Law Firms

Locke Lord chair is 'bullish on Boston' despite lawyer losses

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Locke Lord’s Boston office has lost dozens of lawyers acquired as a result of a January merger with Edwards Wildman Palmer, according to a published report.

Thirty-one lawyers have left the former Edwards Wildman office in Boston, including 10 partners, since the end of April, the Boston Business Journal reports. The departures follow “significant declines” in partner compensation in that office that left some partners owing money to the firm, the story says.

Locke Lord’s Boston office currently has 95 lawyers, though some of them also spend part of their time in other cities. The office had 118 lawyers in April.

In an interview with the ABA Journal, Locke Lord chair Jerry Clements stressed that Locke Lord has a strong and continuing commitment to the Boston office and its clients in the Northeast. “Departures happen, we know that, but I will tell you to my knowledge, no one left because of the merger,” she said. “We are very bullish on Boston.”

Several lawyers told the Boston Business Journal they left partly because of the drop in compensation. Revenue at Edwards Wildman dropped more than 6 percent in 2014, and some partner draws that year paid out more than warranted by earnings.

Those who were overpaid received a Locke Lord memo saying they owed the firm money, but the debt would be forgiven if they stayed with the law firm for two years, according to the Boston Business Journal account.

Matt McTygue, managing partner of Locke Lord’s Boston office, told the Boston Business Journal that most of the departures weren’t unexpected, though some have been disappointing. He and Clements expect the Boston office will be adding lawyers through lateral hires this year and next.

Clements expressed optimism in an interview with the ABA Journal, pointing to excellent practitioners in Boston and plans to grow the office. Locke Lord is actively recruiting laterals, or groups of laterals, with energy-based and real-estate practices for the Boston office, Clements said. “We’ve got a lot of good things in the works right now, and we’re excited about that.”

She adds that the law firm has “the team in Boston that we want.” Besides the private equity and fund formation practices, the Boston office has skilled practitioners in public finance, litigation, real estate and intellectual property, she said. The office also has a strong record of cross-selling legal services, an indication of the synergies Locke Lord expected with the merger, she said.

Clements said Edwards Wildman has a great history and strong resources, but it had already lost lawyers and was at a crossroads before the merger with Locke Lord. “They needed to undertake some painful steps to get to a much better place,” Clements said. “The combination has provided the resources to allow that undertaking to begin. Those efforts are bearing fruit.”

Clements declined to be specific about the kinds of challenges facing Edwards Wildman, but she did comment on the types of challenges faced by all law firm leaders in today’s legal environment. They include: Do you have a strategic vision? Are you able to compensate your partners at market rates? Do you provide a platform that provides lawyers the opportunity to work with great clients on interesting and exciting matters? Are you making sure your lawyers are good lawyers and productive lawyers?

“The legal environment is changing. The firms that [are] successful in the long term have to change with it, and change is difficult sometimes,” Clements said. “We have taken great steps in this combination to remain competitive and viable and strong, not just in Boston but around the world going forward.”

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