As Hiring by Top Firms Starts, Big Law Gets Bigger
The biggest firms in the District have grown their local rosters in 2011, an obvious shift from the past couple of years when many law firms postponed hiring as they try to wade though the recession.
Nine of the ten biggest law firms in Washington have added lawyers to their roster, increasing the number of associates between one and five percent.
According to Jeffrey Lowe, the D.C. office managing partner of recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, “Starting toward the end of 2010, law firms really saw the economy taking a turn for the better and got more aggressive about hiring again.”
The firms that beefed up their roster locally focused growth in financial services, antitrust, white-collar, health care and intellectual property litigation. According to observers, this is an indication that big law in Washington is making cautious but combined efforts to build up in strategic areas.
Covington & Burling, the largest firm in the region, reported the biggest growth, hiring 25 attorneys to reach 526 – a five percent jump compared to September of last year. Most of the new hires are part of the long-term move to solidify the bank regulatory practices and financial services of the firm. This was revealed by Tim Hester, the chairman of the firm’s management and executive committees.
Modest growth in the District also reflected the Washington legal industry’s ability to weather the impact of the recession, which triggered the massive layoffs at many top law firms since 2008.
Mike Naeve, the head of the Washington office of Skadden, said, “In Washington, we tend to have certain practice areas where the activity is often not connected to the economy. Regulatory work in general is not as connected to economic activity as transactional work.”