November 19, 2019 | Law360

In a November 19 article published by Law360, Michael Ellenhorn writes that the practice of hiring lateral partners has become vital to the growth of many leading law firms. In Altman Weil Inc.’s 2019 Law Firms in Transition Survey, 92.4% of firms surveyed said they planned to grow through lateral hiring. Even a cursory glance at regional and practice group growth at larger law firms reveals just how much lateral hiring has become a necessity for many firms not only to thrive, but in some cases, to survive.

In July, LeClairRyan, the three-decade-old Richmond, Virginia, law firm that just a few years ago employed nearly 400 attorneys, filed its notice of dissolution. Predictably, a feeding frenzy ensued with law firms competing to scoop up business units, practice groups and larger teams from the now-collapsed firm. Much like the proverbial going-out-of-business sales the LeClairRyan fire sale encouraged enthusiastic firms (and their outside recruiters) to grab the good stuff before it was gone.

In these situations, Ellenhorn says we are reminded of the old adage “buy in haste, repent at leisure.” Firms embracing the fire sale frenzy could have missed substantial legal and human risk issues that may have given them more perspective on their prized acquisitions.

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