Business of Law

As Boston-Based Firms Grow Globally, US Competitors Expand in Beantown

Despite a difficult legal economy, some historically Boston-based law firms are expanding. But many are doing so internationally rather than growing their practices at home.

Bingham McCutchen made 15 hires this year, of which five were overseas and none in Boston, reports the Boston Globe. And Ropes & Gray has opened a law office in London with two finance stars from Freshfields.

Meanwhile, a number of out-of-town law firms are establishing or strengthening offices in New England’s business center, eager to claim a share of the finance, biotech and health care matters generated by the city’s corporate community, the newspaper says.

“Boston has been a bit of a target for the national firms over the last couple of years,’’ says Michael Rynowecer of BTI Consulting Group, citing financial services, private equity, education and biotechnology as some of the “legally intensive’’ industries that are alluring to law firms. “If you are not in Boston, you would want to be.’’

Two well-known Philadelphia-based international firms, Morgan Lewis and Pepper Hamilton, each added at least five lateral partners in Boston this year, the article notes. For Morgan Lewis, they were part of a 13-lawyer team lured from Bingham McCutchen to expand the firm’s two-partner local team. And South Carolina’s Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough picked up nine Boston-based lawyers when WolfBlock collapsed.

Also planning significant growth in Boston is Silicon Valley private equity powerhouse Cooley Goward Kronish, which has nearly tripled its attorney roster since opening in 2007 to a current total of 29 lawyers, the newspaper reports.

“The Boston market ranks second only to Silicon Valley in terms of venture capital investment, and our goal is to be as dominant here as we are in the Valley and in other key markets across the country,’’ says partner Christian Plaza. He heads Cooley Goward’s Boston office.

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