Hiring Partners

Tampa is lovely this time of year.

Hello from Tampa, Florida, site of the 2013 annual education conference of the Association for Legal Career Professionals (aka NALP). Elie Mystal, Brian Dalton and I have been attending some excellent panels, catching up with old friends, and making new ones (although some law school folks here have given Elie the stink eye).

Yesterday I attended an interesting panel entitled “Homegrown or Not: Lateral Hiring vs. Law Student Recruiting.” The important topic drew a standing room only crowd….

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Ed. note: This is the first in a new series, “Across the Desk,” from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” will take a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital and related issues. Some of these pieces will have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

As noted in the American Lawyer recently, the lateral recruiting boom of recent years continues unabated. As the Am Law article points out, “At the same time [as they’re focused on hiring lateral partners], firms appear to be homing in on their poor performers. Nine out of 10 survey respondents said their firm has ‘unprofitable’ partners, and seven out of 10 said their firms have partners at risk of being deequitized or ‘put on performance plans.’ As one survey respondent put it: ‘There are too many partners without sufficient billable work.’”

Now, wouldn’t you think it would make sense — if firms are worried about underperformers — to pay some attention to associates as well as partners? After all, some of those associates should, speaking theoretically at least, be your future partners.

Yet there’s unrebutted evidence that firms look at the wrong criteria when hiring associates….

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If you haven’t already done so, check out Vivia Chen’s series of interviews with hiring partners over at The Careerist. They’re fun and interesting reads. (Our favorite was her unintentionally hilarious interview of Steven Glaser of Skadden.)

Recently Chen sat down with Alan Vickery of litigation powerhouse Boies Schiller (which scored a major victory in the Prop 8 case). Here’s how Vickery described the Boies lawyer:

What’s typical is the diversity of personality and style at the firm. David [Boies] has a broad scope of interests and abilities; he sends a strong signal that individualism is tolerated and encouraged. For instance, there’s lots of support for our work on Prop 8 [where the firm is arguing against the ban on gay marriage in California], but there are also lots of Federalist Society members here.

(Well, in fairness to the Fed Soc, many of its members are libertarian rather than social conservatives, and as such sympathetic to gay marriage — at least as a policy matter, if not necessarily a matter of constitutional law.)

Who are your competitors in the hiring game?

The usual suspects: Wachtell, Davis Polk, Cravath. And if they’re looking for a [litigation] boutique, it’d be Susman Godfrey, Williams & Connolly, or Quinn Emanuel.

Speaking of the competition, Vickery got in a good dig at Davis Polk….

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