In a climate where clients seek a wider range of expertise from the law firms they hire, along with the economies of scale that only a larger operation can provide, it's not at all unusual to see large chunks of one firm join forces with another.
Exhibit A: earlier this month, there were widespread reports in the Connecticut legal community that 15 lawyers at the Farmington firm of Levy & Droney are moving to the Hartford office of Providence, R.I.-based Hinckley Allen & Snyder, effective January 1.
The attorneys being absorbed by the regional firm, including name partners Coleman B. Levy and John F. Droney, will make the move to the Stilts Building in downtown Hartford. The remaining five Levy & Droney lawyers will be left to fend for themselves. Levy & Droney, a 38-year-old firm that has ranked in the top 25 in Connecticut in terms of annual gross revenues, will reportedly be dissolved in the process.
The move will boost the size of Hinckley Allen's Hartford office to about 35 lawyers. Hinckley Allen, which will have about 155 attorneys once the hirings take place, also has offices in Boston, Concord, N.H., and Albany, N.Y.
The firm entered the Connecticut market with a similar bulk hiring effort in 2008, when it acquired 25 lawyers from the now-defunct New Haven law firm of Tyler Cooper.
Marc A. Crisafulli, managing partner for Hinckley Allen, declined to discuss the most recent hiring deal. But he said the firm has been methodical in expanding its business plan in Connecticut, starting with the Tyler Cooper acquisitions five years ago. That entry into the Connecticut market, he said, was 13 years in the making.
"In Connecticut, like all of our markets, we're always looking to add good people to add to our culture and help us build a more successful firm for the future," Crisafulli said.
The firm's culture, he said, is not one based on growth just for the sake of growing, but rather one built on long-term sustainability. "We're looking for people who are interested in the collective practice of law."
Without discussing the Levy & Droney hires specifically, Crisafulli acknowledged making a decision to bring in lawyers from a single law firm can be a way to add clients, while gaining lawyers who share Hinckley Allen's vision. "For us, it generally starts with people who are known to us," he said. "Usually, someone in our firm has worked with them and has a good personal connection. When we get people that come from smaller firms, it's usually that they are entrepreneurial, they have great client relationships, but they can't provide all the types of services that address the needs of their clients."
For example, Crisafulli said, a smaller firm might have a corporate client who needs expertise in federal law governing pensions under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. "With ERISA, you can't have someone doing that part time," he said. "If you're a smaller firm, you're not going to have an expert on hand who can help that client. But a firm like ours can."