How Attorneys Can Master the Lateral Partner Questionnaire(LPQ)
By popular opinion, the LPQ or the lateral partner questionnaire is the most daunting step in the due diligence process for a partner moving to a new law firm. The larger the practice, the more thorough and involved the LPQ. But have no fear, this too shall pass. Honestly, law partners deal with more complex cases and transactions every month in their practice than this document. My advice is to find a quiet space, grab a strong caffeinated drink and knock this out in an afternoon.
Below is an overview of the lateral partner questionnaire, some advice, and focus on a couple points. An LPQ can have as many as 30-40 subjects for the partner to address. Yet once you have completed one, the others become much easier.
Editor’s Note: Lateral Moves: A Guide for Partners & Law Firms by Chris Batz
Here is a quick list of subjects you will likely address in written or verbal form:
Your current employer
Previous employer history
References and reason for leaving
Ownership in for profit companies
Board or officer positions
Discipline and sanctions
Claims and litigation
Client financial situations
No billed expenses
Restrictions to moving based on partnership agreement
Anticipated move date
Staffing needs for practice
Compensation history & expectation
Bill rate history
Hours billed history
Hours billed not originated history
Origination history and billing
Realization or collection history
Portability of clients
One function of this document is to ask red flag questions. Regarding difficult subjects like late taxes, bankruptcy, bar discipline, criminal history, malpractice, discrimination claims, and investigations, hopefully, you can answer no to all of these. If not, it is very important to begin your relationship with your future partnership with integrity and open discussion. Be forthright or they will find out. None of us does life perfectly.
Every interaction with a prospective law firm tells them something about you: your professionalism, your interest level, and your candidacy. Do not skip sections. Do not be vague. Do not play games. This only prolongs the process and creates mystery, which does not bode in your favor. The only way to master the Lateral Partner Questionnaire and have an effective one is to complete the LPQ.
One complaint that will forever be held in the Annals of Lateral Partner Movement History: The partner exaggerated on his numbers. Law partners, know your numbers and do not guess or exaggerate. This is the quickest way to sour your new partnership. Achieving accuracy on a book of business is not an easy feat. If there’s uncertainty, communicate, communicate, communicate. Do not turtle and hope for the best.
This is more attitude than information in a document. I have seen this over and over in partner transactions. If you approach the prospective firm as someone who is confident but not cocky, this process will be smoother and you will find favor. I have many clients who have me screen out a**holes to protect their culture. One area where this is evident is in their portable business estimates. Higher-minded partners may inflate or overestimate their book to achieve a higher salary. Bad Idea. My best advice to any partner: It is always better to under promise and over deliver. This will make you look like a rock star and will pay your dividends in many forms at your new law firm.
The most time-consuming step to master the Lateral Partner Questionnaire is filling in the client billing history. Most LPQs I have seen require a minimum of 2 years prior history, and some as much as 5 years. Pulling this information from your firm’s accounting can be challenging. I have met partners who have 5 years of records on hand just in case because their firm limits access to the numbers. Keep in mind when you are talking to a prospective firm that they expect a 20-40% margin on what you bill and collect. Learning about their margin will give you some understanding of what you can expect for compensation depending, of course, on several factors such as allotted overhead per attorney, law firm compensation structure, firm politics and values, etc.
Save and send all your word processing documents in PDF format and forward them on to the prospect law firm. The last thing you want is the formatting to adjust when they open or print it, or the information getting lost somehow. PDF eliminates that risk. Communicate your expected completion date with a little cushion of time, and then complete it on time. If client matters delay the completion of it, communicate this.
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Learn more about lateral moved by ordering this book by Chris Batz: Lateral Moves: A Guide for Partners and Law Firms available on Amazon
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