Small law departments hire differently

When you reflect on small law departments, ones with fewer than five lawyers, you realize that their hiring practices differ markedly from those of large law departments. Consider the law department of the real estate investment trust, COPT, which has four lawyers, as described in GC Mid-Atlantic, March 2007 at 8. Each lawyer is a generalist, able to handle nearly any matter that comes through the office.

To bring aboard an additional lawyer, which the COPT department is in the process of doing, intrudes on a delicate balance of incumbent personalities and abilities. Growing the number of a department’s lawyers by one-third or one-quarter with a single hire is a major decision, a budget bender, and untested waters for client relations. Just as a new member of a musical quartet needs to mesh far more finely than one more musician in an orchestra, the new lawyer of a small department is a drop in a tiny thimble compared to a drop in a large department’s bucket.

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