Business of Law

Another BigLaw firm drops a less lucrative estates practice. Was lockstep compensation the reason?

Debevoise & Plimpton is eliminating its trusts and estates practice, following in the steps of Biglaw firms Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.

Estates work is less lucrative for law firms than deal-making and litigation, explains the New York Times DealBook blog. The work doesn’t require armies of junior lawyers that can create more profits. And many wealthy clients don’t want to pay BigLaw rates that can reach $1,000 an hour.

Another factor is Debevoise’s lockstep compensation system, sources told DealBook. Under the firm’s pay model, the estate group’s only partner would be paid the same amount as a star rainmaker with the same years of experience, even while producing fewer revenues. “This created some discord in the partnership ranks,” the story says.

The decline of trusts and estates practices at large law firms has led to creation of more boutiques that focus on the practice area. And there are some larger firms that continue to maintain an estates practice, including McDermott Will & Emery, Schulte Roth & Zabel, and Katten.

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