Not many years ago, lateral partner movement among law firms was rare. However, during the 15+ years I’ve spent leading media and public relations programs at Am Law 100 firms,  the number of campaigns I’ve launched for the arrival of both individual partners and groups of lawyers has grown significantly. These days, you can’t open a legal trade newsletter without seeing multiple headlines about partners changing firms.

For law firms, the arrival of a new partner or group of partners is an investment in the future. While a rainmaker will bring a big book of business, they often command a top salary. Conversely, a lawyer moving from a senior-level government position to a law firm partnership may come with a smaller price tag, but no book of business. Therefore, the firm will have to support that new partner and their practice until they can grow it.

Regardless of where the partner comes from, their arrival is significant — especially to the leaders of the practice group or office location they are joining. Expectations will be high for a big splash announcing their arrival.

For the legal communicator, this results in a lot of strategic planning, timing, and execution.

The Elements of a New Hire Press Release

In planning a lateral arrival launch campaign, the most powerful element will be the press release. Here are some basic tips for drafting a press release.

For starters, optimize the release by presenting the most important and engaging information at the top. If the new partner is a former elected official or coming from a senior-level government position, mention it. If they are the latest arrival to a practice, industry group or regional office, mention that “growth” or “further expansion.”

Then succinctly describe the new arrival’s professional background and experience in reverse chronological order beginning with their most recent position. A lawyer’s education and judicial clerkships should be reserved for the end of the release, just above the boilerplate, if they are included at all. This is not a curriculum vitae, so try to keep the entire release to one page.

One of the most important parts of the release will be the quotes, which are your opportunity to advance the story and provide the “so what” element. The firm’s leader should comment on the experience the lateral brings that will enhance the firm’s service offerings and benefit clients. The lateral’s quote should focus on any specific capabilities of the firm that attracted them, such as a particular industry group. A personal connection, if one exists, can add a human touch and elevate interest.

Try to avoid corporate speak and tired cliches like “synergy,” “solutions,” unique,” “outside the box,” and the most-overused trio, “thrilled,” “excited,” and “delighted.” True, these three words can be difficult to avoid, but try not to use them at the beginning of a quote. They’re better suited to wrap it up.

Granted, it can be difficult to draft substantive quotes if you only have a lateral’s previous law firm bio to work from. If possible, see if your firm’s leadership will share with you the executive memo about the lateral that was shared with the equity partnership. Even a redacted version that omits compensation and other sensitive information can provide a wealth of useful nonconfidential information.

Limit the quotes. While they can drive the story, too many of them can sound redundant and make the release too long, especially if they do not add any value.

Firms differ on whether to name the “sending” firm in a release. Some include the name of the lateral’s former firm, while others don’t as a professional courtesy. Should your firm fall into the second camp, consider adding an “editor’s note” to reporters in your distribution of the release mentioning the lateral’s former firm and position. If you don’t, you’ll likely receive emails from reporters inquiring.

Distributing to Media

After drafting the release, you will want to develop a media list targeting legal, industry and regional media outlets and reporters.

Collaborate with marketing and business development colleagues to make sure all the elements of the campaign are finalized prior to the day of the announcement for a seamless launch. This include the lawyer’s bio, new headshot (not the old one from their last firm), social media post, and email announcement to a curated list of client contacts as well as the lateral’s own contact list.

One of the biggest challenges of the campaign will be avoiding leaks, which can kill the media’s interest in a lateral announcement. Journalists want to report news first or when it happens — they don’t want to play catchup. So ask the lateral to refrain from posting their move on their social media channels, particularly LinkedIn and X, until after the news of their arrival is announced publicly. While they can and should alert their top clients of their move, they should not send an email blast to their full contact list. The firm’s marketing team will handle that announcement.

Depending on the lateral’s experience, you may wish to pre-sell the news as an exclusive to a trusted reporter or under embargo to a small handful of reporters. Exclusives are generally reserved for new office or practice launches, large group moves, and prominent partners with strong name recognition in the legal community. If such an arrangement is made, all external elements of the launch campaign, including the press release, bio, and social media post, should be held until after the exclusive or embargoed article has been pushed live.

To prevent any surprises among internal constituents, your firm may wish to distribute an internal message from leadership about an hour or two before the news breaks. This practice tends to be more common among large firms with multiple offices and lawyers. The communications team should offer to draft the message and provide a designated time for distribution internally, before the press release is live on the website or a news article has been published. Looping in the leader’s executive assistant is always a best practice.

If you land interview requests for the new partner, don’t just coordinate the phone or virtual interview. Conduct a prep session with the lawyer to go over interview tips and questions likely to be asked, and suggest ways to navigate any difficult questions. Since the resulting article will be one of the most important vehicles for getting the word out about the lateral’s move to your firm, it’s important for the lawyer to provide substantive responses to the reporter’s questions.

Track Coverage and Maintain Momentum

Once the campaign has been launched, track for coverage to provide a media report showcasing the full text of each article published. But don’t stop there. Keep the momentum alive by looking for opportunities for the lateral to provide third-party commentary to reporters on timely news topics in their practice area. Consider article writing opportunities in publications read by potential clients. The first 90 days of a lateral’s arrival at a new firm are crucial for building and growing awareness. Take advantage of this window to further promote the lateral and create a sense of excitement about the firm.

For more help disseminating your firm’s news, reach out to me, Kathy King, at KKing@jaffepr.com.