Under Market Pressures, Pa. Partners Play Musical Chairs

By: Lizzy McLellan

Pennsylvania-based firms have been increasingly looking to grow their revenue through head count and geographic expansion. Sometimes, that means taking from a neighbor.

The lateral markets in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have been steadily active over the past 18 months, as law firm growth becomes an increasingly zero-sum game. And while in the past firms may have been hesitant to recruit lawyers from fellow Pennsylvania-based firms, that is no longer the case.

Jeffrey Lowe, global practice leader at Major, Lindsey & Africa, agreed that cutthroat lateral hiring is a fact of competition at every level in the industry. And while it’s hardly a new phenomenon in Philadelphia or anywhere else, “I think it’s accelerating” he said. “There used to be, for lack of a better word, a gentlemen’s agreement among law firms not to poach from one another in their home market,” Lowe said. “Those have really started to fall to the wayside in all cities.”

Accelerating Movement

Philadelphia-based Cozen O’Connor has been one of the more aggressive firms in Pennsylvania when it comes to lateral hiring, even though, CEO Michael Heller said, growth in Philadelphia has not been central to the firm’s strategic plan. Still, Heller made a nod to the “gentlemen’s agreement” to which Lowe referred.

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