“Every day” would be exaggeration. But, “every other day” isn’t.
Every other day, I’m reading in the Nashville Post about some out of town Big Law firm buying a Nashville law firm or practice group (or, as Rex Hammock says “acquihire“). Or poaching a bunch of lawyers (or a few). Or just local firms shuffling lawyers like a deck of cards.
It’s absolutely nuts, and I love it. It’s like the NBA trade-deadline, but far more boring–unless you’re a lawyer, and you like gossip (two things that will be on my gravestone).
A few weeks ago, I had a pre-trial lunch with a lawyer from Jones Day in Atlanta, and I asked him if the Atlanta legal market is this crazy with attorney movement. He said, yes, but for associate attorneys.
There was a bit of condescension involved, but implicit in his response was the suggestion that, maybe, this suggests that Nashville is joining the big leagues. Part of becoming one of the “big cities” is being taken over by the “big” law firms.
For years, the Big Law firms never paid any attention to Nashville. Nashville’s legal market was ruled, largely, by home-grown, home-managed law firms whose footprint generally extended a few counties in any direction, but rarely beyond the state lines. Small firms, with big personalities.
If a Big Law firm had a Big Client who needed help in Nashville, they’d call one of the 3-4 big(-ish) Nashville law firms to serve as local counsel. But, in general, the Big Law Firms didn’t think they needed to be actually in Nashville.
That’s what has changed. The national/global law firms now realize they need to be here and are having to catch up by “buying” into the Nashville market. Atlanta isn’t seeing this constant shuffling, because, frankly, all the Big Firms are already in Atlanta.
And what a boon it’s been in Nashville. You know those random calls you get asking if you’d sell your house? That’s what’s happening. But with lawyers.
I’m curious about what the next 4-5 years holds in store in the Nashville market. Part of what has made Nashville’s legal world special is the eccentric independence of so many firms here in town. Sure, there are local folks you dislike having cases with, but at least you know them.
After a bunch of out-of-towners start buying up your neighbors’ houses, your property increases in value. But you don’t know your neighbors anymore.
So far, the shift to a global practice hasn’t made local deals any easier or more pleasant for me. With a year’s worth of perspective, though, I think it’s an inevitable part of our evolution as a city.
Recently, I dealt with Arizona lawyers on a hipster donut store lease in “southern Davidson County,” but they had no idea what I was talking about when I said “Brentioch.”
I’ll go back to what I said last year: What’s good for the Nashville legal market is going to be, generally, good for Nashville lawyers.
For a while, I was afraid to even mention all the local moves, worrying that this group or that group would think this post was about them. But that was probably 50 acquihires ago. This post is, literally, about the entire market (since we’ve all seemed to switch firms since 2019).
As long-time readers know, when I get busy with work, this blog suffers. As I’m nearing my anniversary of my firm’s current incarnation, I’ll be posting more, mainly as a way to share and discuss this solo- and small practice adventure over the last few years.