Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Big Firms and Estate Planning

The following excerpt is from Peter Lattman, T&E Departures at Profit-Minded Sonnenschein , Wall St. J. Law Blog, Jan. 31, 2007:

With profitability a top priority at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, one practice group is under the microscope: trusts and estates. Four T&E partners at Sonnenschein in recent weeks have either left or announced plans to leave the 660-lawyer firm.

Roy Adams, the senior chairman of the practice group, left on Jan. 1 for Constantine Cannon; Eileen Trost jumped to Chicago’s Bell Boyd & Lloyd in December; Richard Brown recently departed for Harrison & Held; and Susan Slater-Jansen has announced she’s moving to Kurzman Eisenberg Corbin Lever & Goodman in White Plains, N.Y.

* * * T&E may be vulnerable because it is a low “leverage” practice — fewer junior lawyers generally are needed, say, to draft a will than to complete a merger agreement.

Robert Cockren, the new chair of Sonnenschein’s T&E practice, says the firm remains committed to T&E and still has about 28 lawyers in the practice across seven offices. But he acknowledges that it is “difficult for T&E practices to meet the same sort of” profitability and productivity targets that other practice groups may achieve.

Because individuals, and not corporations, pay T&E lawyers’ bills, it’s often more difficult for them to raise their billable rates. “You can charge a company whatever you want but if you do the estate planning for a CEO he’ll look at every line charge,” said a T&E partner at big Chicago firm. Also, T&E clients are often fiduciaries – such as a trustee or an executor to an estate. “Those fiduciaries have obligations to the beneficiaries,” said Sonnenschein’s Cockren. “So expenses are something they have to careful about.”

Special thanks to Prof. Paul Caron for bringing this article to my attention.


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