Law Firms

‘Tough Slog’ for Only New Partner at Schulte; Brass Ring More Elusive for Many

In a tough economic year, Daniel Hunter stands out: He is the only lawyer who made partner this year at Schulte Roth & Zabel.

His singular accomplishment highlights a trend in the legal profession. Law firms are promoting fewer lawyers to equity partnerships, Bloomberg reports.

Hunter told Bloomberg that he billed 2,382 hours last year and carved out a niche counseling hedge funds about distressed-debt investments. “It was a tough slog,” Hunter said. “When it looked touch and go, I kept telling myself: ‘It’s not you. It’s the economy.’ ”

The publication lists several other firms that promoted fewer lawyers to partner. They include: Dewey & LeBoeuf, promoting six to partner, down from 20 a year before; Mayer Brown, promoting 14 to partner, down from 27; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, promoting seven to partner, down from 15; Latham & Watkins, promoting 23 to partner, down from 30; and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, promoting four to partner, down from six. A source told Bloomberg that Cravath, Swaine & Moore promoted no lawyers to partner; the firm declined to comment.

Cadwalader chairman W. Christopher White explained why there were fewer promotions in an interview with Bloomberg. “Firms become more cautious in a downturn, so you are less inclined to promote from within,” he said. He also said the firm did not hire any laterals last year.

One firm bucked the trend: White & Case is promoting 33 to partner, up from 21 a year earlier. The firm recently lost 13 partners to Latham & Watkins and a 14th to Allen & Overy.

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