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Ducks, Semi Trucks, Upscale Doctors’ Offices, and Your Destiny
published November 06, 2008
Since late 2000, the results of the salary wars that occurred in the legal marketplace should have become quite noticeable. One of our legal recruiters, who has been recruiting for more than 20 years, recently told the story of how just 15 years ago, firms in Los Angeles would almost never fire an associate. This same recruiter actually received a phone call from a major Los Angeles law firm telling him it would pay him $20,000 if he could recruit away one of its attorneys and place that attorney in another firm (where he would also earn a fee). While this may sound drastic, the thought of this firm's forcing the same attorney out, or firing the attorney, was not something the firm wanted to convey. Lawyers at this firm simply did not do that sort of thing.
Today, the legal landscape has changed significantly. Law firms have no problem firing associates or partners. In fact, the relationship between associates and partners, as well as among partners, has become more defined by economic concerns, it seems, than things like collegiality or functioning as a group that supports one another in all respects. This was not always the case. The explosive growth of firms like the now-defunct Brobeck Phleger & Harrison in 1999 and 2000, for example, was largely fueled by the acquisition of mercenary partners who all grouped together because Brobeck could pay them the most money. Money was the defining characteristic of these relationships. When the firm could no longer afford to pay explosive salaries to partners, one of San Francisco's oldest and most prestigious law firms simply collapsed.
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