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Buoyed by a strong economy and expectations of continued growth in demand, the increasingly dynamic lateral market shows no signs of slowing in 2019, Law360 reports in a recent article. According to a report released by Citi Private Bank Law Firm Group and Hildebrandt Consulting, the lateral market had been the “primary driver of consolidation in the legal industry” in 2017 and 2018. During both of those years, the report found, lateral recruiting outpaced internal promotions, and that trend was unlikely to reverse in the near future.

In the article, Law360 reflects on the most effective hiring and integration strategies for attracting and retaining top talent at the fastest growing law firms in 2018. According to the article, law firm leaders at the most actively hiring firms identified a variety of strategies aimed at improving lateral hiring including seizing on opportunities from potentially flagging firms and building a competitive platform that integrates new talent and retains them for the long haul. Managing Partner of Akerman Scott Meyers weighs in on the success of the firm’s tactical lateral hiring strategies, which attributed to 47 lateral partners last year. According to Meyers, “None of this growth has been in the mold of, ‘If we build it, they will come,’ It’s been going to places where there is existing client demand, both in terms of geography as well as subject matter expertise,” (as quoted in Law360).

Another firm featured in Law360’s article was Kansas City-based Polsinelli, which also brought on 47 lateral partners in 2018. Polsinelli chairman and CEO Chase Simmons attributes its lateral growth to the firm’s 10-year focus on growing its bench in certain core practice areas, namely, real estate, financial services, mid-market corporate work, intellectual property and health care, as well as adjacent litigation and labor and employment matters. “We’re looking for people that fit culturally. If we see an opportunity that’s off-strategy, we’ll consider it,” notes Simmons. “We’re large enough as a firm that we can always be considering a few things that are maybe not right down the middle of what we’ve done in the past, but we know that that’s a different process,” (as quoted in Law360).

See highlights from the full article on Law360.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

How do successful leaders and firms manage their compensation expectations in a record financial year? A recent article by The American Lawyer investigates, positing that some of the most effective means for managing the compensation expectations of partners include structural elements in their compensation system, leadership techniques, and talented, communicative leaders. Blane Prescott, a consultant for legal consulting firm, MesaFive LLC, notes “some firms suffer morale and trust issues because their compensation process fails to manage expectations. Compensation isn’t just about setting a number and then defending one’s decisions. There are many firms for whom setting partner compensation is a surprisingly easy and smooth process, regardless of whether profits are up or down, because they focus on managing expectations and helping partners to succeed.”

Most firms understand the benefits of talking with partners about performance and compensation, but one important question is, is it better to do that before or after setting compensation? It may sound illogical but talking to partners before setting their compensation produces dramatically better engagement, improved performance in the following year, and more effectively manages expectations. But they only work if firms do those interviews well, and unfortunately, perhaps only a quarter of all law firms meet that standard. Good interviews are two-way conversations, focused on helping the partner to be more successful. They explore each partner’s strengths and weaknesses and include a focused discussion of priorities for the coming year, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

It is often said it is rare to find great leaders who lack great communication skills. Not all communication skills are the same—some leaders are gifted at talking to groups, while others are fabulous at counseling individuals. The key question for managing expectations is, do firms have leaders (at the firm, practice and office level) routinely communicate substantive information and meaningful analyses (not just highly filtered, quantitative data) to partners all throughout the year?  Are they honest about telling partners when the firm is doing well, and when the firm isn’t? Are they skilled at accurately describing what the challenges are and how to address them? Are they open about the financial data they share, or does it constantly feel like they are just spinning selected facts?, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

In the latest March 2018 issue, Chicago Lawyer published results from their 16th annual survey of Illinois’ largest law firms and spoke with managing partners at Chicago firms that have seen strong growth in recent years, including two of our clients Faegre Baker Daniels and Akerman.

Faegre Baker Daniels, for example, has proven that they have the right approach for Chicago growth, successfully growing their seven-attorney starter office to over 60 in just eight years. According to Chicago Lawyer’s latest survey results, Faegre Baker Daniels is the 58th largest firm in Illinois, up from 67th last year, and plans to have more than 100 lawyers in the Chicago office over the next few years. “We’re cognizant of the fact that the growth is primarily not going to come from our main markets, so we’re looking to grow in other markets,” notes Chicago managing partner, Rick Michaels. “There’s no limitation or desire to have a limited presence here. Our goal is to have [Chicago] be one of the growth vehicles for the firm as a whole.”

For Akerman, a mid-sized, full-service firm based out of Miami, growth has been a response to client demand. Chicago managing partner Scott Meyers discussed with the publication how client demand has continued to shape Akerman’s growth in Chicago, after firm headcount increased from eight to 51 lawyers since opening its doors in 2014. According to Chicago Lawyer’s recent survey, Akerman is the 67th largest firm in Illinois, up from 86th in 2017. “We did not come to Chicago just because we wanted to grow. We came to Chicago because our clients wanted us to be here. We have always worked backwards from ‘What do our clients need? What do our clients want? What do our clients expect us to be?’ rather than a strategy of ‘If we build it the clients will come,’” Meyers notes.

See highlights from the full article and survey on Chicago Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer reports that there’s plenty to look forward to in 2018, according to partners at two of the largest Am Law 100 firms. DLA Piper co-chair Roger Meltzer, for one, expects a rise in corporate transactional work due to “very robust capital markets” and an increase in M&A, including in the middle market. Ora Fisher, one of two vice chairs at Latham & Watkins and a member of the 2,280-lawyer firm’s executive committee, also expects good times to persist. “Assuming the global economy continues to grow, we see a whole lot of demand for our transactional practices and all the related practices that support them,” Fisher forecasted. In addition to transactional work, Fisher said she expects a rise in demand for complex trial litigation, white-collar criminal defense work, privacy and cybersecurity matters, and financial regulatory work globally (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer released its annual New Partners Survey, which included responses from 400 lawyers promoted to firm partnerships in 2015, 2016 or 2017. The report revealed that an overwhelming 88 percent of new partners said their firms adequately prepared them for partnership. Almost 80 percent of new partners who answered the survey said their business development efforts increased, along with their compensation and information they received regarding their firm’s finances.

The ALM survey this year also found that two-thirds of new partners were elevated into non-equity or income partner roles. About 40 percent had spent seven, eight or nine years as associates at the firm where they made partner, and more than half had never changed firms. No single practice area dominated in partner promotions, though litigation represented almost a quarter of the survey pool.

See highlights of the full report and article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Law firm managing partners’ expressed greater optimism in the economy and legal market for the second half of 2017, according to a report released by Citi Private Bank.

The quarterly survey polled law firm leaders, 106 of which are among Am Law’s top 200 firms. Over half of those who participated in the survey expressed confidence that the second half of the year will be considerably or somewhat better than the first, indicating an uptick in overall confidence from the previous quarter.

The projections, according to the Am Law Daily, “may prove to be a bullish outlook for an industry that has been dogged by stagnant demand, particularly among Am Law Second Hundred firms.”

See the full report and article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.