New Report Says Wrong Fit at Firm Can Be Costly

By Ellen Rosen

Nov. 12 — Law firm hiring partners and executive committee members frequently invoke the phrase “cultural fit” when discussing lateral hires or mergers. There's a reason: mistakes in hiring can be costly.

When a lawyer leaves, the cost to a firm can range from $400,000 to more than $800,000 for experienced attorneys, according to a new report.

“These are the costs of bringing someone on board, interviewing and vetting them, paying headhunters and the general disruption that occurs when someone leaves,” Mark Levin, co-founder of the Right Profile, Chicago-based talent selection and data analytics firm, and a co-author of the report told Bloomberg News Nov. 11.

Bruce MacEwen, the president of Adam Smith Esq., and online legal recruiting site JD Match, was a co-author as well.

The report, “Assessing Lawyer Traits & Finding a Fit for Success,” is an attempt to equate work settings and practice areas based on attorneys' personality traits and preferences to improve hiring.

Why Attorneys Leave

Their online assessment was taken by 1,432 people: 973 practicing attorneys, 95 non-practicing attorneys, 225 law students and 139 non-attorneys. The test, developed after speaking with lawyers and two psychologists, is designed to determine why attorneys stay in their practices.

They found that attorneys with “higher levels of resilience, empathy, initiative and sociability” are more likely to leave the practice of law altogether than those with lower levels of the same traits.

“The correlation is there, but I don't know what the answer is,” Levin said. “There will, however, always be resilient and social people who stay at firms.”

Levin found it surprising that firms don't really think through how they're going to best create a collaborative environment.

Many firms in the 150-500 attorney range “look particularly prone to siloed practices and siloed business development,” according to the report. The reason appears to be thatmany attorneys in those firms showed “the strongest preferences for working alone on issues and individual problem solving even where issues might be outside the attorney's practice area.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen Rosen in New York at erosen14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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