Associates Look to Midsize Firms for Experience, Stability

, New York Law Journal

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While large firm associates looking to move to a smaller firm routinely bring first-rate credentials, excellent training and familiarity with complex matters, they may lack the hands-on experience a midsized firm is looking for.

Ronald Shechtman, managing partner of Pryor Cashman, said one young litigator whom Pryor hired from a larger firm said he had worked at more matters in four months at Pryor than his four years at the larger firm.

"If we're looking for a senior associate [in litigation], obviously we want to know this is someone who has motion practice, who had done depositions," Shechtman said. On the corporate side, his firm looks for associates who have been involved in merger and acquisition transactions and corporate finance.

"Absolutely, we have to measure experience of someone who has been at a large firm," Shechtman said.

Jay Fialkoff, managing partner of 90-attorney Moses & Singer, said "some associates in large firms have worked in large document discovery and may not have experience we would like them to have after being out three or four years, so it could be a problem."

But, he said, "we assess that and we might consider putting them in a different class."

Large firm associates are attracted to midsize firms because they offer a faster track to partnership, greater client exposure and the ability to build a practice because of more competitive billing rates, said Scott Mollen, partner of 160-attorney Herrick Feinstein.

"They may have felt that they were getting lost in the larger firm, and the past image of larger firms offering more stability is not so nowadays," Mollen said. "They have seen large firms dissolve and they have seen large firms reduce their partnership and associate ranks."

Evan Krinick, co-managing partner at 145-attorney Rivkin Radler said his firm has had success in bringing in associates from larger firms. "Part of the impetus for the attorneys to join us is the assurance that they're going to be more actively involved with clients and court proceedings" compared with their prior firms, Krinick said.

Small and midsize firms recognize that associates from larger practices may have less hands-on experience, Mollen said, but he said it's only a problem if the smaller firm doesn't recognize other factors. Large firm associates have usually gone through careful screening and have superb credentials and training, Mollen said.

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