Lateral recruitment is the process of hiring someone — usually an expert — specifically to fill a hole or niche in your organization. Many law firms practice lateral recruitment when they’ve just landed a big client or are looking to increase their reach in a unique area of the law, such as securities or privacy matters, where knowledge could be limited. But for smaller law firms, lateral hiring may not be the best solution.
A law firm should have a well-planned and thoughtful hiring strategy. Hiring, after all, weighs heavily into a firm’s growth potential. If you’re a small firm with less room to make mistakes, you should take particular care in developing your hiring strategy. Don’t jump into making an external hire, even in the face of an immediate and urgent need, until you have considered these possibilities:
Training existing employees. With time and training, is there a way that your current staff could handle your expansion in business without adding an outside expert?
The cost and mental energy required if the hire does not work out. When an outside expert hire doesn’t work out, finding a replacement, adjusting to the loss and adjusting yet again to a newer hire could take a toll on your staff’s time and mental energy beyond the costs of compensation and recruiter fees.
The information you don’t know. When you’re comparing the potential of an outside hire versus an internal staffer, recognize that your familiarity with the weaknesses of your own employee may put the outsider in a better light, simply because you don’t yet know the new person’s downside.Also, people often unconsciously think a new person will be unlikely to present similar conflicts or challenges to those that exist, when this may be wishful thinking.
Business and clients following the hire when he or she leaves. If an outside expert has achieved success in transferring clients and business between firms previously, that tendency may continue as that hire moves on from your own firm.
Conflicts of interest. A lawyer who arrives with his or her own set of clients, economic practices and case approaches may come into conflict with your firm’s own clients and practices.2
It’s true that hiring an outside expert is sometimes necessary and can be beneficial. It can strengthen your offerings and deepen your team. But per the advice of industry experts, it’s helpful to keep possible drawbacks in mind, even as someone’s expertise may be appealing.[1,2]
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