Law Firm Partner Recruitment and Turnover

Last month’s American Lawyer magazine ran an interesting in-depth article on partner mobility and retention. It discusses the difficulties some firms retaining lateral partners, including Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, which turned over an incredible 68% of the partners it recruited between 1999-2003. There are several dynamics going on here: poor diligence on the part of the recruiting firm, initial desire to build out a practice where the desire changes or never matures, a failure to properly integrate new hires, and partner wanderlust (serial moves due to restlessness, pursuit of bigger bucks, or repeated poor choices). Partner recruiting is very expensive, both in terms of out-of-pocket costs (including recruiting fees) and opportunity cost (the diligence and marriage phase is time-consuming), so this article should serve as a warning that law firms on the prowl need a plan for recruiting smartly and retaining expensive acquisitions.