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While law firms fiercely compete to recruit and hire the industry’s best and brightest, the strategy of accumulating stars without a strategic plan and simply hoping for the best tends to fail. Despite the staggering amount of money spent on talent (nearly 70 percent of a firm’s total expenses), many lateral hires fail to meet firm expectations and are out the door within three to five years. The secret to productive lateral hiring success lies initially in the pre-hiring strategy and later in the integration and retention of these newly acquired thoroughbreds. Yet, firms continuously misallocate their resources by spending too much time on recruiting and wooing prospective lateral hires rather than integrating them after they joina misstep that leads to serious profit loss down the road.

What we’ve foundbased on a decade of empirical data across many law and other kinds of professional firmsis that lateral hires who engage in collaborative client and internal work with their new colleagues are significantly more likely to stay with the firm longer, to hit or exceed their targets, and to prosper professionally. Interactive, client-focused work that often spans practice groups is how we define “smart collaboration.” Smart collaboration allows a team of talented problem-solvers with specialized legal expertise to integrate their collective knowledge to tackle and solve their clients’ thorniest problems, in ways that no single individual could accomplishno matter how clever or hardworking.

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