Keith Wetmore, who served as chair of Morrison & Foerster between 2000 and 2012, is announcing a career change.
Wetmore, 61, will join the legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, where he will focus primarily on helping law partners change firms. His last day at MoFo as chair emeritus will be Dec. 31, he told Big Law Business in an interview. He will join MLA in San Francisco shortly after.
“It’s actually been something of an escape fantasy for me for years,” he said of legal recruiting. “I love talking to people about their careers and I love helping partners succeed.”
Legal recruiting for large law firms can be a highly lucrative business. Placement firms such as MLA, Mestel & Co., and Lippman Jungers focus on moving partners. These firms often staff former practicing lawyers who can out-earn the partners they are moving. Salaries vary drastically because compensation is determined largely on commission, but several recruiters in the field said that top performers can earn anywhere between $1 and $6 million. Law firms often pay recruiters 25 percent of the annual compensation of the partner they place.
In May, Richard Hsu, formerly an intellectual property practice leader at Shearman & Sterling, also joined MLA in San Francisco. The firm also staffs a number of former Big Law executives and lawyers including Jane Roberts, the wife of chief justice John G. Roberts, Jr. of the U.S. Supreme Court. She was previously executive partner for talent development at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.
Wetmore said he was not making the leap for financial reasons.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have spent 35 years in a career that is, by most standards, quite lucrative,” said Wetmore. “I’m not doing this because I need to put food on the table. I’m doing this because I enjoy seeing logical deals done in the lateral partner market.”