A former Cravath partner is quoted in the American Lawyer, Vol. 28, Jan. 2006 at 15, about a change he has observed from ten or 15 years ago. “It was corporate partners who had the close relationships with clients. But these days, it’s the litigation partners who are developing the closest relationships in high-profile litigation, where so much is at stake.”
His observations doesn’t ring true to me, even though the in-house groups have upgraded significantly in terms of giving commercial and corporate advice, while block-buster litigation remains the primary preserve of external counsel and the largest element of outside-counsel spend.
I suspect that litigation remains primarily an unpleasantness that must be dealt with, but that mergers and acquisitions and other corporate-level concerns are still top of the mind for executives. If that is true, the business-oriented partners will still wield the most influence.