Private Equity

piggy bank Above the Law blog.jpgIf you look up the term “private equity” in Black’s Law Dictionary, the entry reads: “Lucky bastards who make three times as much as you do, even though you graduated from college at the same time.”
But perhaps lawyers should think warm-and-fuzzy thoughts, as opposed to envious and resentful ones, about private equity types. Today’s DealBook has an interesting item about how private equity deals are keeping law firms busy — including a number of shops outside the private equity “Holy Trinity” of Simpson Thacher, Cleary Gottlieb, and Ropes & Gray.
The DealBook item is based on an article in the current issue of the American Lawyer, which contains this tidbit about lateral moves from Simpson:

An unintended consequence of our level of market share in private equity is that as private equity firms have grown, they’ve all developed in-house legal staffs, starting from zero, five years ago,” says Simpson partner Alan Klein. “They’re trying to populate those staffs with our associates.”

Seven lawyers left Simpson for private equity shops last year, according to Corporate Counsel, a sibling publication of The American Lawyer. Partly to stem defections, Simpson raised associate salaries in January, prompting a raise-a-thon among its competitors.

Remember when D.C. bar president James Sandman, of Arnold & Porter, posed this question?

“I don’t understand what causes a firm be the first to increase the salary of a brand-new lawyer from an already eye-popping $145,000 to $160,000. There is no competitive advantage in doing so. Other firms will surely follow suit, and the firm that led the market will quickly be indistinguishable from the rest of the pack.”

Well, there’s your answer, Mr. Sandman. Simpson isn’t competing with you and other non-NYC firms; it’s competing with private equity and investment banks. And your profits per partner are just collateral damage.
More Law Firms Crowd into Private Equity Deals [DealBook]
Corporate Scorecard: Gargantuans at the Gate [American Lawyer]

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