In February 2014, Law360 published an article noting mistakes law firms often make when hiring lateral candidates. Read the article here.

Law firms aren’t the only ones making mistakes in the lateral interviewing process; candidates also make their share of mistakes. In today’s blog, we focus on what we see as the most common threshold mistake the associate or junior partner makes and the most common threshold mistake the aspiring lateral partner with business makes:

– For the associate or junior partner: Knowing everything they don’t like about their current position, but not having thought through what they want.

Whenever contacted by a lawyer seeking to make a move, our first question is always: “So what is your perfect world scenario?” Many haven’t thought that part through, and while it is our job to apprise them of what is going on in the current lateral market, we are not clairvoyant, and can only do so much pro bono listening every day. So, before your first call to a recruiter, make your “Santa Claus wish list” – your perfect world scenario. And be realistic, or at least have a “not so perfect world” scenario or a “better world than the one I’m in” scenario. That way, you won’t spend your time complaining to the recruiter about what Santa did not bring you last year but, more productively, talking about what you hope the New Year might bring.

– For the prospective lateral partner with business: Understanding the difference between lateral hiring and hiring out of law school

What law firms looked for when your were a 2nd year law student making the rounds, was potential. Now that you are a mature lawyer with a track record, what law firms are looking for is that track record and how it will add value for their clients and profit to the bottom line. Know the difference and what that means. Astute partner level candidates know the basics, which are:

  1. They know their clients and their book of business, and they have studied the firms they think might provide a better platform for their clients;
  2. They have a written marketing/opportunity plan for the firms they want to consider them, as opposed to the “how do you plan to keep me busy” approach;
  3. They know their/their group’s collections history and their pipeline for work if they make a move; and
  4. They know the ethical rules that apply in such situations and are careful to follow them to the letter. No firm wants to hire a sure lawsuit from the candidate’s prior firm.