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Wiley Rein co-founder says he’s not sure he would form firm today with fewer than 40 lawyers

Posted May 9, 2013 6:50 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A lawyer who helped form Wiley Rein 30 years ago isn’t sure he would do the same thing today.

The reason? Today’s economic climate. Wiley Rein now has about 275 lawyers, but it was formed 30 years ago with only 37 lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis and two from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Name partner Richard Wiley says times are different, according to The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.

Here is a Q and A from the interview:

The BLT: "Considering the legal climate, would you have founded your own firm today?"

Wiley: "I'm not sure that I would. I think today would be more difficult to start with 37 lawyers and compete. Clients are looking for a variety of services and sophistication that is hard to have with 37 people. We were largely a communications firm when we started out. To have a practice that covers many different fields, I think it would be more difficult today. But people are doing it."

An early challenge for the firm was recruiting, co-founder Bert Rein told the blog. When the firm was small, some lawyers may have feared the move was risky. “The irony is Dick and I were wooed by Dewey Ballantine and Joe Califano,” Rein tells the blog, referring to the law firm that merged and then filed for bankruptcy last year. “I remember going to lunch with him and he said, ‘You guys, there is a lot of uncertainty, and you're too small. You need the security of a big firm like Dewey.’ ”

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