American Lawyer’s Lateral Report Shows Great Recession Led to 11 Percent Spike in Am Law 200 Lateral Partner Moves in 2009 – American Lawyer Newswire

NEW YORK (February 1, 2010) – Despite a dismal year in the legal industry on many fronts, the annual Lateral Report in the February issue of The American Lawyer reveals that lateral partner moves in the Am Law 200 reached record heights in 2009. In the 12 months ending September 30, 2009, 2,775 partners left or joined the biggest firms in the country—a 10.6 percent increase in mobility over the prior year. It appears that the economic meltdown actually contributed to the vigor of the lateral market last year. Some firms saw a buyer’s market and decided to go shopping to upgrade their talent pool, while others used the crisis as an opportunity to clean house at the partner level. Also in this month’s issue, the magazine explores how the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) failed to produce the fee windfalls that many law firms expected when the program was initially authorized. For the complete Lateral Report and other stories, visit

Litigation partners, representing 17 percent of all partner lateral moves, led the pack, followed by banking and finance lawyers at 15 percent, corporate attorneys at 10 percent, and intellectual property attorneys at 9 percent.

For the second year in a row, K&L Gates led the listings in most lateral hires, while Sonnenschein posted the largest percentage of partner departures. Both firms experienced significant turnover in their partner ranks: Sonnenschein (56 hires/37 departures), K&L Gates (157 hires/33 departures). And, it wasn’t just midmarket or expansionist-minded firms that jumped into the lateral partner fray. Even old-line New York firms that seldom take in outsiders hired laterally to ramp up hot areas, such as regulatory work.

“This was and will continue to be both a buyer’s and a seller’s market. Firms with cash and daring continue to shop for new talent. Partners with business and a sense of unease put themselves in play. That’s the bright side,” said Aric Press, editor in chief of The American Lawyer. “The sad side is that some of the partners with their resumes on the street are being pushed out by their current firms. And a whole swath of partners moved last year because their firms died.”

In “Great Expectations,” writer Julie Triedman profiles the TARP Gold Rush that didn’t happen. While many law firms salivated at the prospect of helping Treasury negotiate and draw up the complicated loan documents needed to distribute the $700 billion authorized by Congress to prop up defaulting banks, insurers, and auto companies, today they are thinking ruefully of what might have been.

At press time, the Treasury Department had spent only $57 million in TARP-related legal fees, shared by ten firms that signed contracts, providing discounts to their usual hourly rates. Ultimately, those discounts were irrelevant, simply because there wasn’t that much to do. Most firms only wound up with a fraction of the work that they had expected and only Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft received the maximum it was eligible for under its TARP contracts, billing nearly $25 million.

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