Should You Take Staff With You if You Move Firms?

14 February 2019

You’re a senior lawyer responsible for a team of staff.

That might include some support, some other lawyers, and some law clerks.

You’ve found a great opportunity at another firm, and they’ve given you the option to bring some or all of your team along with you.

The question is: should you?

Start with the Obvious – Legal Restrictions

Being a lawyer you’re probably quite live to this issue, but there’s a good chance your employment contract or partnership arrangement has a non-solicitation clause in it.

So, you might need to navigate your way around that, one way or another. Perhaps you can ignore it, perhaps you can negotiate something, or perhaps it’s a deal-breaker (this is definitely NOT legal advice about the enforceability of your non-solicitation clause!).

But once you’re past that question, there are practical issues to consider.

Which Staff Do you Want?

Your new firm might not always give you this choice, but what if you get to pick and choose which staff to take with you? How should you decide?

First understand how the firm you’re moving to is already set up. If they have a large number of clerks available already, then it makes little business sense to ask yours to come along unless one or more of them are superstars that offer your group considerable value.

Similarly, if the new firm relies on a typing pool or outsourced administrative tasks, then it would be a bit culturally jarring for you to take one secretary for every professional staff member unless your practice area demanded it. Your group would stand out like a sore thumb in the firm reports about costs and leverage.

Beyond that, if your team has more than a few people there’s a good chance that you have a range of performers – some good, some less good. Perhaps that’s due to attitude or personal relatability, or perhaps it’s just about pure professional talent at their jobs.

While it’s going to feel a bit awkward, this is obviously an opportunity to hand pick a team to take with you made up of those individuals who work best together, who perform at high levels, and who will give you a seriously good start in your new firm.

The New Firm Culture?

You’ve probably considered how you personally will fit into the new firm’s culture. But what about your team?

If there is a significant culture change between the firms, thinking about whether that’s going to work for your team is a worthwhile question to ask. You might have quieter people who don’t like the “play hard” cultures that some firms have.

Or perhaps you have professional staff who currently enjoy a flexible lifestyle that might not be on offer at the new place.

While you naturally want your top performers to come along for the ride, taking staff into a new environment where you don’t think they will thrive isn’t likely to be a good long-term decision. Hopefully, you know your team well enough to be able to make that call, or at least to mention your concern to them so they can make an informed decision.

Is It Good for Their Career?

Of course, this question isn’t entirely your problem – your team can make decisions about these things themselves.

But if you are the catalyst for a change of jobs, then you will probably feel a degree of responsibility to at least consider the future career prospects for your professional staff.

So, taking a senior lawyer who is primed for promotion to partner into a firm with a saturated partnership might not be a welcome move for either your new firm or the individual.

But then, perhaps you have a superstar junior lawyer who will be given more and better opportunities in the new firm, and so from a career perspective it would be a great idea.

Consider the Angles

Ultimately, the best thing you can do is to weigh up the perspectives of all involved:

  • Your current firm
  • Your new firm
  • Your self
  • Your staff.

They might not weigh equally, but at the very least this should give you a platform for a frank discussion with your team members should you decide to offer them a move to the new firm.

If you’re looking for a partnership move, don’t hesitate to reach out and we’d be happy to talk you through the current opportunities.