BigLaw Luring Partners Like Hollywood Stars

By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 01, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

BigLaw firms are courting partners like they were Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes, according to reports.

It's basically the money, says the New York Times. Firms like Kirkland & Ellis are wooing away star partners with seven figure salaries -- sometimes three times more than their prior firms paid them.

Of course, there are other perks that come with big money. As it happens in celebrity world, however, it doesn't always work out so well for the supporting cast.

Star Partners

The Hollywood-like lure has been going on for a while. Gibson Dunn may have started it with a hiring spree in London.

Not to be outdone, Kirkland & Ellis lured London lawyer David Higgins for a package worth $10 million a year. It's becoming a "new normal" for the Kirkland firm, which now is the highest-grossing law firm in the world with $3.165 billion for last year.

Roy Strom, a lawyer-turned-journalist, says the firm is enjoying a growth spurt on par with pre-recession days. He said most legal market observers didn't think it could be done.

There are growing pains, however, especially when law firms bank on the future.

Growing Pains

In Hollywood, everybody knows how to make a small fortune. You invest a large fortune in a movie.

BigLaw has seen that movie; it was called "Dewey & LeBoeuf." A related problem is when you pay your stars the big money, there is less to go around.

"The Kirkland model risks emphasizing the star at the expense of the team," legal consultant Adam Smith told the New York Times. "The existential risk for a Kirkland is that they go too far and forget all the B players they still really need."

It's like Batman & Robin. When was the last time you saw Robin in a Batman movie?

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