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CHICAGO � Attorneys from several major Chicago law firms that cut partners during the past two years have filed into the city’s legal job market, crowding the in-boxes of legal recruiters, former colleagues and other firm managers with their r�sum�s. Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw; Winston & Strawn; and Jenner & Block have all reportedly asked groups of partners to leave or take nonequity positions at different times since late 2005, forcing lawyers to seek new work. Some additional lawyers at the firms have followed suit, sensing that the changing climate was not quite right for them, recruiters said. While large firms might be less likely to hire the attorneys because of their recent dismissals, small and midsize firms are often eager to take on the lawyers because of their experience at top firms. The attorneys may have potential for bigger books of business or be appealing because of an expertise in a certain practice area. Bryan Cave; Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg; and Seyfarth Shaw are among the firms in Chicago that say they have hired or would consider hiring the attorneys. “Some of these lawyers are extremely well-trained,” said Scott Hodes, a Bryan Cave partner who helped build the firm’s Chicago office. He added that his firm is considering hiring some of the lawyers. Mayer Brown said the reductions earlier this year were made in an effort to cut low-revenue producers and increase its profit-per-partner ratio. Large firms are increasingly interested in boosting their profit-per-partner ratio because that helps them attract new, more lucrative talent. That’s especially important as costs, such as associate salaries, are rising. Different business model Still, some firms have different business models and are less concerned about profit-per-partner figures even though they’re still focused on overall profit. Neal Gerber, a Chicago-based firm with 200 lawyers, is considering hiring as many as five who were previously at Mayer Brown or Winston & Strawn. It doesn’t matter if they were let go as long as they have an expertise the firm needs or a growing book of business, said Neal Gerber managing partner Jerry Biederman. “As nearly as I can tell, none of these people were asked to leave because they’re bad lawyers or because they committed ethical lapses,” Biederman said. Michael Levinson, who leads the litigation group at Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago, said he would consider hiring the lawyers because they’re mainly talented attorneys who may have a specialization important to clients. Firms are particularly interested in attorneys who have real estate, private equity, intellectual property or transactional experience, said Amy McCormack, a co-founder of the Chicago recruiting firm McCormack & Schreiber. The lawyers mainly join small or midsize firms, take in-house positions or move their careers in a new direction, she said. “People recognize the realities of what the practice of law has become; much of the practice is about generating business,” McCormack said. “There are terrific lawyers out there that aren’t terrific business generators.” For smaller firms, attorneys from the three big-name firms can boost the new firms’ profiles and offer some marketing cachet among clients. Some of the dismissed partners may have been held back in their ability to generate revenue because they worked mainly on business for senior partners or had difficulty getting their clients to accept rising big-firm billing rates. “A lot of these people are going to be boons for smaller firms,” said Chris Percival, a recruiter at Chicago Legal Search. The larger firms often give lawyers up to a year to find new work and may assist in the job search. For the sake of job-searchers, the firms are very secretive, even within their own offices, about which partners have been prodded to head for the door. Recruiters say they may not know whether they’re working with such an attorney and they are unlikely to provide the information to a prospective employer if they can help it. “There are people who would characterize it as a taint, but it isn’t really anymore,” McCormack said. “Lawyers across the industry are beginning to recognize that there’s really great talent out there in that pool.”

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