An exclusive study conducted by The McCormick Group reveals a significant increase in the number of Washington, D.C.-based Chambers-rated lawyers that switched firms in 2016.
The study showed that of 978 lawyers rated by Chambers in its D.C. section, 42 (or 4.3 percent) changed firms in 2016. Only 2.6 percent of Chambers-rated attorneys moved in 2015, while 3.8 percent moved in 2014.
Six of the moves in 2016 related to a large merger that was finalized early that year, the merger of Dickstein Shapiro with Blank Rome. Five moved to Blank Rome, while one moved to another firm.
Unlike previous years, the study shows that the vast majority of lawyers who changed firms went to larger firms. In addition to the five lawyers who moved to Blank Rome, 24 moved to a larger firm and just 12 went to a smaller firm. (One Chambers-rated lawyer went from a government position to a solo practice.) In 2015, 12 of the 23 lawyers who switched firms went to a smaller firm.
One other finding relates to movement of groups. Besides the five lawyers that moved as a result of the Blank Rome-Dickstein merger, only 10 others moved as part of a team of Chambers-rated lawyers. Each case involved just two lawyers moving together, including one situation involving a partner and an associate.
Analysis: While the number of Chambers-rated lawyers who changed firms in 2016 increased from previous years, it’s important to note that the percentage of those moving is still relatively small, particularly when one considers the heavy competition for laterals among the 160+ firms in the AmLaw 200 which have a D.C. office.
It is also interesting that given the strong preference that many firms have for large groups of attorneys, only 35.7 percent of the attorneys moved as part of a group of Chambers-rated lawyers, including those who went to Blank Rome as part of the Dickstein merger.
Finally, while in past years about half the laterals were going to smaller firms because of such factors as increasing billing rates, lack of flexibility, and conflicts, it appears that, among top laterals, the quest for the national and global platform has won out. This is consistent with two recent studies showing that the largest firms, particularly those in the first quarter of the AmLaw 200, reported better financial performance in 2016 than the rest of the AmLaw 200.
A note about methodology: this study only included lawyers rated in the D.C. section of the Chambers ratings, and did not include D.C.-based lawyers who are rated in the National section.
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