Goodwin Procter is hiring associates to work remotely in cities across the U.S. on a permanent basis as the tech-focused firm looks for a recruiting edge in an increasingly tight labor market for Big Law attorneys.
The Boston-founded firm has quietly hired lawyers in cities including Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, Hartford, Conn., Richmond, Va., and Charlotte, N.C.. It’s also looking for lawyers living in Chicago, Seattle, Maryland, New Jersey, Raleigh, N.C., and Nashville, Tenn.
The move marks one of the most dramatic shifts in a Big Law firm’s hiring strategy since the pandemic closed most law firm offices more than a year ago. It also is a further indication that at least some law firms do not plan to return to the strict, office-centric cultures that have for decades defined the industry.
“We’re looking to attract talented lawyers across a variety of markets where they sit — not just the places we currently sit,” Goodwin’s Chief Talent Officer Heidi Goldstein Shepherd said in an interview.
It also comes at a moment recruiters have called the tightest job market for associates in more than 15 years. Many law firms are offering spring and fall bonuses worth up to $64,000 for associates, who have billed more hours than normal during the pandemic thanks to high demand in practices including capital markets, life sciences, and increasingly M&A work.
Those practices at Goodwin helped fuel a strong financial performance in 2020 when virtually all of the firm’s U.S. lawyers were working remotely.
The firm’s revenue rose more than 11% in 2020 to $1.49 billion while its profits per equity partner were up more than 10% to $2.88 million, The American Lawyer reported. It is one of the fastest-growing firms in Big Law, with revenue roughly doubling in the last decade, thanks in large part to its “convergence strategy,” which oriented practices toward technology-related work ahead of many competitors.
Since the pandemic, some firms have made one-off partner hires in cities where they don’t have major offices—something that would have been unheard of just a year ago. For instance, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan hired a partner to work from home in Atlanta and McDermott, Will & Emery brought on a partner in San Diego, where the firm closed its office in 2011.
But Goodwin is perhaps the largest firm among only a few that have created a remote hiring program for associates. Husch Blackwell, a Kansas City, Mo.-based firm, created a “virtual office” that shifted 40 lawyers to full-time remote status going forward.
Goodwin has U.S. offices in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Santa Monica, Calif. Associates in those offices have made requests to relocate during the pandemic, and the firm is accommodating those lawyers as well, Shepherd said.
“The opportunity for cross-office and cross-border staffing is something that we’ve by necessity really tapped into over the past year, and we just view this as an extension of that,” she said of Goodwin’s remote hiring push.
The list of cities Goodwin is targeting for remote hiring was created in part by client demands and in part by business considerations such as where the firm already pays local taxes. For instance, the firm’s technology clients are increasingly located in Austin and Miami, Shepherd said, making it beneficial to have local lawyers there.
The associates the firm is recruiting have similar credentials to the lawyers in its coastal offices, Shepherd said, and most of them have already worked at Big Law firms. Once possible, the remote associates will travel to the firm’s offices about half a dozen times a year to form in-person connections.
Goodwin’s Chief Innovation Officer Maureen Naughton said offices will still play an important role in the firm’s culture and development of its lawyers, but its physical locations won’t “define” how the firm services clients. The firm’s new strategy has been well-received by prospective hires, she said.
“It’s a growth firm that is excited about the future, and for many associates that is where they want to plant their flag,” Naughton said.