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A few months ago, William Cook found himself in India — New Delhi, to be exact — speaking with a manager for his firm’s second-largest client. They were, thankfully, in an air-conditioned conference room, discussing an outsourcing program, and the very earnest manager wanted to know where the firm conducted its Indian business, because foreign lawyers can’t yet set up shop in the country. Do you have an office in Singapore? the manager asked. No, replied Cook, who at the time worked for Atlanta-based Alston & Bird. Well, then, you must manage it from your Hong Kong office? We don’t have an office in Hong Kong, said Cook. The West Coast? Negative. “At that point, I said, �Please stop asking me where we have offices. I don’t want to keep saying we don’t have one there,’” says Cook. “Everybody laughed, but frankly, I stopped laughing first.” The incident caused Cook to have what he labels an epiphany, one that closely mirrors the experience of many other lawyers in recent years. “Here I am, trying to be a global telecom lawyer, and I’m at a platform that can’t support that contention,” he says. Last month, Cook left that platform, his former firm of Alston & Bird, for DLA Piper, a firm that is all about the platform. And last week, four of his old colleagues joined him ( see chart below). Perhaps most painful for Alston was the loss of the firm’s D.C. partner-in-charge, Frank “Rusty” Conner III, who built the Washington office from scratch, has a lucrative corporate practice, and was just listed in The Best Lawyers in America for the third time. What makes the moves more than the average lateral soap opera is the fact that the firms are in such different places, operating on models at opposite ends of the legal business spectrum. For example, in September, Alston & Bird opened up an office in Dallas, its first west of the Mississippi. It consistently is listed on every “great place to work” survey one can imagine, including Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.” It’s small (relatively speaking), with about 750 lawyers in its six offices. It’s collegial and considered the jewel of Atlanta’s legal community, though don’t say that to King & Spalding.
Making the Jump: Five Partners Who Moved From Alston & Bird to DLA Piper In the Past Month

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