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Was WilmerHale a Bad Marriage?

The 2004 merger of two old-line firms -- Boston's Hale and Dorr and Washington's Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering -- was described as a merger of equals and resulted in creation of the 1,000-lawyer powerhouse known today as WilmerHale. But in the merger's aftermath, some lawyers in the firm's Boston office are offering mixed reviews of the outcome, according to reporter Barbara Rabinovitz writing in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

"[Sources are] complaining that WilmerHale's Boston office has a new identity -- one that reflects a tilt toward big 'institutional' corporate clients and away from the old Hale and Dorr's 'entrepreneurial' orientation. ...

"Others warn of the gradual emergence of Wilmer as the home office of the firm and worry that Hale in Boston will be relegated to branch-office status and that its name will eventually disappear from the firm's nameplate."

William F. Lee, the firm's Boston-based co-managing partner, tells Rabinovitz these concerns are unfounded. "This was a marriage, not of necessity or convenience," he says, "this was a marriage of two firms, each at the point of their greatest strength." Others who have left the firm provide mixed reports. "The folks I talk to are happy post-merger," said one former partner. But another said that the firm now places too much emphasis "on pure productivity."

Lee counters the critics, Rabinovitz reports, by invoking the words of former Hale and Dorr partner James D. St. Clair: "Jim always said, 'You're either growing, or you're dying.'"

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on August 24, 2006 at 03:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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