Events that encourage headhunters to circle a law department

Various corporate upheavals, when they reach the headlines, may draw headhunters who try to lure away the law department’s best lawyers. Even general counsel who have tried hard to retain their talent can find themselves overtaken by these corporate events.

Layoffs and downsizings (See my posts of May 5, 2008: aftershocks of layoffs; and Nov. 20, 2005: Reuters legal team slashed by 20 percent.). Once reductions in force leak out, the good employees who remain are vulnerable to cherry picking.

Mergers (See my posts of May 10, 2007: Clayton Holdings; Sept.13, 2005: Honeywell and Oracle; Feb. 19, 2007: BellSouth/AT&T; and May 5, 2008: turnover after mergers.). The post-merger law department inevitably shrinks from the total of the pre-merger departments (See my post of Sept. 13, 2005: GC survival after a merger.).

Appointment of a new general counsel (See my post of June 10, 2008: new external general counsel clean house.). The new general counsel wants to shape the direct-report level.

Spin offs (See my post of April 9, 2006: hairline of law departments receding.). Some members of either legal group are disappointed at who gets to move to the new company or who gets to stay with the old company.

Publicity about a star lawyer (See my post of May 20, 2005: schadenfreude; March 13, 2006: expert staff at risk of being poached.). Recognition as “the best lawyers under 40” or “headed to the CLO slot” may propel the honoree out of the department.

Restructurings and reorganizations (See my post of May 2, 2008: Siemens and 7 new general counsel.). Someone always loses out when the chairs are rearranged.

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