Boston Harbor and Financial District at sunset. Photo: Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock.com

Boston’s hot legal market is keeping law firm recruiters busy, with a number of firms from outside the city adding partners in recent weeks to tap into targeted client bases. The growing demand for the region has some suggesting firms need increased specialization—rather than a generalist approach—to compete for clients and talent.

Industry watchers have pointed to the growing pool of entrepreneurs in Boston as a source of all this movement, as the area’s health care, biotechnology, life sciences and technology sectors grow, and its private equity market strengthens.

Pepper Hamilton and Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, both based in Pennsylvania, are some of the most recent firms to make notable lateral moves in Boston, adding to specific industry-focused practices each firm is looking to grow.

Last week, Pepper Hamilton announced that it had recruited Miranda Hooker, a former assistant U.S. attorney from the health care fraud unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts. She is now a partner in the firm’s health sciences department, a multidisciplinary group in which she will focus on government investigations, health care fraud and abuse, and internal corporate investigations.

In July, Pepper Hamilton brought on partner Callan Stein from Barrett & Singal in Boston, also in the health sciences department. Like Hooker, he focuses on white-collar defense within the health care industry, as well as internal investigations, corporate and commercial litigation and health care litigation.

“We have a really strong and nationally recognized white-collar litigation practice nationwide and we think Boston is a natural place to grow because of our expertise in the firm in the health care industry,” said Todd Feinsmith, partner in charge of Pepper Hamilton’s Boston office, which now has about 40 lawyers. “Boston is a leader, a worldwide leader, in biotech, life science, medical devices and all aspects of the health care industry.”

Also this past summer, Saul Ewing hired two partners from Boston-based Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo, Jeffrey Robbins and Joseph Lipchitz, who added a First Amendment and media practice to the firm. In addition to media clients, Robbins and Lipchitz brought clients in the health care and higher education spaces to Saul Ewing as well. They followed international tax and corporate partner Steven Eichel, who joined Saul Ewing’s 16-lawyer Boston office in June, coming from Sullivan & Worcester.

“We’ve worked real hard to grow that office with quality lawyers,” Saul Ewing managing partner Barry Levin said. Seven years after his firm planted roots in that city, through its acquisition of local boutique Dionne & Gass, “we continue to move toward a full-service office in Boston,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh-based Am Law 200 firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott added two litigation partners from McCarter & English to its Boston office in the spring, as well as an associate. Richard Briansky and Amy Hackett both focus on consumer financial services, construction and real estate, among other complex commercial litigation matters.

Boston’s lateral market has been very active in the last two years, with Kirkland & Ellis, Hogan Lovells, Womble Bond Dickinson and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan among those opening up shop in the city. Polsinelli and Goodwin Procter also added to their Boston offices this year. And Hinshaw & Culbertson recently reaffirmed its commitment to the market by moving its 25 Boston lawyers into a new space under a 12-year lease.

Aside from the hot industries in the city, the lawyers themselves are a draw as well, Feinsmith noted.

“The talent pool in Boston is incredible. It’s a university town and we have some of the best universities in the world, some of the best hospitals in the world,” he said. “Law firms around the country have realized that, and they’ve been coming here with increasing frequency in the last five to 10 years.”

As a result, Feinsmith said, it’s become a “buyers’ market” for clients, and law firms will have to build out a particular expertise to get their share of it. “To compete as a generalist in this market is going to be difficult,” he said.

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