For many elite law firms, 2020 was still the best year. Judging by some of their new hires, 2021 may be even busier.
Law firms recruited 23.5% fewer associates than other law firms in 2020 than in 2019, according to data released this week by the National Law Enforcement Association. The decline in junior-lawyer moves was even steeper, at about 30%.
But in the second half of 2020, the job was restored. Start-ups were looking for capital. Special Purpose Companies were chasing bids; and companies such as Nvidia, Adobe and Salesforce announced multibillion-dollar acquisitions, starting work on the Big Law. The judges returned to court as vaccinations increased
More billing hours and higher prices combined with reduced travel costs have helped law firms publish new profit records. Total profits in the 100 highest-selling companies in the US increased by more than 13% compared to 2019, according to data from ALM Media, which publishes The American Lawyer.
Rinse with cash and drowning in work, law firms went out in search of new talent. Kirkland & Ellis has offered a sign-up bonus of over $ 200,000 to some partners, Insider reported. By mid-February, law firms at the top of the market had hired more than twice as many associates as they had in the same period last year, according to Bloomberg Law.
“There has never been more side-partner activity at the top level,” said Scott Yaccarino, a recruiter at Empire Search Partners.
Insider spoke with six legal hunters about hiring law firms by June 2021 that hit them hard. Here are the names we hear most often.
Paul Weiss’s start in San Francisco
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison have long been an elite company, with clients such as Apollo, Apple, Blackstone and Exxon. In January, the company formally expanded the West Coast, adding Melinda Haag, a former U.S. attorney in Northern California, colleagues Walter Brown and Randy Luskey, and Jeremy Veit, a private equity attorney at Kirkland & Ellis.
The San Francisco additions were not the only large companies hired in early 2021. In January, it added merger and acquisition lawyer Krishna Veeraraghavan of Sullivan & Cromwell, who represented AB InBev and Amazon in large acquisitions. He later added David Tarr, chief financial officer at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, and Brian Krause, a Skadden tax partner who had made bids for Pfizer and Exxon.
Asher Rubin and Adriana Tibbitts, Sidley
A former leader in Hogan Lovells life science practice, Asher Rubin, who moved with his colleague Adriana Tibbitts, was one of the first lateral moves of 2021. According to their CV, they have advised a long list of pharmaceuticals and biotech companies in negotiations with lenders, investors and major life science players such as Pfizer, Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline.
Bloomberg reports that Rubin brought in more than $ 10 million in business to Hogan Lovells before moving to Sidley. In May, another Hogan Lovells life sciences partner, Adam Golden, moved to Freshfields.
Nick Palumbo, Davis Polk
Nick Palumbo moved from White & Case to Davis Polk & Wardwell in January. Its clients include Golub Capital, Owl Rock Capital and Antares Capital, which have lent billions of dollars to private equity firms and their portfolio companies to finance M&A deals.
The addition came shortly after the abandonment of the traditional “Davst Polk” compensation system. It was the rule to increase the pay of a partner with tenure, instead of how many companies they brought, but most large companies have modified or abolished such systems.
David Portia, Cravath
However, Lockstep is not dead, and the law firms that have maintained it – including Cravath, Swaine & Moore – are often overlooked by clients and competitors. In February, David Portilla, a banking lawyer who helped write Dodd-Frank rules while on the Treasury Department’s Financial Stability Monitoring Board, joined Cravath from Debevoise & Plimpton.
While both companies are known for long-term institutional relationships with customers, Portilla’s move stood out because Cravath rarely makes side hires. The company’s last partner was Katherine Forrest, who returned to Cravath in 2018 after serving as a federal judge.
Sean Moran, Vinson & Elkins
With solar and wind power generation and storage technologies advancing rapidly, Vinson & Elkins hired a team of renewable energy sources led by Sean Moran in February. The team of six lawyers briefed investors and subsidiaries of bulge-bracket banks on financing and tax issues for clean energy projects.
Others on Moran’s team included Mike Joyce, Lauren Collins and Aaron Prince, with most of the team’s lawyers in Los Angeles. The team was joined by Wilson Sonsini, a California-based company that serves technology customers.
Cooley’s start in Chicago
Cooley, one of the many law firms that led the Silicon Valley wave of profits and growth, opened a store in Chicago in May. The company hired nine associates from DLA Piper, Latham & Watkins and Winston & Strawn. This came a month later with the hiring of Matt Kutcher, a former Latham leader who had moved to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago. Bobby Earls, who was in Kirkland, and Lei Shen, a former Mayer Brown.
Eric Sibbitt, Paul Hastings
Eric Sibbitt, who led the busy fintech team at O’Melveny & Myers, went to Paul Hastings’s office in San Francisco in June. A corporate attorney who helps companies negotiate deals and form shares and debt offers has represented Bittrex and the Crypto Evaluation Board, according to statements from his former company.
Jonathan Chou and others, Goodwin Procter
Goodwin Procter, a Boston and Bay Bay hub company known for its focus on the tech and life sciences industries, covered a steady stream of outside partner hiring in the first half of the year with announcements in late June that it had hired twelve lawyers, including a team of nine people from Orrick advising clients in Goodwin key business areas.
Jonathan Chou, Peter Fusco, Geoff Willard, William Wilson and several others were joined by Orrick. The same day, the company said it had hired a pair of partners from Jones Day in Silicon Valley.
“What stands out for Goodwin is just the volume and the collective strength,” the company added this year, said Rachel Nonaka, CEO of search company Macrae.