Remote Laterals’ Success Depends on Communications

The pre-pandemic model of in-office work has long limited firms to hiring lawyers in the cities where they have established practices. To bring on someone who lived elsewhere, even a strong candidate whose skills would benefit the firm, would force the firm to spend on office space, and clients might raise an eyebrow at the idea of their attorney not being physically present in meetings. Why change the Way We’ve Always Done Things?

These days, however, with most lawyers working remotely, law firms have realized what has been true in other industries for a long time: remote work doesn’t have to increase overhead when the employee can work from home, and clients are rapidly becoming accustomed to a legal team using video conferencing to convene from multiple locations. And so some firms are hiring remote laterals for the first time. As we’ve written elsewhere, preserving the flexibility of remote work may be one way to support female partners and associates who are managing their children’s learning at home during this time, and we are all for that outcome. There are multiple reasons to embrace the remote trend in the long term.

However, managing partners who express caution in this piece (or predict a total return to in-office work when a vaccine becomes widely available) note that attorneys working from other cities may not feel fully integrated into the firm and could miss out on chances to collaborate. That concern points to what’s actually missing from the article: a discussion of the internal and external communications these lateral hires will need to succeed in their new positions. If your firm plans to hire remote laterals, here are some questions the marketing department can ask to begin planning to support them:

  • What needs to change about internal communications in order to make the lateral feel fully included in the day-to-day life of the firm?

  • Will the lateral be responsible for developing business in his or her geographic market? What are the BD priorities and who, specifically, are the prospects? How can marketers lay the groundwork for developing relationships in this market?

  • Will the lateral be responsible for developing business in the firm’s hometown market? How can you integrate the lateral into existing relationships and ongoing BD efforts?

  • How can the firm capitalize on this “expansion” (even if it’s technically just to the lateral’s home office) in the way it talks about its scope and reach across the country?

These hires will be far more successful if they are entering a firm with a plan to help them participate and develop business just as successfully as if they were there in person.