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2023 Lateral Partner Satisfaction Survey

Lack of Confidence in Law Firm Management and Strategy Was the Leading Factor Driving Partners’ Lateral Moves, New Survey Finds 

Meanwhile, a firm’s perceived ability to support and grow a partner’s practice was the top draw for lateral partners choosing a new firm 

Lateral partner satisfaction remains high, with 86% of partners who made a move reporting that they are very or somewhat satisfied with their new firm

Hanover, MD – July 27, 2023 – Law firm management and support for opportunities were the top factors, respectively, that pushed partners to leave their current firm and to join a new one, according to the fifth Lateral Partner Satisfaction Survey, released today by Major, Lindsey & Africa (MLA), the world’s largest legal search firm. The Lateral Partner Satisfaction Survey was developed by MLA and administered by Thomson Reuters Institute; it is based on the confidential responses of 1,953 law firm partners across the United States. The survey was conducted from Feb 28, 2023, to May 1, 2023.

Consistent with results from previous versions of the survey, which date as far back as 1996, this year’s iteration found that law firm culture ranked among the most significant factors both in partners’ decision to leave their current law firm, and in choosing their new firm. However, this year’s Survey found that compensation played a somewhat more prominent role in partners’ decision-making process during the past three years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Moving to a new law firm is not easy, and partners who make the change tend to take a long-term, strategic view. A firm’s ability to support their practice and take it to the next level, and their confidence in firm management, reign supreme,” said Jon Lindsey, New York founding partner of Major, Lindsey & Africa and co-author of the study. “Over the years, our Survey has consistently found that partners prioritize the caliber of their work environment over short-term compensation – and that this mindset typically results in them making moves that last in the long term. The 2023 Survey also found that effective integration of lateral partners into their new firms is once again the single best predictor of their satisfaction.”

Additionally, the Survey indicates that lateral partners are becoming more diverse. Female partners now make up 30% of all lateral respondents, up from 20% in 2014. However, female partners were more likely than male partners to leave due to cultural issues and a lack of leadership opportunities. Moreover, 26% of female respondents said disparate treatment due to their gender was a top factor motivating their move to another firm.

“While the legal industry has undeniably become more diverse, and is making strides in the right direction, we still have much progress to make in order to create truly equitable and inclusive working environments for all attorneys,” said Ron Wood, a Managing Director in MLA’s Partner Practice Group and co-author of the Survey. “Firms need to continue not only prioritizing the recruitment of partners of diverse backgrounds – in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender, among other areas – but they also need to be cognizant about any workplace disparities these partners may experience and be proactive about providing them with the resources they need to be successful as possible in their roles.”

Additional key findings include: 

  • Eighty-three percent of lateral partners reported that they would still move to their current firm if they had to do it all over again. Fourteen percent would have moved but to a different firm, and 3% wished they had stayed at their former firm. 
  • Seventy-five percent of lateral partners increased their originations since joining their new firm, up significantly from 67% in 2020. Only 6% (versus 10% in 2020) reported that originations had decreased.
  • 71% of laterals increased their compensation in the first three years at their new firm.
  • The integration process is key to lateral partner satisfaction. Female and Black partners reported a greater need for a more effective integration plan (including the need for assistance in cross selling their expertise within the firm).
  • Women partners consider fewer firms than men when looking to make a lateral move.
The full text of Major, Lindsey & Africa’s 2023 Lateral Partner Satisfaction Survey is available here.

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