Michael Sohn, a partner at Arnold & Porter and former chairman of the firm, announced recently he is jumping to Davis Polk.
There is nothing especially novel about lateral moves, but the rational here is a little more interesting than the pull of more money or security. Sohn is just too old for Arnold & Porter.
According to the The Blog of Legal Times, 69-year-old Sohn wasn’t ready to “downcycle his practice,” and Arnold & Porter requires septuagenarian partners to pull back on their work or retire.
While both sides seem to be especially cordial about the defection — the Arnold & Porter chairman went as far to call it “the most amicable lateral move of the year” — it still highlights the question of whether it is a smart strategy to force older partners into slow motion.
On one hand, it’s probably smart for firms to insulate profit per equity partner numbers from the chance that older attorneys may bring down numbers.
But, on the other hand, someone like Sohn would have had enormous institutional knowledge after four decades and was instrumental in dealing with enormous corporate clients like Wyeth, GE and Merck. He was even the lead in PepsiCo’s bottling company acquisition earlier this year.
Shouldn’t that type of experience be something firms want to foster and protect, rather than demote?
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