Insights & Resources

Delicate balance: When law firms hire experienced lawyers, a comprehensive acclimation process begins

When a large practice group leaves a local law firm, they’re often either establishing a boutique firm or paving entry for a large out-of-town firm.

But three of the area’s biggest recent departures, reflecting more recent trends, were flights to other Pittsburgh firms.

In May 2010, 14 professionals, including seven lawyers, joined Reed Smith LLP from Pepper Hamilton LLP. The contingent was led by Dusty Elias Kirk, co-chair of Pepper’s real estate practice and a member of Pepper’s executive committee. A year later, Reed Smith added a group of 14 that included 11 lawyers to create an e-Discovery practice that works within its Global Customer Care Center in Pittsburgh. They had been previously part of the e-Discovery Analysis & Technology Group at K&L Gates, led by David Cohen, who had been co-founder of K&L’s e-Discovery group.

In December, 16 lawyers, two paralegals and two support staffers, joined Babst Calland from Tucker Arensberg PC. Led by Bruce Rudoy and Steve Silverman, the group specialized in title work and had grown rapidly because of burgeoning activity in the energy sector.

These lateral moves are giving law firms talent, connections and new clients. Reed Smith picked up Kirk, who comes with several big-box clients and connections, and Cohen, who enabled the firm to create a new practice, while Babst Calland, known for its energy work, gained technical expertise in title work that the company hopes will expand its capabilities for clients in the shale.

“We’re focused on providing our energy clients with the breadth and depth of legal services they need to carry on their businesses in this region,” said Chip Babst, Babst Calland managing shareholder. “I talked with Bruce Rudoy about where our energy practice was going and where his was going, and it all flowed from there. This was a very natural combination of a very sophisticated energy practice on the M&A and title side that Bruce developed and our environmental, land use and litigation group. It’s a perfect fit.”

After seeing many law firms do no lateral hiring in 2009, the National Association of Law Placement said a rebound occurred in 2010, when it rose by 38 percent. The group also noted in an April 2011 report that the Northeast saw the highest level of lateral hiring, with an average of 7.5 lateral hires in 2010.

Lori Carpenter, president of Downtown-based recruitment firm Carpenter Legal Search, said the key to keeping new groups of laterals on track is realizing that the effort by the firm isn’t short-term.

“After the first three months, the rubber hits the road,” she said. “The lawyers have started to get into a routine, but it’s got to be a continuing process with the entire partnership helping the new lateral partners feel part of the team, and it takes time and effort.”

Read More: Delicate balance: When law firms hire experienced lawyers, a comprehensive acclimation process begins - by Patty Tascarella, Pittsburgh Business Times

Keep In Touch

Would you like to be kept apprised of the latest CLS news and opportunities?