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Integrating Attorneys, Engaging Clients: A Holistic Approach to Lateral Integration

July 17, 2023 5:23 PM | Michele Bisceglie (Administrator)

Author: Beth Cuzzone, Global Practice Group Leader, Deal Cloud at Intapp | Co-Founder of LSSO | Co-Chair of LSSO's Editorial Board | Member of LSSO's Board of Advisors

The legal industry has witnessed a significant surge in lateral movement over the past decade, a trend that has dominated discussions in trade publications. However, as the lateral market cools down, it's essential to shift our focus to the next phase. While law firms have developed processes and protocols to better integrate new lateral hires, one crucial aspect has been often overlooked: integrating the client.

Law firms are now recognizing the impact that lateral movement has on their clients. In many market studies, we see a 45% - 65% book of business attainment when moving firms. When lawyers transition from one firm to another, clients face a burden of uncertainty. Who are the new team members at the new firm? How does the billing cycle or software work? Which problems can the new firm handle best? Obtaining contact information for the new team of attorneys and professionals becomes a challenge. The list goes on. These issues give clients pause to simply follow the relationship partner to a new firm.

To bridge the gap between an attorney's lateral move and client service, consider the following five suggestions:

  1. Abandon the "better platform pitch": Clients advise lawyers to steer clear of the "better platform pitch" when discussing their move to a new firm. Clients find this conversation disingenuous and prefer a frank discussion about the attorney's choice to leave their previous firm, rather than empty promises about the new firm's superiority.
  2. Earn work instead of assuming it follows: The days of work automatically following the relationship partner are gone. Clients are more likely to split their portfolio of work between the existing and new firms. Attorneys should be prepared to provide clients with a genuine list of matters that will be best handled by the new firm, along with concrete reasons why. Be prepared for a fulsome discussion with clients.
  3. Develop contingency plans: Acknowledge that clients may choose to keep matters with the existing law firm upfront. When a matter is staying with a firm, clients expect the relationship partner to invest time in the team without charging them. This demonstrates a commitment to maintaining continuity and ensures a seamless transition for clients.
  4. Create multiple touch points: During the initial months of a lateral's integration, their schedule may be hectic. Identify someone at the new firm who can be contacted by clients for questions and concerns that may not require involving the primary relationship partner. Having multiple touch points improves accessibility and client service.
  5. Engage clients in the conversation: Open dialogue with the client team at the new firm is crucial. Clients expect transparency, responsiveness, and accessibility. Maintaining consistent service levels during attorney transitions is vital, as any dip in quality may impact future work opportunities.

By incorporating these recommendations into their lateral hiring strategies, law firms can ensure a smoother integration process for attorneys and provide a seamless experience for their clients. Ultimately, adopting a client-centered approach to lateral integration enhances client satisfaction and contributes to the long-term success of both the attorneys and the firm.

Beth Cuzzone may be reached at Beth.Cuzzone@Intapp.com.

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