Why Do Partners Leave Law Firms?

09 Oct Why Do Partners Leave Law Firms?

Why do Partners Leave Law Firms?

As an attorney recruiter, I spend my day talking with partners about their motivations to move. Here’s a short list of the usual responses I receive when I ask them why they are open to hearing about other things:

1) People Issues. This always ranks the highest and usually stems from leadership issues in the firm. They don’t like the people in the firm, don’t trust them, or both. They don’t feel the support from firm leadership (which could be just perception) and don’t have the desire to get to know their colleagues better. So they drop out of firm social events, which hurts the growth of their book even more. If they don’t like the people they practice with, then they won’t be as apt to receive or give internal referrals. Remember, people make decisions based on subjective perceptions, not reality. The perception may be that the firm is cold and harsh, when people are really just busy. That’s why it’s up to the leadership of the firm to make an effort to actively engage with all partners on a regular basis. Leadership development provides an excellent solution for this primary motive to move. Managing partners and other members of the core team must take an active interest in moving the firm forward, articulating the firm values/vision/mission, and above all else, showing that the work of their team makes a difference.

2)They don’t believe their current firm wants to help grow their practice. Sometimes this issue goes beyond conflicts or issues of client ownership. I’ve heard partners complain that even political party politics gets in the way of them growing their practice. Or the core focus area of the firm has been in a direction that they feel is sideways to them, and they have always felt like they are the red-headed stepchildren to everyone else.movie The Purge: Anarchy download

3) They don’t believe their current firm has the capability to grow their practice. It could be the inability to leverage work through associates, the quality of associates, or some other limitation that is built within the way the firm is structured, maybe even how it is geographically situated. In some cases, it could be the firm’s reputation. Or perhaps the structure or the practice group specialties do not lend to helping a particular group grow. I have heard more than once that a group leader feels that he has grown as far as he can grow within his current firm, and is a prime target for a firm that can provide avenues for expansion and growth.

4) The size of the firm…it matters. Some people feel their small firm doesn’t have the brand to attract big fee clients or enough partners with whom they can cross-pollenate the growth of their practices. Others feel isolated and just another small cog in the very large wheel of the amlaw100 and that their work as an individual gets overshadowed by a single rainmaker. What’s best, a small law firm or a large law firm? The answer: it depends. It depends on who is asking and why they are asking. Ether way, if you are looking to attract partners to your firm, you need to play to your strengths by identifying what is unique about your firm and how that uniqueness can provide opportunity to that prospective lateral partner.

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