It’s the time of year for moving trucks loaded with client files to roll down DC streets under cover of night. “[Law partners] want to leave stealthily,” says James Durfee, a vice president at the Kane Company Office Movers.
The start of a new year is a busy time for Durfee’s company, which works with a number of local law firms. Partners often wait till January or February—after they’ve received their final payouts from the annual profit pool—to jump to a new firm.
Forget the cheery office goodbye parties common in other professions. Law-firm departures routinely occur within 24 to 48 hours of a lawyer’s giving notice to partners that he or she is leaving. That’s because once a partner resigns, the competition for clients begins.
And things can get intense. Matthew Logan, Durfee’s coworker who specializes in law-firm moves, says that during one job a firm had police surround the moving truck to keep the departing partner from taking client files to his new firm. Logan has also had firms bar him from using the elevators, just to make the move that much harder.
Even lawyers on relatively good terms with their ex-employers don’t waste time on their way out the door. Jeffrey Hare, who left Alston & Bird’s Washington office at the end of 2009 for DLA Piper, resigned on a Sunday night, packed up on Monday, and started at DLA on Tuesday. “It’s just firm policy,” Hare says. “Your access key to the building is turned off, and your computer access is shut down.”
Another Washington partner who recently jumped firms resigned while on vacation and found himself in a foreign country without a working BlackBerry because the firm immediately cut off the service. Robert Reznick left Hughes Hubbard & Reed’s partnership for Orrick’s Washington office in January. He declines to offer specifics but says his move was also quick.