Three law firms with a big Philadelphia footprint are on the move. In recent days, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, and Reed Smith LLP have announced major hires in the United States and abroad.
Morgan more than doubled its size in China with the hiring of a team of 40 lawyers and paralegals. Drinker Biddle announced that it had moved into Texas with the hiring of 23 lawyers there. Reed Smith said it was adding 50 lawyers and other legal professionals in Europe.
The moves reflect the belief by many firms that the fastest path to growth is the hiring of well-established lawyers with profitable practices, rather than just nurturing junior talent over many years.
The trend is most notable in the spate of mergers that has changed the shape of the industry in the last few years, as law firms began to shake off the effects of the recession and look for acquisition targets. Altman Weil, the Newtown Square-based legal-consulting firm, says U.S. law-firm mergers have been running at an accelerated pace, hitting 85 in 2016.
The same incentives that drive mergers also apply to smaller acquisitions or lift-outs, in which one firm acquires all or a substantial portion of another firm's practice in a city, or a legal specialty.
Andrew Kassner, chairman and CEO of Drinker Biddle, said the firm's pickup of 23 lawyers in Dallas, including nine partners, from San Francisco-based Sedgwick LLP, gave the firm entrée into the economically robust Texas market, where many of its clients either are based or have substantial operations.
The Dallas office is Drinker's first foray into the Texas market, and the team from Sedgwick is litigation-focused, Kassner said. But he expects the practice in Dallas will be broadened to include such firm specialties as insurance, corporate restructuring, securities, and other areas of business law.
"There is going to be movement toward consolidation in the law profession, just like other service industries and other sectors of the economy," Kassner said. "Clients would like to have law firms that serve them in more ways, and they are looking for depth of experience."
Morgan Lewis, a 2,000-lawyer firm with offices around the globe, moved to bolster its practice in China with the hiring of 40 lawyers, including nine partners, and other legal professionals in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai. The new partners focus on public and private mergers, China outbound M&As, capital markets, and other business-related matters.
Firm chair Jami McKeon said the new additions will bolster Morgan's ability to represent clients in key markets around the globe. Hong Kong, she said, is particularly important in that regard.
"We have long recognized the importance of Hong Kong as one of the world's principal financial centers, and we have been looking for just the right team there," McKeon said in a statement.
In another cross-border linkup, Reed Smith announced that it has hired 50 lawyers and other legal professionals for its London, Frankfurt, Munich, and Paris offices from King & Wood Mallesons. Reed Smith is a Pittsburgh-founded firm with a large office in Philadelphia and a substantial presence in Europe.
The firm said the new lawyers will bolster its work in M&A, private equity, financial-services regulation, and other areas.