Almost every lateral partner move requires a lateral business case but delivering one risks a breach of contract, potentially several breaches of fiduciary duties and a breach of post termination obligations.

Jepson Holt has decades of experience in the legal search market and have helped innumerable individuals and firms square this circle: we have encountered lots of different approaches in that time; some work really well and others do not. A few of these are below:

Il Bueno

The sensible and open discussion

The firm you are now in requires laterals to bring business to them; how can they reasonably object when a departing partner takes business away? Should you feel able to have this discussion with your current firm you are likely to leave on far better terms than otherwise and possibly find occasions to benefit one another in the future, but, a warning; nobody said that they have to be reasonable!

Il Cattivo

The head in the sand

Unsurprisingly this is not that effective. Assuming there will be no difficulty and that every client will transfer without objection or challenge almost never works. Taking this approach means not addressing the practicalities of client and matter transfer and usually means a lateral arriving with a fraction of the stated business. Firms are just as guilty of taking this approach as individuals!

Il Brutto

The scorched earth exit

Known by today's youth as the "Mike drop" specifically: an infuriated and/or petulant departure in which the intention to do harm is made clear such as "I am leaving, taking all of the clients and the whole team with me". Not only does this telegraph your intentions it also puts your present firm in the uncomfortable position of having to take steps "pour encourager les autres". This approach harms everyone involved clients included.

In reality:

Very few moves will fall squarely into just one of these descriptions; most will, of necessity, involve a level of preparation and disclosure which is inconsistent with a truly open discussion, most will have some regard to the contractual background of the move and very few lawyers are daft / brazen enough to "mike drop". 

Lateral moves are complex: balancing the rights of the firm you are leaving with your career aspirations and the expectations of the firm you are joining is decidedly tricky. To complicate this further:

·       Every firm has a different cultural and contractual approach to departing partners and business;

·       Every individual has a different attitude to risk and perception of their client relationships; 

·       Every hiring firm takes a different approach to the amount of information and client comfort they require; 

·       Clients have rights and expectations that must be respected and protected by all parties.

Search and Selection in the legal sector is not a process of creating a list and picking the best the client can attract; it is a managed process which needs careful and experienced handling to protect the interests of the instructing firm and those of the lateral partner concerned. 


Mark Husband

Tel: 0161 507 0093