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partners survivor guilt

The McCormick Group’s Ivan Adler was quoted in Bloomberg BNA about emotion-laden lateral moves out of failing firms.

By Leigh McMullan Abramson | January 13, 2016

New Year, new firm. Along with juice cleanses and ambitious exercise routines, the early days of January bring a burst of partner moves among the Am Law 200 firms. This year is no exception.

A lateral move offers the opportunity of a fresh start, but leaving one firm for another is often an emotionally loaded transaction.

Foremost in the minds of many lateral partners is the question, “‘Am I doing the right thing?’” says Lyndon Parker, Managing Director of JD Search Advisors. “People don’t want to wind up going through the same thought pattern three or four years down the road.”

And as with any long-term relationship, breaking up can ignite a range of feelings. “There can be anger, depression, sadness, glee. The whole spectrum,” says Parker of lawyers transitioning out of firms.

Sentiments often run particularly high in the case of a mass exodus from a troubled firm, where leaving colleagues behind may feel a little like boarding the last life boats off the Titanic.

“If you have business, you have the leverage to leave,” says D.C.-based recruiter Ivan Adler. “But not everybody has the opportunity to leave, and those that get out feel badly for the people left behind. It’s a legitimate human feeling.”

Indeed, “traumatic” is how one partner described parting ways with long term colleagues when he left Dickstein Shapiro in 2014.

Beset by partner defections, Dickstein’s ranks have dwindled to fewer than 150 lawyers from a high of approximately 400 in 2008. The firm has continued to shed attorneys since merger talks with Bryan Cave fell off, most recently with the last of Dickstein’s Los Angeles office decamping to Eisner Jaffe.

To be sure, the final chapter on Dickstein Shapiro has not yet been written. Other firms also experienced significant drops in headcount in this lateral market, and Dickstein, as of late last year, was said to be exploring a number of strategic options.

Nonetheless, a kind of survivor guilt was apparent in some – though certainly not all – former Dickstein partners we’ve interviewed. “This should not have happened to Dickstein,” said a litigator who left the firm in 2014 and viewed Dickstein’s turnover predicament as the result of market shifts and a series of bad breaks (e.g. Dennis Hastert).

Jim Turken, the former managing partner of Dickstein’s L.A. office and executive committee member who joined Eisner Jaffe this week, recently praised Dickstein’s leadership but declined to go into specifics about the firm’s current state of affairs.

Other former partners expressed concern for the firm and its lawyers. One of the most recent partners to leave ended our conversation with an appeal: “Please be kind to Dickstein.”

Of course, parting is not always such sweet sorrow […]

To read the rest of the article, go to | Bloomberg BNA

To contact Ivan Adler, go to | Ivan Adler

Image source | Bloomberg BNA


The McCormick Group is a national executive search consulting firm that since 1974 has delivered high-qualified candidates to fill key positions across a diverse range of industries and all functional disciplines.

As the largest executive search firm based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region, The McCormick Group has superior knowledge of federal Washington and its impact on the nation’s business community and non-profit sector.