To prevent you from jumping out your windows, we’re revisiting a Wall Street Journal article from earlier this month on the silver lining for law firms during the economic crisis.
Firms with relatively strong balance sheets are hiring lawyers from competitors that are hurting from the dropoff in mergers, debt offerings and other staples of the legal business. Leaders of these firms figure that being bigger and more geographically diverse will help them weather downturns in particular market sectors and capitalize on complex business opportunities that require a variety of specialties. In most cases, they’re even giving the new hires raises.
Did you hear that, despondent ones? Raises!
Many firms have been feasting on the remains of Heller Ehrman (R.I.P.). Heller partners and attorneys have been snatched up by Hogan & Hartson; Orrick; Sheppard Mullin; Arnold & Porter; Covington & Burling; Jones Day; and Cooley Godward Kronish. Other firms have been poaching partners from struggling Thelen.
Some firms are buying on the cheap, while others are giving new attention to more resilient practice groups:
K&L Gates LLP has acquired medium-size firms in Texas and North Carolina this year and hired 45 partners from other firms. “We have no debt — no long-term debt, no short-term debt — and therefore have a balance sheet that allows us to grow aggressively into a downturn,” says Peter Kalis, chairman of the 1,700-lawyer firm…
But many law firms believe that they have no choice but to expand specialties, such as restructuring, intellectual property, securities litigation and antitrust, that are generally believed to remain steady — or even pick up — during down cycles. Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP in New York laid off 131 lawyers — nearly 20% of its staff — earlier this year because of the implosion in the mortgage-backed securities market, a key practice area for the firm. But it has hired lawyers in other practice areas, including financial restructuring.
Some Law Firms Hire in Slump [Wall Street Journal]
As Heller is sliced and diced, many associates are out in the cold [National Law Journal]
Earlier: ATL Layoff Coverage