Beware The List-Makers!


Working shoulder-to-shoulder with our law firm clients to find the best Partners in the marketplace for their firm platforms is our expertise, passion, and privilege. In 2021 we placed approximately 300 partners in the top firms globally. How do we accomplish placing more successful lateral partners than any other search firm in the world by a factor? By searching out and earning the right to represent the most sought-after Partners in every large market in the world to our law firm clients; clients we know intimately from 40 years of successful work in this industry.

Lately, however, we have seen a dilution in the marketplace as to the power of expert Partner search using a manipulated “targeted” process. The problem: There are recruiters out there who are submitting lists of candidates to firms and, sometimes without the included Partners’ knowledge, treating those lists as active candidates; candidates for whom they will expect a fee from the list-receiving firm even if they never speak to the listed and later-hired candidate. BEWARE the list-makers.

Of course, when we and our client agree that doing so increases the chances of a successful search, we will undertake a bona fide “targeted” search process; that is, based on a client’s deep understanding of their business and our detailed knowledge of the marketplace, the client works with us to hone the initial target list of candidates with whom they are reasonably sure they’d like to start a conversation to discuss a lateral need. From there, we still must EARN each candidate’s trust and permission to start a formal conversation with the firm, including the sharing of practice detail and personal drivers. That we are in contact with, or at least building awareness of, individual successful partners in every major market in the world every day, means that we at MLA know whose legal practice likely fits where and, as important, where it likely doesn’t. 

The listing of target candidate names is clerical. List-making only allows the real work of an expert recruiter to BEGIN. Submission of any listed candidate has not yet occurred and remains a goal at this point and a fee-earning placement is many, many steps away. Indeed, making a long-term match between a sophisticated law firm and high-performing law Partner is often a months-long, detail-rich, careful, roller coaster of a process. The Candidate’s permission to be their expert representative and start the conversation with the law firm must be earned by the recruiter. A conversation is started via formal submittal of the candidate’s practice details. Cultural, financial, and personal needs are explored and addressed in fine detail. Risk-tolerances and numerous check-ins regarding appetites for change are shared and adjusted over time. Conflicts are considered. Practice analytics are obtained, review, shared with and pressure tested by the client firm. The Candidate’s significant others and families weigh-in. Minds are changed. And changed again. And finally, we help clients and candidates close lateral and merger deals by advising as to offered deal components based on all we have gleaned through the  process and what we know from the global, lateral marketplace. Law firm recruiting dollars are well-spent. Partners’ lives are changed. Law firms are made more powerful. Law firm clients become more satisfied with the legal services they receive.  

We make more Partner placements than any other search firm in the world. And, based on our research, our approach produces long-lasting matches. That is truer today than ever. We have just closed two record-breaking months for our Partner practice after closing record-breaking years in 2019 and 2021. If I may, our approach works. 

Please beware the list-makers. Law Firm Partners – do you know who is trading on your name without your knowledge via list-making? Clients – do you know if the list-makers are expertly engaging sought-after candidates and describing their match to your firm with all the perspective and knowledge you’d hope for? Esteemed law firm clients, please do not dilute your ability to compete for the Partners who are best suited for your firm by succumbing to demands for payment for a name on a list. From candidate market-mapping to initial engagement, through offer and acceptance, firms and candidates deserve expertise and professionalism as they find their next professional chapter together. These are life- and business-changing decisions. Expert Legal Recruiters make complex matches and persuade busy, successful, professionals to consider change based upon the potential for an optimized match. They do not simply create lists from widely available data sets using pick lists. 

A recruiter’s receipt from a candidate of their explicit permission to start a conversation with a firm, to make a submission to a firm on their behalf (often received only after numerous, thoughtful conversations) is, and always has been, the initial deliverable for our clients. For continued success of lateral placements and the resultant law firm growth, let’s keep it that way.  Engage with deal makers.


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