Two last items from Leigh Jones’ excellent article in the National Law Journal. Both involve partners departing law firms rather than the more common trend tilted at last week involving associates.
Today, we look briefly at law firm partners departing to become GC. A number of these departures are mentioned:
Some of the more notable moves in recent months from firms to their clients include James Sprayregen from Kirkland & Ellis to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.; Robert Osborne from Jenner & Block to General Motors Corp., and Kurt Wimmer from Covington & Burling to Gannett Co.
Although having top performers join clients is better than a defection to a competing firm, law firms should not overstate the advantages, said Mitchell Dolin, a partner at Covington & Burling in Washington.
After all, the firm has already won over the client before it hires the attorney to join its own ranks.
“The hiring of a general counsel is a really singular decision,” he said. “It’s more of a tribute to the individual and the skill set of the individual.”
I think Mr. Dolin has it exactly right. A partner with a major law firm leaving to become a GC may do it for a lot of reasons. The reality is that as a GC you will get closer to a client’s business consistently than you can ever get as an outside counsel. True, you may be an uber-counselor with the gravitas to be consulted on major acquisitions or a go-to trial lawyer who gets the call when bet-the-company litigation is filed.
But you aren’t in there every day, seeing the law in every way. And when it’s good, there’s nothing better.
And when it’s not, watch out. After all, as a GC you only have one client. If a problem develops, there’s no remaining “book of business” to fall back on.
We will close out this fixation with law firm departures tomorrow, with one that has been looked at, but not on 100x magnification.