(NEW YORK, NEW YORK April 18, 2013) With increasing frequency, law firm partnerships are pondering protocols applied to the departures of highly productive partners-especially rainmakers. Last week, Weil Gotshal and Manges faced the planned defection of two of its partners quite differently from the norm.
Traditional wisdom has been to circulate a memo wishing such partners well with implicit gratitude for the Firm’s greater strength without them. WGM’s managing partner, Barry Wolf employed a harder nosed strategy—calling out two partners who are en route to Quinn Emmanuel as disloyal, as if they were traitors and proceeding with a strategy designed to compromise their expectations of a quick and easy transition.
The vast majority of major law firms have traditionally waived whatever requirements of notice that have existed their partnerships, However, in the past several months, numerous partners at other firms have suggested this is a bubbling issue.
A few have reported partnership agreement amendments that call for longer notice, notably including Greenberg Traurig which changed its rules late last year according to one partner who is quietly exploring greener pastures.
There is also an increasing focus on integrating the practices of incoming lateral partners with a view toward holding business relationships that arrive with them in the event that they depart once more.
It is undeniably good business for both firm and client to widen and deepen the access points for suitable talent. It is generally unrealistic for a Firm to presume that the Firm is more important to clients than the lawyers they have come to count on as their point persons for their legal matters.
And, it is folly for a Firm to make the sacrifice that is caused by restraining a partner, or even allowing a partner to leave on a delayed timetable. Almost inevitably, to do so is to poison the environment and dissipate morale instantaneously.