Watching a legal powerhouse disintegrate.
8:06 AM, Mar 5, 2011 • By VICTORINO MATUS
In case you missed it, the Washington Post ran a fascinating story on the D.C.-based Howrey law firm, whose annual revenue once swelled to more than half-a-billion dollars but is now on the verge of collapse.
Writes Amanda Becker,
"At its height," Becker reports, "it boasted 700 lawyers in 18 offices, bringing in more than $570 million a year in revenue." So what happened?
2008 and 2009 were not very good years for construction. Revenue declined. Management did not have sufficient answers for their employees who reacted by leaving in droves:
Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported even more grim news:
"A trickle of partner departures can quickly turn into a stream and then a gusher of defections," writes Nathan Koppel in the Journal. "It takes a lot of institutional glue to patch the dike."
My sister, an attorney in New Jersey, has seen a firm's dissolution firsthand. It happens fast, she says.
I remember congratulating a lawyer friend in Dallas who was recently made partner at his firm. His reaction, however, was partly dread—now that he is vested in the firm (unlike junior associates), his fortunes are tied to the company, for better or for worse. It sometimes keeps him up at night—can they afford an addition to the house this year or will they need to take out a second mortgage? My friend added, "They ought to teach a class on how to run firms in law school."