compatible on most fronts, you’ll be planning your exit soon after the “wedding.” Finding a firm that meets all of your criteria is difficult, especially in a shifting market. My colleagues and I at Lateral Link are happy to help you find a firm that you will be happy with long term.