Updated 6:00 p.m.
Jeffrey Lowe has been named the Global Practice Leader of Major, Lindsey & Africa's Law Firm Practice Group. He is also the managing partner of the prominent legal recruiting firm's Washington office. Before opening the firm's D.C. office in 2003, Lowe was a partner at Hogan & Hartson.
How will your new post change the work you've been doing?
There will be more global travel. Part of the goal is to reaching out to firm chairmen and women across the world and tell them about our firm and the different offerings. Often the firms have multiple points of contact with the firm and our goal is to introduce them to one principal contact. Law firms over the last five to 10 years are becoming more scientific in their lateral hiring process. Firms are getting savvier about it and centralizing that function. They are also hiring inside professionals as chief lateral recruitment partners. I think that is a trend you are going to see develop over the next 10 years.
What will your main challenges be with the new post?
I think the goal is to try and stay ahead of the curve. Over the past few years, firms have become more fluid. We see that trend continuing. Law firms are going to continue toward more professional approaches to managing their businesses. When you start seeing the numbers that firms are generating, you realize these are massive businesses. It's still unfeasible to operate the same way they did 20, 30 or 40 years ago. I think that is the biggest challenge for us and the law firms.
Have you seen an increase in lateral movement lately?
Over the last several years, people have been surprised to learn that our partner practice in particular has had a more successful year each year than before. More people expected it to be slower, given the economy. It's been just the opposite. Law firms can get businesses generators from two places, grow them internally or get them somewhere else. If you want to grow the pie, you have to go outside the firm. There is no reason to believe that anything about that is going to change.
Which practice areas are robust these days?
Antitrust has been very hot the last several years as has securities enforcement, IP litigation, Section 337 and FDA and health practices. I think there has been a steady migration by firms to practices that are able to command premium rates and high collection practices. With these high profile litigations, corporate clients are willing to go out and find the best lawyers. They want to make sure that they have the absolute best out there. Firms are naturally gravitating toward those practices. The other thing contributing is the fundamental inability of the capital markets to stabilize. I know the corporate partners are all very anxious and would really like the capital markets to start moving forward again, but the success is false start. Things start to look up and the Dow drops 800 points. None of them have been able to generate huge practices. That is the next area. If the economy can straighten up long enough for the market to right itself, it will only tighten the need for lateral attorneys. Law firms have made themselves very lean.
Are you witnessing any big compensation trends?
[Firm leaders] are much more cautious. When you get in front of a management committee, you see a cautious approach. There is a lot of competition for a lot of top talent. You don't see as many compensation packages that seem to be as out of whack with the size of the practice. While there might be a lot of competition, the pay band is narrower than it used to be. If anything, that was only exacerbated over the past few months with the demise of Dewey.