September 26, 2011
Your Law Firm Craters; Then What?
Posted by David Zaring

Wharton just had Chris Rider in to talk about what happened to the lawyers from the six big law firms that dissolved during the financial crisis - you know, Thelen, Dreier, Heller Ehrman, &c.  As always with these sorts of projects, some of the most interesting stuff to non-specialists is the descriptive stuff; 88% of the lawyers found jobs, most with one of the 250 largest law firms, and partners did better than associates.  But what Rider was really interested in was how your network affected the quality of your next job, given that who you know probably really matters in that endeavor.

But how do researchers figure out who you know?  Rider looked at law school alumni networks, and co-worker networks, and the upshot was that the better predictor of which firm would hire the Heller refugees were the firms that hired other Heller lawyers (and that Heller lawyers hired in groups were more likely to end up at better firms), but that people were more likely to end up in the office of a firm with many of their fellow law school graduates than chance would predict.

I don't really believe that the alma mater of a 15 years out partner makes a difference in where they lateral to, so I suspect that something unobserved is going on there.  And I'm not surprised that firms were more likely to hire Thelen's entire ERISA litigation team instead of some random Thelen lawyer, and that if you were part of a marketable team, all the better for you.  But it's still a pretty interesting project - amid all the angst about what is hapening to the legal profession, this paper has some answers.  There's an early version of it here.

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