'Parachuting in' to Lead Firms May Be Next Lateral Trend
The third prong to hiring leadership externally is talent management, Baker said. A firm could benefit from hiring a leader who is skilled at hiring, retaining and motivating top talent, she said.
Baker said the trend in external hiring at law firms thus far has been on hiring nonlawyer business managers.
"The next extension is perhaps to hire a lawyer," she said.
The most likely scenario is for smaller firms to hire from larger firms to get that person's experience, Baker said. That person is also going to come with a hefty price tag, however, which might knock the smaller firm out of the running.
One caveat to hiring lawyers from other firms is that there is a small pool from which to hire because most firms are only going to want to hire lawyers with proven leadership track records. An attorney with a great book of business may not have had the time or opportunity to prove his or her worth as a leader, she said.
The other caveat to firms hiring leadership from outside of their ranks is dealing with any potential internal resentment.
Bower said any newcomer would need the imprimatur of other firm leadership and those passing the torch.
"It has to be done with at least the acquiescence of leadership among existing partners to make it successful," Bower said.
Baker said one obstacle a new leader will always face when coming from another firm is establishing his or her credibility. Some firms have created a new role on top of the existing leadership structure, which can in part defray any potential pushback from existing partners expecting to become the next leader. But Baker said that isn't necessarily the best option.
"One way firms can avoid the perception that someone internally is being bypassed for an external hire is by creating a bifurcated role or a new role," Baker said. "I don't see that as effective in the long run as communicating to people effectively and making sure people are being put into the best place for the right talent."