Common Mistakes for Lateral Partner Questionnaires

Most lawyers are understandably inexperienced in filling out LPQs. Many attorneys looking to make a lateral move from one firm to another haven’t interviewed in years or even decades, so they either have missed the move to LPQs entirely or have filled them out so infrequently that they make significant tactical and strategic errors.

The most common mistake is to treat the LPQ as a test for which the person who provides the most complete and thorough answer wins. This approach misses the strategic aspects of a job search. Specifically, the job search process is iterative. Both sides share more information as the process unfolds. It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion. Thus, the best strategy from the applicant’s point of view is to share the most relevant information accurately without feeling compelled to answer every question in full detail right away.

If you are asked to submit three years of data about your book of business, consider providing just one year’s worth at the beginning of the process. This covers hourly rates, billable hours, origination credits, and any difficulties in collections. If you are going to provide two or three years of general data, you don’t have to provide detailed information about who your clients are until the negotiations enter their final stage. By then, it is very likely that you will have identified clients, but you have to be careful about revealing the names of specific contacts. And it is almost never necessary to share contact information, such as the email addresses of in-house attorneys or other client contacts. Most LPQs do not lead to job offers, let alone offers you decide to accept, so don’t spread your best client’s contact information to potential competitors.

Lawyers also fail to take into account that recruiters influence this process. If you are working with a recruiter, you may have even greater latitude to provide more general (but accurate) information on your book of business up front. That’s because the recruiter acts as a buffer, and if the potential employer is unhappy about the amount of information you provided, the recruiter is in a position to find that out.

Finally, most attorneys don’t take into consideration the history of how LPQs evolved. The short version is that many law firms got burned relying on inflated estimates of how portable a book of business would be. This led to firms reducing the period of negotiated compensation. For most laterals now, it is hard to negotiate more than one year of compensation before they will be treated like any other partner at the firm. Because of this history, firms scrutinize each book of business and are wary of overly optimistic projections. This is another reason why providing last year’s numbers and/or an annualized version of this year’s numbers may be a better strategy than trying to provide three full years of data from the outset.

The best policy is to be accurate but not extraordinarily conservative. LPQs are negotiating documents and call for estimates. No one can know for sure exactly which clients will agree to move. And in our experiences consulting lateral partners, we have seen that women often omit revenues from their projections more readily than men do.

If you treat the LPQ as the strategic document that it is, you are more likely to weed out pretenders and identify those firms that are the best potential fits and the most worthy of your time and efforts.

The Mental Health Crisis Facing Lawyers

Data from the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Survey (ALM) demonstrates concerning levels of mental health issues among legal professionals. With 74% of the over 3,800 respondents agreeing that their career has had a negative impact on their mental health over time and nearly one-third citing their work or work environment as a cause of increased drug and alcohol use, the survey suggests these mental health issues are not simply correlated to the legal services industry but a direct result of this type of work.

The most shocking survey finding is that 17.9% of respondents reported they had contemplated suicide during their career in law. As noted in a article, this is almost “double the lifetime rate of suicidal ideation in the general population.” While the study’s publishers find hope in the numbers that professionals are more openly discussing these struggles, the results raise red flags about major facets of how the legal services industry functions.

As described in the article, a majority of respondents pointed to the following elements as causal factors in their declining mental health:

  • the feeling of always being on call and unable to disconnect
  • billable hours pressures
  • lack of sleep
  • client demands

This inability to disconnect extended even to vacations, with 72.5% reporting being unable to unplug during their time off. Righting these numbers would require sweeping changes in how legal work is valued and how firms compensate and reward employees.

Having assisted many lawyers in switching careers, we rarely run into someone who left the law and regretted it. There are other ways to contribute to society, and if a loved one were working in a field where approximately three out of every four people said the work negatively affected their mental health, you’d probably urge them to leave.

It is time to recognize that too many law jobs are not remotely worth the mental health trade-offs and other damages they inflict. We should start celebrating those who have left the law to find greener pastures.