Why One Valley Lawyer Took the Leap

Zusha Elinson

Legal Pad- a CalLaw Blog

December 2, 2008

Why do partners really make lateral moves? Here’s the story of Armando Castro, a corporate lawyer from Morgan Lewis & Bockius in Palo Alto who left for Reed Smith Thanksgiving week.

It was in late July, Castro told Legal Pad, that he was “getting a little frustrated with the lack of progress” in Morgan Lewis’s corporate practice in Silicon Valley. Castro, who represents startups, was sitting in his office on this particular Friday chewing it over with a fellow partner. They talked about how Morgan Lewis had lost out in trying to pick up two corporate partners: Sergio Garcia from Fenwick & West and Alan Sussman from Morrison & Foerster. Both Garcia and Sussman had chosen to go to Reed Smith instead.

And then just a few minutes after his fellow partner left the office, the phone rang. It was Los Angeles recruiter Gary Miles who, along with his pals and relatives at Alan Miles and Associates, has been aiding and abetting Reed Smith’s voracious appetite for lateral partners.

It was a perfect storm. Castro was wishing that Philly-based Morgan Lewis had more momentum with the Silicon Valley corporate practice; he’d also been considering going in-house to one of his clients; and now Reed Smith was interested in him too. He took a meeting and said he was impressed that Reed Smith was “going to pour whatever resources in it to be successful.” Certainly, the Pittsburgh-based firm has been actively recruiting corporate partners in California and opened a brand new Palo Alto office only recently. Of course, the jury’s still out on whether the expensive recruiting spree will pay off.

Castro will be bringing over clients like Green Plug, Azure Capital, Greenhouse Capital and SS8. Although Reed Smith has been rumored to be overpaying to steal away laterals, Castro said that he’ll just be getting a “modest increase” at the new firm.

Castro came to Morgan Lewis when it scooped up a big chunk of boom-bust Brobeck five years ago, and said he was always impressed with how well managed the firm was. He also said Morgan Lewis is continuing to do very well, even in dark economic times.

“They’ll be fine because they’re an excellent litigation firm and they’re an excellent labor and employment firm,” Castro observed. Notice he didn't say anything about it's corporate practice in the Valley. "I think if you asked each of the corporate partners [there] they would say we had not made enough progress in the development of the practice -- we had done OK, but it wasn’t great."

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