“Why are You Looking to Leave?”

“Why are You Looking to Leave?”

A big mistake I have noticed during interviews with lateral partners is how the stage is set incorrectly during the very first five minutes of the meeting. The biggest bomb a managing partner or hiring partner can drop which will instantly kill the potency of the meeting is to ask this question: “Why are you looking to leave?” Most of the time the partner who is presented by a third party recruiter, or headhunter, isn’t actively looking. They are just curious.

Ever since I began my headhunting career in 1995, I learned that the best professionals are not necessarily those who are actively looking. Instead, I am retained and engaged to actively seek those who are not looking but who are amazing. It is the authentic relationship that I build with these star attorneys that moves them forward and I do this by focusing on a single goal during my initial conversation with them: I get them to choose to open up their mind.

An open mind should also be the primary objective during this first meeting when you meet with a prospective lateral. You must probe through intelligent question-asking about what is missing from this partner’s career, and what frustrations and problems could be ameliorated should a transition occur. Focus more on asking than selling. Sure, you have to sell, but the key fundamental concept of sales is to discover and uncover the buying motives of your prospect, and sell to that.

For example, if the prospective lateral doesn’t feel that his practice group is a priority for his current firm, this very well may be enough to incite a move. Don’t start off discussing your open comp system or other aspects of your firm unless you know what is important to the candidate.

Think of a waiter in a restaurant. You don’t come in to the restaurant, sit at a table and he brings you a meal. Instead he brings you a menu and asks you what you are hungry for. A few minutes later he delivers a food choice that was in alignment with your gastric ambitions. You eat, and feel that happy because you received exactly what you wanted.

Conduct mock interviews with other partners in your firm. Be prepared prior to the meeting. If it’s an important use of time, then you shouldn’t practice with prospective laterals. With careful thought and appropriate questions, you will set the stage for a positive meeting and increase the odds of a positive result.

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