"What you tend to do with each of your lateral hires is you tend to perpetuate your culture," Powers says. "We're very, very focused on how they fit in."
At Haynes and Boone, the firm matches the new partner with a mentor. Practice group heads and business development and marketing staff immediately work with lateral partners to make sure that the partner's business plans and strategies line up with the firm's, says Powers.
When a partner changes firms it is a huge career move, he says. "They are risking -- banking on -- their careers in the hands of a new firm," Powers says. "Part of the integration process is making them comfortable with that decision, and part of that is just caring."
Firms also work on cross-selling. If a lateral partner is a corporate lawyer, then their clients likely need litigators and employment experts, for example, Powers says. A department head or managing partner of the lateral partner's office will meet with a lateral partner's clients to talk about the firm, "so that the client gets comfortable with Haynes and Boone," he says.
Winstead decided to become aggressive about lateral hiring in 2010 to take advantage of changes in the marketplace as it rebounded from recession, says Tom Helfand, shareholder and chair of Winstead's lateral integration committee.
"The biggest concern was not about being successful economically but whether we would lose something in terms of culture by bringing a bunch of people in," Helfand says.
The firm developed a formal, year-long integration plan for lateral hires, which includes scheduled meetings with the 305-lawyer firm's chairman, members of the firm's integration committee, the lateral shareholder's practice group leader and staff members, he says.
The meetings cover information such as what additional work the lateral partner's clients need in particular practice areas and which shareholders might be able to handle that work, he says.
"The message from day one is not: Get your clients in here, bill a bunch of hours and make a lot of money for the firm," Helfand says. "The message is: Share your clients, understand how the firm works and who the people in the firm are."
At 401-lawyer Andrews Kurth, one of the first meetings a lateral partner has is with the firm's marketing and business development staff, says Mark Solomon, managing partner of the firm's Dallas office and co-chairman of the firm's practice expansion committee. The firm also invites the partner to travel to different offices to meet lawyers and assigns a lawyer, usually a partner in the same practice group, to work with the lateral, he says.