Table of Contents of this Article:
California Largest Law Firms Survey Finds High Attorney Turnover
California Largest Law Firms Survey by the California Lawyer Magazine:
The most notable changes in the past year at firms with the biggest presence in California involved mergers and hiring. One major reshuffling has reshaped Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, a mainstay of our annual California 50 list of the state’s largest firms (see chart below). And a merger that took effect just after the June 30 reporting cutoff for the list could add international powerhouse Dentons for the first time next year.
Last November, Morgan Lewis took on 47 partners and 58 associates in California from Bingham McCutchen, which is in dissolution. Morgan Lewis now has 350 lawyers in California, including a new twelve-attorney office in Santa Monica. The move gave a big boost to the litigation groups in the firm’s patent, trade secrets, white collar, and commercial practices.
“IP is an area where we already have an incredible team, but that’s always an area where we’re looking to grow,” says Molly Moriarty Lane, co-managing partner of Morgan Lewis’s San Francisco office. “We’re trying to digest what we have now, and then [we’ll be] looking for opportunities to add strategically.”
On July 1, Dentons merged with McKenna Long & Aldridge. The firm says it now has 190 lawyers and professional staff in California but declined to break out the attorney count. Dentons added McKenna’s San Diego and Orange County offices, and its co-CEO for the United States, Jeffrey Haidet, says the firm plans to further expand its public policy, litigation, and transactional practices in California.
“California and New York remain the two hottest places in the country for firms that want to grow and expand,” says principal Ward Bower with consulting firm Altman Weil.
But it’s a national trend: The first half of 2015 brought 48 law firm deals in the United States, according to Altman Weil. That’s the highest midyear tally since the firm started counting mergers nine years ago.
Although many firms may be wary of joining forces, Bower says, that won’t stop prospective shoppers: “I think we can expect to see continued activity.”
Other California 50 firms grew significantly without mergers, including Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear; Laughlin, Falbo, Levy & Moresi; Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester; and Munger, Tolles & Olson.
Knobbe Martens managing partner Steven J. Nataupsky says the firm’s clients are emerging “strongly” from the Great Recession. The firm added 27 attorneys in California and plans to add a total of 30 more across all seven of its offices this fall, Nataupsky says. More than half will be based in Orange County.
Numbers for the hiring of associates varied widely, but the share of first-years joining California 50 firms declined from 51.8 percent of all associates hired in 2013–14 to 43.7 percent this year. (The figures include only the 46 firms that provided detailed data on new hires.)
Our survey also found high turnover nationally and in California: 26.8 percent of all U.S. associates working at California 50 firms—and 26.5 percent of those in California—were new hires.
“There’s plenty of lateral activity in California,” says Bower, adding that this has been true for years and is likely to continue.
Natasha Innocenti, a partner with the legal-recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa in San Francisco and Palo Alto, says she’s seeing a lot of lateral movement among corporate transactional partners, especially lawyers seeking to join firms with the largest transactional departments. Firms on the California 50 took on 830 lateral partners nationwide, including 206 in California, according to our survey. “They want strong associate support; they want strong ancillary services … they want a footprint that supports their client work,” she says.
Innocenti says there was extra activity among capital markets and M&A attorneys in California. “Competition for corporate talent in San Francisco is high,” she says. “[It’s] a very frothy market.”
Fee income grew at 80% of firms last year, PwC research finds (17.7)
RBS survey finds outsourcing and consolidation to rise as firms adapt to new legal market (17.2)
California Supreme Court Enforces Class Action Waivers in Employee Arbitration Agreements (16.5)
How to Predict Client Portability (16.5)
California Supreme Court Rules on Class Waivers (16.4)
Legal firms management improvements (16.3)
French High Court Rules on Parent Companies’ Liability to Subsidiaries’ Employees (16.3)
Beveridge & Diamond Secures Favorable CARB Determination in Offset Investigation for U.S.’s Largest GHG Offsets Provider (16.1)
Morgan Lewis Partners Approve Bingham Deal (15.4)
HSF and DLA have the lowest proportion of partners over 50, research finds (14.9)
Assessing the Client Bonds of Lateral Candidates (14.7)
New Survey Finds Veterans Thriving in Franchise Industry (14.6)
Investing in the future with client care. A Lawyer´ strategy (14.4)
The 2014 U.S. Bank Small Business Annual Survey Finds The ACA Is Causing Employers To Cut Staff And Reduce New Hires (14.1)
“This was a high priority when I became chair”: Akin Gump’s chief on landing the Bingham London group (13.8)
Court Finds No CEQA Necessary For Utility Cabinets on San Francisco Sidewalks (13.6)
ISS Publishes Results of Annual Global Voting Policy Survey (13.5)
FDA Proposes Overhaul of Nutrition Facts Labeling (13.4)
Assessing the Client Bonds of Lateral Candidates (13.4)
Jersey City Passes Paid Sick Leave Ordinance (13)
A smaller world – Australian firms see dramatic drop in partner headcount (12.9)
Automotive News, 3/2014 (12.9)
New Revenue Recognition Standard Will Likely Affect Most Companies and Require Pre-Adoption Planning (12.8)
Lawyers & accountants (12.5)
12 New Laws California Employers Need To Know (12.4)
Ethics Guardians Are Falling Behind (12.3)
California’s High Speed Rail Project. Are We Done With the Drama? (12.3)
Make The Time to Develop Business (12.3)
Layoffs, Liquidation May Follow Bingham, Morgan Lewis Deal (12.2)