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The movement of attorneys from huge to smaller law firms is becoming more common, according to some recruiters. As big practices get bigger and pursue hefty clients to match that growth, many attorneys who service smaller clients find their careers at odds with their firms’ strategic plan, he said.

The movement of attorneys from huge to smaller law firms is becoming more common, according to some recruiters. As big practices get bigger and pursue hefty clients to match that growth, many attorneys who service smaller clients find their careers at odds with their firms’ strategic plan, he said.

In those cases, moving on to smaller law firms can relieve big firms of partners who don’t match their vision and can benefit departing lawyers eager for support and appreciation from firms better suited to their goals, Barnes said.

Leaving big-firm life apparently was the right move for Len Nannarone. He bid adieu to 2,700-attorney DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary in December to join Sullivan & Worcester as an equity partner. The Boston-based law firm has about 163 attorneys.

A mergers and acquisition practitioner, Nannarone said that he “didn’t have a lot of opportunity to shine” as DLA Piper Rudnick’s attorney numbers soared. He was working as a senior associate at 380-attorney Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich when the firm announced that it was merging with 1,000-attorney Piper Rudnick last year. That deal was quickly followed by Piper Rudnick’s announcement of its merger with London’s DLA, which had about 1,350 attorneys in Europe.

Conflicts of interest became a major obstacle after the firms merged, he said. Either DLA Piper Rudnick already worked for many of the biggest clients or had conflicts with clients that he wanted to bring in, he said.

“I didn’t see a lot of opportunity when the firm represented everyone under the sun,” he said.

Nannarone, 36, previously had practiced at Kirkland & Ellis of Chicago before joining Gray Cary, which he described as a “nimble regional firm” when he was hired in 2003. But the firm seemed intent on finding a large firm to partner with, he said. And as the merger with Piper Rudnick neared, Nannarone said the firm culture that he liked at Gray Cary changed. “We got swallowed up,” he said.

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