Law Firms

Younger Partners Ascendant at Cravath, ‘Not Your Grandfather’s’ Law Firm


The culture is changing at Cravath, Swaine & Moore as partners in their 30s and 40s are handling high-profile work that once would have gone to older lawyers.

The older generation of lawyers was on board with the “sea change,” the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports, partly because their pay wasn’t cut when work went to the younger partners.

“Founded in 1819 and home to about 500 lawyers, Cravath for years was content serving its blue-chip client base, including the likes of CBS Corp. and International Business Machines Corp.,” the story says. “An old joke about Cravath said business development meant partners picking up the phone on the third ring instead of the fourth.”

In the past, the story says, Cravath was reluctant to take on hostile transactions out of fear that its blue-chip clients would object. No more. In one example, the firm handled a $5.1 billion bid for Airgas Inc., despite its prior representation of the company on some financing issues.

The firm is also representing clients in deals that aren’t as well known, getting referrals from investment banks and others, and cultivating relationships, the WSJ says.

The story quotes James Woolery, a 41-year-old partner. “We’re more aggressive than we used to be,” he said. “This is not your grandfather’s Cravath.”

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