Where Have All the Partners Gone?
After working so hard to make partner, why would a partner ever leave one firm to join another?
It has become increasingly common for partners to lateral to another firm—and many make partner with the motivation to lateral in mind. Here are some of the most common reasons why partners leave their coveted roles:
In-House Counsel—from a book of demanding clients, to becoming the client. Almost every legal recruiter will be approached by partners with questions about whether it would be worth it for them to go in-house from their practice.
Law firm leadership—across the board, lateral partners often share that they want to switch to a setting where leadership is transparent, and where firm managers have the right vision and sense of integrity. Often, they leave because there are leaders elsewhere who they feel would value their contribution more and take action on their behalf. Many hope that there will be improved management, representation, and opportunities to provide input before decisions are made.
Incentives to be collegial and collaborative for the success of their practice and client service. Yes, this means that partners like to be compensated fairly…but more than that, it also means that traditional “eat what you kill” models (or variants of it) create a hostile work environment, and that most lawyers want to work together rather than against each other.
Growing pains—sometimes, a partner has a client that is “bigger” than the current firm, and wants to move to another firm that can accommodate that client’s demands as the practice grows. A common example of a client that has “outgrown” a firm is when client conflicts arise—and the partner is forced to choose between the firm or the client.
If you are in a situation where many of your partners are leaving (perhaps even taking clients and associates with them), consider whether any of the following issues exist in your firm:
“Expiration dates”—does the value of your partners or associates “expire” after some time?
Office Politics—is there any drama? Were there any shifts in hiring or promoting? Changes in attitudes? Is one partner forcing another partner to hoard work to survive?
External Disruptions—are there external factors such as technology, shifts in the marketplace, or changes in law that might be adversely affecting a partner’s practice area?