Law firms are taking advantage of the collapse of Wall Street and the economic crisis, by hiring top talent from struggling and dying firms at bargain prices. Recruiters and law firm leaders say the recent dissolution of several prominent firms has flooded the lateral market with good attorneys in need of employment; and uncertain financial futures at a number of firms have prodded some well-established attorneys to consider their options elsewhere. With more talent suddenly available -- at bargain prices in certain cases -- some firms are taking advantage of the down economy to bolster their partner ranks. At the same time, firm leaders say they are being choosier than ever about whom they bring on board because they have more options, and because the slow economy demands that they be cautious in their decisions. They are looking for proof, not promises, that lateral partners can bring along a stable of clients. Harvey Freishtat, chairman of McDermott Will & Emery, said "In some cases, the candidate's relationship with their clients will change if they leave their firm. We want to make sure their business is portable." Not surprisingly, recruiters report that demand is steady for partners in bankruptcy, restructuring and other practice areas that typically flourish in tough times. Demand has waned for partners in real estate and structured finance, though some firms are trying to capitalize on the economic downturn in a counterintuitive way, by hiring lawyers on the cheap now, in anticipation of an eventual economic upswing.