Law Firms Can Keep Lateral Partners With Support At Work, Home

How can law firms attract, integrate, and retain top talent across all levels while gaining a competitive advantage?
United States Law Practice Management
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How can law firms attract, integrate, and retain top talent across all levels while gaining a competitive advantage? This is the proverbial question that remains top of mind for recruiters and business development professionals throughout the legal field. It is also a question that Brian Carrozza, Director of Client Development at Goulston & Storrs, Courtney Cook Hudson, Business Development Manager at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, and Megan K. Senese, Co-founder and principal at stage, a women-owned business development and legal marketing firm, addressed in a Bloomberg article focusing on the importance of recruiting, integrating, and retaining talent.

In this three-part series, Brian, Courtney, and Megan have once again partnered with Bloomberg to take a deeper dive into the state of recruiting with a business development/marketing overlay, and what it takes to successfully recruit, integrate, and retain talented laterals.

  • Legal experts explain the keys to lateral partner retention
  • Firms need to ditch traditional levers to attract talent

When a lawyer announces their departure, firms often scramble to employ strategies to retain them. However, such efforts often prove too little or too late for these lawyers. As the barriers to switching firms has eroded, law firms must abandon traditional levers to attract and retain people.

The question for law firms is how they can proactively retain talent before it reaches a critical departure. How do you ensure your new lateral doesn't move laterally again? How do you ensure a return on the time and investment that goes into recruiting by creating a "sticky firm"?


Gaining insights into the reasons why lawyers stay or depart will help you navigate the competitive legal landscape and refine your lateral retention programs. Develop a multipronged approach to reach different talent pools, and ask candidates what they value.

According to a 2021 McKinsey study, employees leave because they feel organizations and managers don't care about them. Rather than wait for departures to trigger feedback collection, conduct a comprehensive 360 review every 90 days throughout the lateral partner's first year, followed by quarterly reviews in the second year and bi-annual reviews afterward.

A 360 review will allow lawyers to provide feedback on what is working and where they need support, and ensure the firm is utilizing active listening. Approaching this process with empathy, soliciting candid feedback on integration experiences, and extending the review practice to existing lawyers—not solely lateral hires—enhances the effectiveness of this approach.

Incorporate the feedback and allow the appropriate departments to support that feedback through execution.

Read More: Lateral Partner Integration Requires Business Development Plan

Create Community

Law firms must also demonstrate a willingness to invest in a lawyer's personal development, know their organizational culture, and ensure that culture emphasizes meaning and purpose.

Mentorship initiatives can also significantly contribute to lateral lawyer satisfaction, integration, and retention. Pairing incoming lateral hires with experienced mentors—who want to help—provides a supportive network, smoother integration, and fosters a sense of belonging.

This mentorship dynamic helps laterals navigate the firm's culture and provides a go-to resource for addressing challenges, questions, and professional growth. Mentorship and access to firm resources shouldn't be reserved for a particular level of seniority.

Access to business development professionals should also begin as soon as the lateral walks in the door, regardless of title. Effective business development strategies can help lateral attorneys quickly build their network, develop new business, and establish themselves as part of the firm. This support can increase billable hours, revenue, and help create a more successful career trajectory.

According to the Major, Lindsey & Africa 2023 lateral partner satisfaction survey, a firm's perceived ability to support lateral practices is a significant factor in attracting partners to their current firms. Positioning the BD team as collaborative partners in executing on promises made during recruitment and integration, and providing sufficient resources to support these objectives, is essential to lateral retention success.

Read More: Lateral Partner Recruiting Must Focus on Honesty and Clear Data

Flexibility, Paid Leave

When employees are supported during significant life events such as birth or adoption, caring for a family member, or their well-being, they're more likely to return to work with a positive mindset. This can enhance productivity and focus, benefiting the firm's overall performance.

A MetLife annual employee benefit trends study analyzed a subset of the Millennial generation, which represents the largest cohort in the workplace—and found that 74% of workers born between 1993 and 1998 want paid and unpaid leave benefits.

Offering paid parental leave is far less expensive than losing an employee who might otherwise quit. Employers should consider the costs of replacing workers who leave because they lack access to paid leave when raising their families.

Recruiting and training new talent is neither cheap nor easy. And once one employee quits because a workplace is unfriendly to parents, others are likely to follow. Paid parental leave is a better way to encourage lawyers to stay.

In the legal profession, the top three reasons women lawyers cite for leaving are caretaking commitments, level of work stress, and emphasis on marketing or originating business.

Business development professionals should support lawyers before and after their parental leave to help ensure a smooth transition back to work and continued success at the firm. To do this, the business development team should work with the lawyer to develop a comprehensive plan for their absence, which includes strategies for keeping clients informed and maintaining visibility while they're away.

This may involve working with the lawyer to build their professional profile and remain top-of-mind with clients. Additionally, the business development team can help the lawyer plan their return to work, including strategies for reconnecting with clients and building new business relationships.

While law firms historically relied on brand reputation to ensure attorney satisfaction, contemporary dynamics demand a deeper understanding of why lawyers choose to stay or depart.

It's pivotal for firms to keep in mind the competitive landscape, and craft a robust lateral retention program.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.

Reproduced with permission. Published May 24, 2024. Copyright 2024 Bloomberg Industry Group 800-372-1033. For further use please visit

"While law firms historically relied on brand reputation to ensure attorney satisfaction, contemporary dynamics demand a deeper understanding of why lawyers choose to stay or depart."

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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