When is the best time for partners to make a lateral move? According to a report released by ALM Intelligence, the most important factors in making a successful lateral move include time of year, stage in a partner’s career, and whether the move is to a firm with a higher or lower PPP.
ALM Intelligence journalist, Hugh Simons, notes “fall seems to be the time of year to start exploring seriously so that you can move early in the new year.” According to the report, early in the year moves are more common and more successful with 35 percent of moves occurring in the first quarter compared to 15 percent in the fourth quarter.
A second aspect of timing is the stage of career at which a partner decides to move. Data from the report revealed lateral success rate is highest for movers in their 50s. The last factor affecting lateral success included whether the move was to a firm with a higher or lower PPP. The data revealed that retention was higher for moves made to higher PPP firms.
“The key takeaway for law firm leaders is more fundamental than the dynamics of lateral partner moves. Rather it is to observe that PPP is not just a reflection of performance; it is also, and more importantly, a critical determinant of competitive strength. Ultimately, as the best lawyers go, the best clients follow – competition for the strongest partners is competition for the great clients that underlie a firm’s long-term strength and vitality,” Hugh Simons notes.
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Partner moves were at their highest count yet in 2015, the “strongest year since 2009 for lateral partner moves at big law firms,” according to The American Lawyer. ALM’s Legal Intelligence branch (ALI) tracked lateral partner moves at Am Law 200 firms and found an astounding 43.5 percent increase since 2010, as well as a 5.6 percent increase from 2014.
‘Lateral lift-outs,’ the co-departure of a group of attorneys from a firm, have also been increasingly popular. Gretta Rusanow of Citi Bank’s Law Firm Group notes that a firm “may look to bring on a group of partners, believing that it increases the likelihood of the laterals’ clients moving to a new firm,” (as quoted in The American Lawyer).
Nearly thirty percent (28.1) of the lateral partner hires were litigators, followed by corporate, banking and finance, and intellectual property attorneys (The American Lawyer). Chicago, along with New York, D.C., Boston, and Los Angeles showed active lateral partner activity, according to the report.