When Howrey decided to open a New York office, CEO Robert Ruyak knew that the firm needed lawyers wise to the ways of the city. So three months after the November launch, Ruyak convinced three self-described “old geezers” with 129 years of combined experienced to come aboard. Sure, Michael Armstrong, 74; William Purcell, 65; and Paul Rooney, 69, are old enough to remember Mayor John Lindsay and $6,500 associate salaries. They’re also old enough to have vast networks of contacts that Howrey can now ply for recruits and clients.

Howrey isn’t the only firm eager to snap up senior talent. McDermott Will & Emery poached trusts and estates expert Henry “Terry” Christensen III, 62, from Sullivan & Cromwell in July to globalize its private clients group. LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae hired securities litigator Ralph Ferrara and international arbitrator Arthur Marriott from Debevoise & Plimpton in 2005, when both were in their 60s. And several large firms competed for William Carmell, 67, last fall when he faced mandatory retirement at Winston & Strawn. He is now helping the labor boutique Ford & Harrison grow its New York outpost.