Major, Lindsey & Africa Rolls Out 2013 Lateral Partner Satisfaction Survey

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Leading Legal Search Firm Expands Scope of Third Lateral Partner Satisfaction Survey & Makes Eight Predictions Based on 1996 and 2007 Results and Industry Trends

Now more than ever, lateral partner hiring is key to the continued growth and profitability of most law firms. Both law firms and lawyers alike need better data to understand what drives lateral partner movement and satisfaction...

Major, Lindsey & Africa (MLA), the world’s leading legal search firm, today announced it has officially launched its 2013 Lateral Partner Satisfaction Survey (the Satisfaction Survey), an update to its original survey created in 1996 and repeated in 2007. The results of the Satisfaction Survey are planned for distribution in late 2013 or early 2014.

“Now more than ever, lateral partner hiring is key to the continued growth and profitability of most law firms,” said Jeffrey Lowe, Global Practice Leader of Major, Lindsey & Africa’s Law Firm Practice Group and Managing Partner of MLA’s Washington, D.C. office. "Both law firms and lawyers alike need better data to understand what drives lateral partner movement and satisfaction. The 2013 Lateral Partner Satisfaction Survey, which builds upon our ground-breaking 1996 and 2007 surveys created by Jon Lindsey, founder of our New York office, will be a key resource for the entire legal community.”

For 2013, MLA created a parallel survey that will be sent to each AmLaw 200 firm for completion by the person primarily responsible for lateral partner hiring (the Firm Survey). The Firm Survey will allow firms to anonymously share their lateral partner hiring experiences, so that firms can better understand how they are faring in the market as compared to their competitors. Once again, MLA has partnered with ALM Legal Intelligence, an independent research company, to administer both surveys on MLA’s behalf and ensure the confidentiality of all responses. No identifying information will be associated with any responses or forwarded to MLA or any other party in any form. Data will only be reported in the aggregate.

Major, Lindsey & Africa believes that the “Great Recession” will have had a demonstrable effect on partners’ expectations and experiences during the past six years. Below are eight predictions for the 2013 survey results:

1.    More partners will cite “good management” as the most important factor given the fiscal challenges the legal industry has faced since the Great Recession. When choosing a new firm in 1996, lateral partners attached greatest importance to a firm’s culture and reputation; in 2006, the most critical factor was a firm’s ability to support or expand the lateral’s practice.

2.    More partners will place greater emphasis on compensation in 2013. In both 1996 and 2007, compensation was one of the least important factors in a lateral’s choice of a new firm (ranked 6th of 8 in 2007 and 5th of 7 in 1996). The 1990s through 2007 was the golden age of law firm growth and profitability. In retrospect, perhaps it was easy for partners not to place too much emphasis on the importance of compensation during those years, as substantial year-over-year increases were thought of as a rule, rather than an exception.

3.    Lateral integration will continue to rank as a critically important factor to partners and their satisfaction. In perhaps the most dramatic change since 1996, by 2007 law firms had markedly improved efforts to integrate lateral partners along all five of the different survey measurements of integration. This stood in sharp contrast to the woeful assessment in 1996, when laterals indicated that law firms were less than effective in four out of the five areas of integration. In both surveys, success in integration was the single best predictor of lateral partner satisfaction; we anticipate that that will continue to hold true in the 2013 Satisfaction Survey results.

4.    As with our Partner Compensation Survey, MLA believes the level of satisfaction across a practice area is often related to how busy that practice area is at any given moment in time. Given the overall slowdown in corporate work over the last six years, we expect that this time around litigation partners will report higher levels of satisfaction than their corporate counterparts. In 2007, partners in certain practice areas, particularly litigation, reported levels of satisfaction and of integration into their firms significantly lower than in 1996.

5.    As the legal search industry continues to mature, and as more and more partners consider lateral moves, we believe partners who do move with the help of a recruiter will continue to experience greater satisfaction than those who go it alone. Use of a search firm by itself did not make a successful move more likely, but lateral partners did experience greater satisfaction where a search consultant provided detailed information about potential firms and/or analyzed the fit between the lateral’s client base and the firm’s.

Certain warning signs are also apparent for the retention of lateral partners:

6.    The trend where ineffectively integrated lateral partners felt less satisfied than other lateral partners will surely continue in 2013. Moreover, given the greater willingness of partners to change firms, our experience shows that a firm’s failure to integrate a lateral partner often results in the partner moving yet again within several years. In the past, lateral partners who were not effectively integrated into the partnership were, as a group, significantly less satisfied than all other laterals.

7.    Although women and minorities continue to play an ever-larger role in BigLaw, the results of our Partner Compensation Surveys show that parity is still a goal and not a reality. We believe that women will continue to show a greater lack of satisfaction in 2013, and for the first time we will be able to measure satisfaction by ethnicity. Female lateral partners were dramatically less satisfied than their male counterparts and expressed greater disappointment as to five of the eight factors examined in previous surveys.

8.    Over the last decade, many law firms have made substantial investments in practice development experts. It will be interesting to see whether lateral partners believe these investments are paying off. We believe the results will be mixed. In 2007, lateral partners felt that their law firms’ ability to support and expand their practices (the single “most critical factor” in shaping their choice of a new firm) had the lowest rating of all factors surveyed and showed the steepest decline of any factor since 1996.

About Major, Lindsey & Africa
Founded in 1982, Major, Lindsey & Africa is the world's largest and most experienced legal search firm. Combining local market knowledge and a global recruiting network, MLA has earned recognition for its track record of successful General Counsel, Corporate Counsel, Partner, Associate and Law Firm Management placements. MLA also rounds out its suite of legal human capital solutions for both law firms and companies by providing highly-specialized, temporary legal staffing solutions. With offices throughout the U.S., Hong Kong, London and Tokyo, MLA recruiters are dedicated to understanding and meeting clients' and candidates' needs while maintaining the highest degree of professionalism and confidentiality. MLA considers every search a diversity search and has been committed to diversity in the law since its inception. For these reasons, MLA has been voted "Best Legal Search Firm in the U.S." in the most recent national survey of National Law Journal readers. To learn more about MLA, please visit http://www.mlaglobal.com.

Contact for Major, Lindsey & Africa
Lauren Cozzi
Public Relations Manager
410-579-4015
lcozzi(at)mlaglobal(dot)com

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Major, Lindsey & Africa
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