Case study

Corporate Insurance Partner, International Law Firm

Our client had, via another search firm, found a corporate partner they were confident they wanted to recruit. However, prior to putting the hire to a partner vote, we were engaged to undertake some referencing and due diligence on the individual.

The partner concerned was currently at their third law firm and second as a partner. Through our extensive network, we were able to speak to individuals with whom the partner had worked at all of their firms to gain more of an insight into their personality, behaviour and client skills.

Interestingly, we received the same personality feedback on the individual from people who had worked with them as a trainee and associate, through to those who knew them as a partner.

Through the course of our conversations, we learned that the partner was hired to dovetail with their current firm’s insurance litigation practice – the aim being to generate work from the same client base.  We heard that the individual was highly regarded for their technical expertise but that the firm did not have a core client base that suited the partner and therefore it would have been very difficult for them to have been a success. We found out that, due to low billings, the partner had been de-equitised.  Their lack of progress had not been helped by being put into the corporate department and then moved to the sub group of funds, which was viewed as a difficult place in which to work and hard to fit into – not a natural home for the individual. In other words, it was probably correct that their current firm was not the right platform for the individual to flourish.

Going back in time, we found out that the individual, whilst a trainee and young associate, worked in a market-leading practice, directly for the practice head, and was viewed as the “go to associate” but also someone who took on “the worst traits of the partners with whom they worked”. When it became clear that they were not going to be made up at this firm, they moved to a second-tier firm in order to become a partner. However, this firm did not have quite the right client base for the individual to mine and, without a clear following of their own, it was not a great move. Hence moving to their current firm.

We learned from our discussions that the individual is not the easiest colleague or boss: “a workaholic with unnecessarily high expectations of junior lawyers”, “quirky” and “a bit like marmite” were a selection of the phrases used to describe them.

We collated our findings into a report that was sent to our client and discussed with them. Our client concluded that they would proceed with the hire but would take into account the individual’s apparent behavioural issues and ensure that they had the appropriate training in place to help them work better with others (whilst also keeping an eye on them). Our client felt confident that their platform was appropriate for the individual. The decision proved to be correct and the partner has been a great success but, due to our help, our client told us that they “went into it with our eyes open”.