In our experience, most law firm partnerships have never really discussed this question in depth. They also haven't considered how their assumptions about what makes an "the ideal partner" can be very firm-specific and can change over time. As a result, they spend far too much time making decisions that often are unreliable.
There are few decisions that partnerships make that are as risky -- but also as promising -- as the decision to recruit and admit a partner from another law firm or in-house legal department. We usually advise our clients to approach lateral recruiting with the same care and diligence that they would apply to merging with another firm. Many of the dynamics that define the risks and determine success or disappointment are the same.
In support of the Tenth Annual Law Firm Management Conference in Moscow, Russia, on 2 December 2016, Walker Clark administered an on-line survey to lawyers in law firms world wide. More than 300 people responded. Although the survey should not be considered to be statistically representative of the legal profession worldwide, it revealed a surprising degree of consensus about the behaviors that respondents considered to be most important in evaluating partners in their firm.