Your Lateral Integration Plan Needs a PR Component

March 29, 2021

As the pandemic has changed how lawyers work — and from where — it has removed some of the traditional barriers to lateral hiring. Geography doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker, and the new hire may not even need to be in a city where the firm has a brick-and-mortar office.

But getting the lateral in the door is the first and easiest step. After that, things often go south. According to Michael Ellenhorn, the founder and CEO of Decipher, the failure rate for lateral partner hires hovers at about 50%. While most law firm leaders are now familiar with the common pitfalls that contribute to this less than stellar success rate, many fail to consider the role a strategic PR plan can play in optimizing lateral integration. Marketing and communications efforts, both within and outside the firm, can make all the difference. Here’s how to do it:

Let laterals shine. Celebrate the arrival of your new partner with an external campaign that highlights past work. Send out a press release full of substantive details on the lawyer’s practice areas, achievements and background. Place an announcement in the appropriate legal publications to alert the business community that the firm has brought on this new talent. Reach out one on one to a targeted selection of prospects and clients explaining how the new hire’s unique combination of skills will help improve service. Not only does this effort alert the marketplace that your firm has landed a superstar, but pouring attention on the new hire demonstrates that you will devote resources to helping build his or her business. A lateral hire who feels valued is a lateral hire who stays.   

Boost the lateral’s visibility internally. You went after this hire for a reason, whether it’s the book of business, a unique niche within a practice area or a record of outstanding wins. Is the rest of the firm clear on why this lawyer has joined the team? Make the case for the value this attorney brings to the firm. This is harder to do during the pandemic, but your marketing team can help by creating a video introduction or a podcast-style interview, or helping the hire write and publish thought leadership content. Not only can this content be shared externally with clients, but it also creates multiple opportunities for the rest of the firm to get to know the new team member and get comfortable with his or her personality and expertise. When the other lawyers see the lateral as an asset, they will be more likely to find ways to work together and sell the lawyer to their clients, solidifying critical connections.

Put your brand front and center. Your lateral hire earned a superstar reputation before joining your firm, but now it’s time to make the case that the individual brand value is linked to the firm as a whole. While articles, award announcements and media mentions featuring an individual attorney primarily showcase his or her work and client relationships, that content can have a second life as part of the firm’s holistic marketing and PR plans — in newsletters, firm website content, social media posts, client alerts and more. This task, which requires careful planning, tech support, and follow-through, can help the firm reap the benefits of the lateral relationship, even if the attorney ultimately leaves.

Hiring laterals is now easier to do, but ensuring the new partnership will be a success takes careful planning and a thoughtful communications strategy. Considering a lateral hire? Give us a call.