We were asked to undertake due diligence on a senior partner hire that was moving into final stages at a leading law firm. The candidate had met a number of partners as part of the process and the collective feedback was broadly positive. The firm was looking to bring the candidate into the equity at a high level. We were told that the candidate interviewed well and was charming and outgoing.
The due diligence we undertook involved speaking to 10 sources, most of whom had previously been partners of the candidate at their current firm. Others were senior associates who had previously worked with or for the candidate. We asked them to comment on several different partners in the context of a research project. This masked both the purpose of our call and the real identity of our due diligence target.
Speaking to a number of sources minimises the risk that one or two people with a particular view will sway the overall picture of the candidate. As a general rule however, views tend to be balanced. In this particular case the consistent theme was that the candidate was a difficult person to work for. The turnover of associates in their team was high and even fellow partners found the candidate difficult to work with. Put simply, the candidate was someone who could easily “rock the boat”. Given the great emphasis our client placed on collegiality and despite having been had several positive meetings with the candidate, the firm elected not to proceed. The candidate was not aware that the process had been carried out. For a very reasonable sum of money the firm had saved itself from making a potentially very expensive mistake.