Biglaw Meltdown: 100+ Lawyers Depart from Lewis Brisbois to Form New Firm

departing lawyers

Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, a major law firm, has experienced a significant walkout of at least 100 lawyers who have announced their intention to join a new firm called Barber Ranen.

According to John Barber, the former chair of Lewis Brisbois’ employment practice, as many as 140 lawyers could eventually leave the firm to join Barber Ranen, with approximately 60 lawyers expected to join as partners.

Jeffrey Ranen, the former national vice chair of the labor and employment practice at Lewis Brisbois, will co-lead the new firm alongside Barber.

Barber Ranen will have three physical offices in Los Angeles, Newport Beach, and San Francisco, with additional lawyers working remotely in Sacramento, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Boston, Denver, Pittsburgh, Portland, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.

While Barber did not disclose the specific clients that may be moving with the departing lawyers, he stated that clients had been “effusive in their excitement and support” for the new firm. Barber Ranen aims to offer a full range of legal services, including commercial, transactional, intellectual property, and employment advice.

This departure follows the exit of a 32-lawyer cybersecurity group from Lewis Brisbois, who joined Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete in several cities in January.

Despite the recent departures, Bob Smith, the co-chairman of Lewis Brisbois, stated in an email on Tuesday that the departing employment lawyers “represent a minority of our L&E lawyers and clients across the nation (and many clients will be using both firms.)”

The firm sits at number 70 on the most recent AmLaw 100 rankings and has billings of over $700 million.

He added that the confidence of the firm’s partnership and the labor and employment practice “remains strong as evidenced by voting with their feet to stay and help rebuild.”

‘Excellence & Culture’

Biglaw Meltdown: 100+ Lawyers Depart from Lewis Brisbois to Form New Firm
John Barber

AbovetheLaw carried a quote from John Barber as follows, noting that as many as 125 – 140 attorneys might eventually leave to join the new firm –

“Jeff and I are in lockstep in that we serve two masters — excellence and our culture — and we are ferociously protective of both. Every decision we make is not viewed from the prospective of profit or power or anything other than does this enhance our ability to deliver excellent results to our clients and does it enhance our culture. We are both singularly focused on paying it forward. We try as we can to create opportunities for our people to foster their careers, to mentor, to create an environment which is conducive to becoming the very best that you can be as a lawyer. While that may sound Pollyanna-ish, it is absolutely so firmly ingrained in who we are, and that’s the cornerstone of our firm.”

While departures are not uncommon in the legal industry, the scale of this particular departure is notable. Lewis Brisbois is a well-respected law firm with over 1,700 lawyers across the United States, and the loss of over 100 lawyers could have a significant impact on the firm’s operations and profitability.

According to legal industry experts, there are several reasons why such departures occur including disagreement over compensation, particularly for high-performing partners who may feel undervalued or underpaid.

In some cases, partners may leave to start their own firm, where they can retain a higher percentage of their billings and have greater control over the direction of the firm.

Sometimes there may be a cultural or philosophical mismatch between partners. Large law firms often have a distinct culture and way of doing things, and partners who do not fit into that culture may feel marginalized or frustrated, which can lead them to seek out other opportunities where they feel they will be more appreciated and better able to contribute to the success of the firm.

Whatever the reason for the departures from Lewis Brisbois, it is clear that the lawyers who are leaving have a strong desire to strike out on their own and build a new firm that they feel better represents their values and goals.

Barber Ranen will undoubtedly face challenges as it seeks to establish itself as a leading law firm in the highly competitive legal industry. However, with experienced lawyers and a clear vision for the future, the new firm may be able to carve out a successful niche in the market.

Big law firms are constantly evolving, and those that are able to adapt to changing market conditions and employee expectations are more likely to thrive in the long run.

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