Once the wining and dining, the vetting and the negotiations are over, the process of successfully adding a lateral partner to a firm really begins.
"It takes two years for a firm to integrate a lateral partner," says Tim Powers, lateral hiring partner and member of the board of directors for 521-lawyer Haynes and Boone.
The lateral partner needs to learn not only what the practice group is doing on a daily basis, but also about what matters colleagues are working on firmwide, he says. During the firm's annual partners' retreat, senior partners will meet with those partners who joined the firm laterally during the previous two years to talk about what aspects of the transition were successful and which need to be fixed, Powers says.
"The person has got to be happy to thrive," he says.
The Dallas-based firm is one of 18 of Texas' 25 largest firms that participated in Texas Lawyer's Lateral Hiring Survey. The firms are ranked by the number of lawyers in their Texas offices on Texas Lawyer's "The Texas 100" list published in April 2012.
The 18 firms hired 303 laterals during 2012, an increase of 10.2 percent when compared with the 275 laterals hired by the same firms the previous year.
The firms likely increased their 2012 lateral hiring in Texas to keep pace with increased business driven by the energy sector, says firm consultant William Cobb of Houston.
"When done well, lateral hiring is the fastest way for firms to grow," he says.
Counting Haynes and Boone, four of the firms each hired more than 20 lateral lawyers during 2012: Houston-based Andrews Kurth and Bracewell & Giuliani and Dallas-based Winstead. Collectively, the four firms hired 125 lateral lawyers, 28 of them partners.
Firms can grow revenues quickly by expanding services to lateral partners' clients, but that requires effective integration into firm operations and culture, say senior lawyers with each of the four firms.