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If the respected partner leaves for another firm, the partner’s performance is likely to suffer

If you follow the star partner, the sun may set. Most in-house counsel will be inclined to follow a well-respected partner who leaves one firm to join another. Few law firms fight that choice, I believe, because the leaders of the firm understand the underlying loyalty to a particular lawyer and that lawyer’s privileged position earned with the client.

The spoke in this wheel is research that finds that the performance of star professionals often declines sharply when they leave firms in which they flourished. This conclusion, from a book review in strategy+business, Winter 2010 at 94, makes the point that expert professionals – law firm partners being good examples, I submit – over-estimate their individual contributions to their success and under-estimate the support of the firm where they practice. They exaggerate their personal skills and devalue the team they are part of and that helped make them good (See my post of June 12, 2005: firms that hire partners expect the book of business to follow; July 14, 2005: being a top performer is situational; Feb. 1, 2007: peripatetic partners; Feb. 17, 2008: ill effects of churn among partners; Dec. 14, 2008: some “firings” of firms are “followings” of departing partners; and April 29, 2009: hire the firm or the partner.).