In what Eric Bernthal, managing partner of Latham & Watkins' Washington office, called a show of confidence, the firm promoted 23 associates to partner yesterday and another 13 to counsel. Of those, six of the new partners and a new counsel will be based in Washington.
The promotions mark a strong play in Latham's corporate practices, which were hardest hit by the economic downturn last year. According to this year's National Law Journal 250 survey (available in Monday's edition of the NLJ), Latham lost 444 lawyers during 2008. The firm's round of layoffs in February saw 190 associates pink slipped.
The new class of partners includes 12 corporate partners and 5 new finance partners. Half of the six new partners in Washington have corporate practices. Latham's promotions will also add to its ranks in regulatory and litigation, including its health care, intellectual property, white collar, and securities practices among others. All of the promotions take effect on Jan. 1.
"The way we see it, we are one of the premier capital markets and corporate players in the world, and these promotions show that we are prepared to vote on talents, not on short term economics," Bernthal said in an interview. "When the economy turns around, and it will, these lawyers will better position us to be there for our clients."
Latham's class is down by about 25% from the 30 promoted last year, but it's still larger than some of the other firms that have announced new partner classes in recent months. Last month, Sullivan & Cromwell announced that it had promoted five associates to partner and Covington & Burling upped 10. Kirkland & Ellis, which was one of the first to announce its new partnership class in early October, promoted 51.