Survey Finds Law Firm Culture Top Reason Partners Change Law Firms

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Major, Lindsey & Africa study finds that 87% of lateral partners are satisfied with their new firms

One critical factor in the high rates of satisfaction is the finding that law firms are doing a better job than ever before in integrating their new partners, both on a business level and culturally...

Major, Lindsey & Africa today released the results of its new survey, which finds that “firm culture” is the primary reason that partners left their former law firms and chose their current firms.

MLA’s 2013 Lateral Partner Satisfaction Survey is a follow-up to its ground-breaking 1996 and 2006 Lateral Partner Satisfaction Surveys. It represents the most comprehensive effort ever undertaken to allow law firm partners to share their views on the lateral partner hiring and integration process. More than 1,150 partners from across the country responded.

The survey of “lateral partners” – lawyers who are partners at a law firm who make a lateral move to become a partner at another law firm – found that overall satisfaction among these lawyers is generally high, with 53% of lateral partners reporting they are “very satisfied” with their current firm, and 34% reporting they are “somewhat satisfied” with the move. Only 3% of respondents said they are “not at all satisfied” with their new law firm, and 10% “not very satisfied.”

To illustrate the high level of satisfaction with their decisions to switch firms, 81% of lateral partners reported that they would still move to their current firm if they had it to do all over again; 16% said they would move, but would go to a different firm; and just 3% reported that they wished they had stayed at their former firm.

“One critical factor in the high rates of satisfaction is the finding that law firms are doing a better job than ever before in integrating their new partners, both on a business level and culturally,” noted Jon Lindsey, Founding Partner of Major, Lindsey & Africa’s New York office, co-author of the 2013 survey, and author of MLA’s two previous lateral partner reports.” All three of our surveys over the past 18 years have consistently found that integration is the single best predictor of lateral partner satisfaction.”

The full text of MLA’s 2013 Lateral Partner Satisfaction Survey is available online at http://www.mlaglobal.com/community/thought-leadership/lateral-partner-satisfaction-survey-2013. The Survey was distributed, and the results confidentially compiled, by ALM Legal Intelligence. Its release marks the third Lateral Partner Satisfaction Survey produced by MLA since 1996 and the first time that MLA collaborated with ALM Legal Intelligence to deliver the findings to the legal marketplace.

“Once again, we see that firm culture is the single most important consideration for lateral partners in choosing a new firm,” said co-author Jeffrey A. Lowe, Global Practice Leader of MLA’s Law Firm Practice and Managing Partner of the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. “Despite what many people think, it isn’t ‘all about the money.’ In fact, anticipated compensation was actually the sixth most important factor for partners in the selection of their current firms, which is identical to the results of our 1996 and 2006 Surveys.”

“The most troubling finding of the Survey is the shockingly low level of due diligence some lateral partners undertake before changing firms,” said Jon Lindsey. “Only 37% reviewed their new firm’s financial documents, and just 61% even reviewed the partnership agreement by which they would be bound after joining a new firm.”

Key findings include:
1.    Overall satisfaction is generally high, with 52.8% of lateral partners reporting that they are “very satisfied” with their current firm and 33.7% reporting that they are “somewhat satisfied.” Only 3.3% of respondents reported that they were “not at all satisfied.”
2.    80.6% of respondents reported that they would still move to their current firm if they had it to do all over again, 16.3% said they would have moved, but to a different firm, and 3.1% reported that they wished they had stayed at their former firm.
3.    Perhaps related to overall levels of satisfaction, 62.7% of laterals increased their originations since joining their new firm; only 11.9% reported originations that had decreased.
4.    Of those respondents that worked with a search firm, over 83% reported that they were either “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their search firm’s efforts.
5.    Lateral partners cited Firm Culture as the number one reason for leaving their former firm and the number one reason for choosing their current firm. Anticipated Compensation was, once again, the sixth most important factor for partners in the selection of their current firm.
6.    Law firms are doing a better job integrating their new partners than ever before, with respondents reporting higher integration scores across virtually every category.
7.    The financial due diligence performed by many lateral partner candidates remains surprisingly inadequate: only 36.6% of all respondents reported reviewing their new firm’s financial statements, leases or loan documents before joining, while only 40.4% reported meeting with the firm’s CFO. Tellingly, only 60.7% of respondents even claimed to have reviewed the partnership agreement by which they would be bound before joining their new law firm.
8.    Limited guarantees remain commonplace for laterals, with 22.7% of respondents reporting their compensation being guaranteed for the remainder of the year and 44.9% receiving guarantees for the remainder of the year and the following year. Only 9.4% of respondents reported receiving guaranteed compensation for the remainder of the year and for the next two years or longer, while 23% joined their new firm without any guarantee.

The Survey’s co-authors are available for interview, and bios are on MLA’s website:

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 provides law firms and companies with highly-specialized legal professionals on project, interim and temporary-to-permanent hire basis. Committed to serving the talent needs of its clients, MLA, through its affiliate Allegis Partners, provides executive search services. With offices throughout the U.S., Hong Kong, London and Tokyo, MLA recruiters are dedicated to understanding and meeting client and candidate 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 survey of The National Law Journal readers. To learn more about MLA visit http://www.mlaglobal.com.

About ALM Legal Intelligence and ALM
ALM Legal Intelligence offers detailed business information for and about the legal industry, focused on the top U.S. and international law firms. The division’s online research web service, http://www.almlegalintelligence.com, provides subscribers with direct, on-demand access to ALM Legal Intelligence’s extensive database of surveys, rankings and lists related to law firms and the legal industry. ALM Legal Intelligence is a division of ALM.

ALM is a global leader in specialized business news and information. Trusted reporting delivered through innovative technology is the hallmark of ALM’s award-winning media properties, which include Law.com (http://www.law.com), The American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel, The National Law Journal and The New York Law Journal. Headquartered in New York City with 16 offices worldwide, ALM brands have been serving their markets since 1843. For more information, visit http://www.alm.com.

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Media Contact
Lauren Cozzi, Public Relations Manager
410-579-4015 (direct)
lcozzi(at)mlaglobal(dot)com

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