Build relationships and even friendships with your new partners, one by one. Talk to them about their families, their career paths, where they like to vacation, what their hobbies are. Bond with them over your mutual love for local sports teams, music or food. Try to spend time with them outside the office, in a more casual setting, whenever possible. Work to gain their trust and respect as friends and partners, not just a new business colleague.
Participate in your new firm's social engagements and events. Try to view firm social occasions as an opportunity. Make an early effort to investigate the firm's various committees, choose a few that interest you and contact the chair directly to determine how to get involved. One area that may make the most sense (and where you can provide enormous value) is the recruiting of other lateral partners. As a new addition to your firm, your perspective is often valuable to prospective lateral partners and a simple story for you to tell.
Work Hard and Don't Complain
Nothing feels better for you as a new partner at a new firm than to hit the ground running and be productive as soon as possible. All firms expect (and budget) for some transition time of new lateral partners before they will be fully productive. However, if you can time your transition to maximize the amount of billable client work that you will do (in addition to client work done by your new colleagues) during the first 60 to 90 days at the firm, you will make a great first impression and engender significant goodwill. Trying to do all the recommended soft work is important, but so is the economic side of the equation. Remember that the first few months will require a lot of time and energy on your part. On the flip side, when (not if) there are some rocky patches in the integration process, it is much better to be solution-oriented, rather than problem-oriented. Nothing dampens enthusiasm for you at your new firm like complaining about how the furniture at your new office pales in comparison to your old firm's décor or how the billing process takes forever at your new firm. If you are building relationships and getting involved, use your internal team to determine solutions.
As any partner who has ever made a lateral move knows, joining a new law firm is in a sense like entering into a marriage or other committed relationship, and, just like any committed relationship, it requires hard work and give-and-take. It's a process that requires time, effort and care by both parties. As Henry Ford said, "Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success."
When you make your next move, take control of your own destiny by following these best practices and coming up with your own integration strategies. Work together with your new law firm to be proactive and thoughtful about your integration and you and your new partners will achieve great success.
Cliff Jarrett is managing director and office leader of the Charlotte/Raleigh-Durham office of Major, Lindsey & Africa. He focuses on the placement of partners, practice groups and associates with law firms and has successfully placed lawyers at international, regional and local firms throughout the Southeast and nationally. Contact him at 704-778-4582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meredith Frank is a director in the partner practice group in the Philadelphia office of Major, Lindsey & Africa. She specializes in lateral partner placements in top-tier national, international and regional law firms in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Contact her at 267-238-9855 or email@example.com.