Bloomberg Law
Free Newsletter Sign Up
Bloomberg Law
Advanced Search Go
Free Newsletter Sign Up

Wake Up Call: Lateral Moves Plunge 30% in Year of Covid

Oct. 9, 2020, 12:42 PM

In today’s column, Covid causes a big dive in lateral hiring; Baker Botts is cutting 50 staff, citing Covid’s impact on the way it works; two more Big Law firms said they will not offer Covid bonuses to associates this fall; Reed Smith says it’s reviewing how its London office dealt with sexual misconduct allegations against a partner 15 years ago; a Brooklyn law firm is suing over the New York governor’s latest Covid lockdown plan; Paul Weiss advised IBM on its plan to spin off a legacy IT business to focus its future on cloud business; three Big Law firms are guiding in Morgan Stanley’s $7 billion acquisition of asset advisory firm Eaton Vance Corp.

  • Leading off, Big Law lateral moves of partners and nonpartners shrank 30% in 2020’s first eight months, year-on-year, as the Covid-19 pandemic hit the economy and law firms’ businesses, according to a new report based on data from legal analytics firm Decipher. The report says the biggest drops were in banking, down 33%, and energy, down 30%, while litigation hires dropped 17% and antitrust by 7%. On the flip side, lateral moves in Covid energized bankruptcy practices surged 30%, while the data privacy lateral market soared 46%. (American Lawyer)

  • Baker Botts is laying off 50 staff, “citing a fundamental workplace shift” caused by the pandemic. It’s the latest of several big firms that have cut jobs as the pandemic continues to affect their business and how they work. (Texas Lawyer) As the pandemic pushes law firms to cut costs, their use of outsourcing is accelerating. (

  • Goodwin Procter and Skadden, Arps on Thursday became the latest Big Law firms to say they will not pay special Covid appreciation bonuses to associates this fall. The firm’s leaders said they will take into consideration other firms’ fall bonuses when they pay their regular annual bonuses to associates. (American Lawyer)

  • In early September, Cooley was the first firm to announce it would pay Covid bonuses, then Davis Polk set a much higher $7,500 to $40,000 scale, depending on year, that several firms matched. But Kirkland & Ellis, then Cravath, Swaine & Moore, and O’Melveny & Myers announced they would not offer fall bonuses. Paul, Weiss and Fried Frank joined them earlier this week. (BLAW)

  • Legal blog Above the Law said that because Cravath is the firm that usually sets the industry standard on year-end bonuses for associates, it’s disappointing but not surprising that the “majority of Big Law is playing follow Cravath” on fall bonuses. (Above the Law)

  • Early indications are that companies are cutting legal department salaries and not offering more compensation for additional hours worked as they adjust to the demands of Covid-19, a new study shows. (BLAW)

  • A Brooklyn law firm is suing over New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest Covid lockdown plan that requires firms and other nonessential business to shut down in certain areas with Covid clusters. (New York Law Journal)

  • Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler said it’s offering employees and partners new benefits to help care for elderly family members and children during the pandemic. (

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Reed Smith in London said it’s reviewing how it handled allegations of sexual misconduct 15 years ago against a former partner in its London office. That ex-partner, Charlie Elphicke, went on to become a member of Parliament and is now fighting his conviction for sexual assault of two women who worked for him there. (Global Legal Post)

  • Six law firms are fighting over how to divvy up $8.3 million in attorney’s fees from a $25 million of securities class action settlement targeting a $232 million initial coin offering by Tezos in 2017. (

  • A team of Black, female lawyers led Adtalem Global Education‘s $1.48 billion acquisition of online, for-profit educator Walden University. (BLAW)

  • Paul, Weiss is advising International Business Machines Corp. on its plan to spin off its managed infrastructure services unit, as the company moves to focus on a hybrid-cloud computing business to compete with Inc. and Microsoft Corp. (Bloomberg News)

  • Davis Polk is advising Morgan Stanley on its $7 billion acquisition of investment advisory firm Eaton Vance Corp., advised by WilmerHale, in a deal expected to close in 2021’s second quarter. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett is advising Centerview Partners LLC, financial advisor to Eaton Vance. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)

Pro Bono

  • Hogan Lovells said that it, with the Public Interest Law Center, is representing individuals who have lost family members to gun violence and are joining the city of Philadelphia’s gun control lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (

Laterals, Moves

  • Holland & Knight hired former Virginia deputy attorney general Stephen Cobb as a partner in its public policy & regulation practice group in Washington. Cobb, recently counsel at Troutman Pepper, will co-lead Holland & Knight’s new team advising clients facing actions by state attorneys general. The team’s other co-leader is partner James Schultz, a former Trump White House adviser who joined from Cozen O’Connor, where he was chair of the government and regulatory practice. (

  • DLA Piper said real estate lawyer Rafael Bussière returned to DLA’s partner firm in Brazil, Campos Mello Advogados, as a partner based in Rio de Janeiro. He returns after holding a real estate post for a little more than a year in Brazil’s Ministry of Economy. (


  • Pacific Northwest regional firm Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt said Portland-based employment shareholder Amanda Gamblin was elected to its five-member board of directors, which is now 80% female. (


  • Fenwick & West advised cloud communication platform MessageBird on its $200 million financing round conducted entirely online. (Bloomberg News)

  • At a recent conference, the legal director of Veolia North America discussed what she expects outside counsel to know in an eDiscovery process. (Corporate Counsel)

Wake Up Call will not publish Oct. 12 in observance of the federal holiday. We will resume Oct. 13.

To contact the correspondent on this story: Rick Mitchell in Paris at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at; Darren Bowman at