Here’s something you don’t hear from law firm management much these days: “We are actively looking for lateral partners and groups.”
An occasional look at how laid-off legal professionals cope with a crisis economy.
Allen Matkins recruiting partner John Gamble says the recession is not dissuading his firm from hiring. If anything, it may be helping him find talent. Gamble says the firm has talked to plenty of partners who are “uncomfortable in their place,” concerned with the financial stability of their firm, unsure that their firm is still fully backing them, facing rate pressure or feeling like they’re wearing the “underperforming partner” tag.
Gamble said that most of the partners he’s interviewed this year have strong practices. But he’s also talked to those who feel “downward compensation pressure” from their firm because their practice isn’t as robust as it was.
A tough time to struggle, after the jump.
Hearing from a potential lateral that he or she is struggling lately isn’t the buzz kill you might think. Gamble says he takes the long view: “How they did in 2007 is not irrelevant, but I think it’s important to evaluate what they worked on in the first quarter, what their prospects are for sustaining their business level now, how they are using associates, and where they think their practice is heading.”
Stacy Miller Azcarate, founder of recruiting firm Miller Sabino & Lee, recently told us that she saw a lot of partners pushed out quietly at the end of 2008. “It happened a lot,” she said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to place any of them. It was people that didn’t have books.”
On the up side, she says she’s not seeing so much of it so far this year. “Just because I haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening,” she noted. But placing laterals is still a challenge, she says. Potential laterals are afraid they’ll land in a situation worse than the one they’re leaving. When a partner comes to her with a decent book of business, the pool of firms where she feels she can place candidates “in good faith” is smaller, she says.
Allen Matkins reported a solid fiscal 2008, with revenue and profits up — but its fiscal year ended in June, before the economy took that ugly nose dive last fall. Chairman Brian Leck has told us that when 2009 closes at the end of next month, the numbers won’t be quite as rosy. In recent months, the firm has laid off a “small number” of people and cut associate salaries.
Allen Matkins is best known for its real estate expertise, but Gamble said now is a great time to fill out smaller practices, like the15-lawyer corporate group, where the firm added Dan McIntosh in Southern California in March. Where else is the firm hiring? Gamble says there’s room in land use and related litigation, as well as commercial litigation.
“We have to make decisions based on how their practice looks now, how and when their practice might rebound, and how that fits with our goals.”
— Petra Pasternak