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Bye Bye Bingham: What Associates Should Do in a Firm Merger

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By William Peacock, Esq. on November 25, 2014 11:56 AM

Congrats Morgan Lewis: you've now an even bigger BigLaw firm.

Last week, Morgan Lewis acqui-hired most of Bingham McCutchen, bringing on 525 lawyers and staffers, as well as 226 partners from the now-former firm. The move expands Morgan Lewis to around 2,000 lawyers in 28 offices, reports the ABA Journal. It means more or expanded practice areas for ML, and a few fleeing partners from the new conglomerate -- of the 307 listed partners at Bingham, 226 are making the move. The rest, presumably, are headed for other BigLaw firms. Thirty Bingham staffers are losing their jobs as well.

As for the associates, it looks like most, if not all, are making the cut. Here are a few thoughts for them, as well as anyone who doesn't make the cut:

If You Made the Cut

Congratulations. You just went from being a small fish in a big pond to being a minnow in a freaking ocean. And with the acquisition of 226 partners by your new firm, the odds of you joining those swelled ranks some day are probably slim.

If your team is making the move intact, and you're happy with your future colleagues, it might be worth making the move and treading water for a few years.

But if you're jumping into a new team, and you have a few years of experience, perhaps it is time to look to move laterally, because really, with all those lawyers moving to Morgan Lewis, there is going to be some bloodshed down the line. Also, if your division is now top-heavy with acqui-hired partners and senior associates, you need to think long and hard about your chance of having a successful career there.

Also, considering the number of lawyers that are making the move, you're now probably auditioning for your job, a la a new fresh-faced associate. Not everyone who makes the move is going to be kept on staff. Act accordingly.

If You Didn't Make the Cut

It seems like everyone did, but again, with more than 700 people moving to the newer, bigger, firm, not everyone is going to stick around. You really have two choices: look for lateral opportunities or flee for the less stressful life of not-BigLaw.

Consider in-house work. Consider mid-sized or small firms. Consider opening your own firm. Yeah, it stinks to be forced into making a bold move, but sometimes a forced hand can be a blessing in disguise.

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