Wednesday, February 6, 2013
One of the largest, prestigious, and traditional firms, Debevoise & Plimpton, has decided to terminate its trust and estate planning practice. The move surprised many in the legal field because of the firm has retained its strong partnership culture, especially because many firms have moved away from that school of thought to more of a bottom line approach. Debevoise & Plimpton is the latest firm to make this move.Some in the industry believe that it is a result of a change in the profession. More specifically, it appear that the legal profession is becoming more of a business.
At one time, estate planning was considered to be a necessary and lucrative practice by corporate law firms, who would spend their efforts advising and planning for wealthy families. Now, estate planning has taken a secondary position behind the cash cow of corporate law firms today: "multibillion-dollar corporate transactions and high-stakes litigation." Furthermore, estate planning is not as profitable because they are not as work heavy as complex lawsuits or megamergers. Even with the trend, there are those that are resisting change. For example, "In 2011, seven trusts and estates lawyers from Weil, led by Carlyn S. McCaffrey, moved to McDermott Will & Emery, a firm with about 65 trusts and estate lawyers, one of the larger such practices." In addition, some claim that the argument that estate planning is not profitable just is not correct. The head of Katten's trust and estate practice argued that if well-integrated estate planning can produce lots of work for the firm.
See Peter Lattman, Debevoise & Plimpton Drops Trusts and Estates Practice, DealB%k, Feb. 5, 2013.
Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) and Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.