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Courting a Superstar Job Candidate on Stage

Even amongst the lawyers in the Am Law 100, there's still a tippy-top tier of true superstars whom firms will go to any length to attract and retain.  And what better way to lure a lawyer superstar than on stage?  As Ropes & Gray partner John Montgomery learned, the "play's the thing" that ultimately convinced litigation partner Joan Lukey to jump ship for Ropes after 34 years at  Wilmer Hale.

I've got to confess that I nearly missed this adorable story.  After all,  the Am Law Daily headline, "Ropes Lures Longtime Wilmer Cutler Heavy Hitter" that appeared in my aggregator didn't seem any different from the dozens of other similar announcements about partners jumping ship.   In fact, it's only because a longtime friend and former law classmate of mine is a partner at Ropes that I decided to read further.  Seems Montgomery and Lukey were longtime friends since their days at Boston College in the 1970s but Montgomery had never reached out to Lukey until recently, believing that she could play an important role in helping Ropes increase its focus on complex commercial litigation.  Initially, Lukey declined since she had not been looking to leave her firm.  But here's what happened next:

A few days later, Montgomery enlisted William Shakespeare's help. Both lawyers were tapped for roles in a May 21 production of King Lear produced by the Boston Lawyers chapter of the Federalist Society, part of the chapter's annual "Shakespeare and the Law" event. Lukey played the part of Cordelia. Montgomery's role was the King of France, the noble despot who sweeps Cordelia off her feet after Lear takes away her dowry and her greedy fiancĂ© dumps her. In the lawyers' final scene, in which the King of France and Cordelia stroll off the stage with hands clasped, Montgomery slipped an envelope into Lukey's hand. Inside was a contract. "That really pushed me over the edge," she says,  laughing.

In the end, Lukey accepted the offer to move to Ropes, never even asking Wilmer for a counter offer.  And for both Lukey and Ropes, this drama has a happy ending: The firm will give Lukey time to carry out her responsibilities as president of the American College of Trial Lawyers and to work from New York where her daughter will attend law school.   And of course, Ropes will reap some financial benefit from the numerous clients who will move with Lukey, including 18 with pending cases.   

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on June 13, 2008 at 03:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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