Zooming into a Lateral Move

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After a strong financial year for many firms in 2020, most would say that the transition to remote work was a success. Lawyers continued to bill, clients continued to pay and the lateral partner market remained strong (and is possibly now stronger than before). Many law firms and even tech companies like Google are announcing plans to bring employees back to the office for in-person work, at least part of the week. What does this mean for a partner considering a lateral move in this new environment? What can you expect as you evaluate firms?

Video Interviewing Is Here to Stay

The ease of video interviewing has revolutionized the recruiting process. Partners from around the country can meet with a candidate at one time without making the candidate come into the office and sit in the firm’s conference room for every meeting. As things get back to normal, you can likely expect a return of recruiting dinners and meetings in the office, but this will be a part of the process, instead of the norm.



Things Are Going to Move Quickly

With the addition of video interviewing, the lifecycle of a recruitment is much shorter. As an example, traditionally, many firms required a partner candidate to come to the firm’s home office and meet a number of partners in-person before they would extend an offer. The coordination of this on the side of the firm and the interviewing partner was complex. How did the partner block off two days with no meetings or hearings to secretly slip off to another city to interview? Replacing this with a series of video meetings is significantly easier to coordinate and has allowed for a much short interviewing timeline.

Some firms might go back to travel for some lateral candidates, so keep an eye out for this when looking at the timing of your recruitment. If you are looking at multiple firms, try to line up timing  and know if this is down the road will be helpful in this.

Firms Will Compete on Flexibility

Without a doubt, some firms are going to want partners and associates to return to the office with policies similar to the pre-pandemic days. However, some firms will not. For the firms that have decided that in-person attendance will be on an as needed basis, or perhaps only a few days a week, they will use this to entice partners who want flexibility. This policy will also be attractive to associates, so those firms that allow associates some degree of flexibility will likely be able to attract and retain top associate talent. Having top associate support has always been very attractive to a lateral partner candidate, so this might be a tipping point for some in the decision process.

In-Person Might Still Be Your Best Choice

While interviewing from your home office is efficient—and a great tool—it is not a complete substitute for meeting people in-person. If the firm offers an in-person meeting, and you are comfortable with it, you should go. Further, if you join a firm with a flexible remote policy, you should also go to the office, at least some of the time, as you get integrated.

Post-COVID, expectations have changed now that partners and law firms have discovered there are different ways to successfully work and streamline processes. Firms will likely take a hybrid approach to interviewing and business moving forward, and partners interested in making a lateral move should be prepared for some of the old ways to go to the wayside but also for in-person connections to be the ultimate decisionmaker.


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Carol Morganstern

Carol Morganstern is a Managing Director in MLA’s Partner Practice Group.

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