In The News
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Buffalo Law Journal: Law Firms Upbeat About Hiring, Growth
Law firms upbeat about hiring, growth
By MATT CHANDLER
Looking for a sign of continued economic recovery? Look no further than the hiring trends of area law firms.
As the new year kicks into gear, many local firms reported an increase in attorneys for 2012. It may seem like yesterday that the talk focused on hiring freezes, layoffs at more than one top firm and fewer commitments from firms to law students.
Now many are hanging out the help-wanted sign again.
Richard Cohen is managing partner of Goldberg Segalla LLP. The Buffalo firm is among those that saw robust growth last year. In 2012, it hired 34 lawyers across all of its offices, including four in Buffalo since August. That pace shows no sign of slowing as Cohen said the firm already added three attorneys this month.
He said the hiring is a natural response to client need.
"Our growth has been historically organic," Cohen said. "We started 11 years ago with seven lawyers and have been taking advantage of two things: The quality of our work and our service model has resonated with our client base, leading to more work and necessitating more hiring. The second thing is the people we are hiring are dynamic attorneys who are creating work of their own."
He said Goldberg Segalla saw so much growth in the Buffalo office it is considering expanding, possibly to the suburbs.
While many companies held on for dear life during the recession, Cohen credits tough times with helping spur growth at his firm.
"We believe we are situated to do the same quality of work as the larger, white-shoe firms have historically done, but at a fraction of the cost to the potential client," he said. "Those firms are billing out at an hourly rate that I would consider extravagant, and in tough times that opened the door for firms like ours to grow."
Among the new hires was Gary Phillips, a Kenmore native who spent the past three years working for a New York City firm before deciding to return home.
"One of the main things that drew me to Goldberg Segalla was the people," Phillips said. "Working with good people has always been important to me, even more important than the type of work I do, and I felt an instant rapport here when I interviewed."
He said he appreciates the fact that the Buffalo firm is every bit as driven to succeed as a larger, New York City firm and that is was an appealing landing place for attorneys like him looking to make a move.
Goldberg Segalla is far from alone. Among the other firms reporting a healthy growth in the number of attorneys on the payroll is Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP. Scott Friedman is managing partner and he credits growth in the last year to some core business practices. The firm added 11 attorneys to the payroll in 2012.
Said Friedman: "The traditional paradigm is 'Work hard, make money and then you will be happy.' But there is now a wealth of data and robust information focused on the importance of culture driving energy, teamwork, collaboration and innovation in the workplace."
He said he has long studied the link between success and happiness as it relates to the workplace, and he tries to incorporate many of his findings into the daily operations of Lippes Mathias.
"We work to hire people who are smart and entrepreneurial but also collegial," he said. "When it comes to our very-intentional business model, collegiality and collaboration are at the same level of importance to us as smarts and principles."
Like Cohen, Friedman credits much of the growth at his firm to hiring good people who give a boost to the business, as opposed to hiring a bunch of attorneys and mistakenly assuming the work will follow.
"We don't just hire anyone," he said. "We have a strong core of attorneys and we hire people who we feel will be a strong fit with our culture."
As for 2013, does Friedman expect to keep up the same hiring pace as seen in the past 12 months?
"We never set out to grow just to grow; we set out to deliver national-quality, blue-chip services to our clients. And whatever we do, we want to do it well. The growth has been a spin-off of that mission," he said. "I don't see any reason why that would slow down in 2013 or beyond."
Bond Schoeneck & King PLLC, which is based in Syracuse but maintains a regional office in Buffalo, recently added six attorneys to establish a long-term-care practice group. With a rising need across New York state, it's another sign that the legal industry is regaining a bit of the swagger that it lost at the height of the recession.
"The addition of these attorneys builds upon the strengths of Bond to deliver a broader, more comprehensive range of services for health-care providers throughout the state," said Dan Forsyth, managing partner of the Buffalo office.
In addition to growth at existing firms in Western New York, the Albany-based firm of Tully Rinckey PLLC opened its doors in Buffalo this week (see story, Page 1). It is starting the local operation with two attorneys but founding partner Mathew Tully said he expects to staff it with 15 attorneys within three years.
That all adds up to a lot of optimism coming out of Western New York, and while that may come as a surprise to some, for Cohen and others, it's just the next logical step in a strategic growth plan for the region.
"We have been able to hire so many dynamic lawyers in Buffalo," Cohen said. "This is a great market, a great place to do business, and we expect business in the Buffalo office to only get stronger."