Lateral Hiring Up for Second Year in a Row

NALP Bulletin, April 2012

Lateral hiring was up by 48% in 2011 compared with 2010, the second year of increase after 2009, a year in which many law firms did no lateral hiring. That was the overall finding of NALP's 2011 "Survey of Legal Employers on Fall Recruiting," which requested information on lateral hiring in 2010 and 2011. The results shown in the table accompanying this article are based on reports from 300 law offices that reported at least one lateral hire in one of the two years. The table includes cities with at least five offices reporting office-specific information and collectively reporting at least 20 lateral hires in 2011.

  • Overall, based on aggregate hiring of over 2,800 lateral lawyers in 2011, the volume of hiring was up by 48% compared with 2010, with a median of 5 and an average of 9.5 lateral hires. Most of the increase, however, is attributable to lateral associate hiring, which was up by 63%. In contrast, the volume of lateral partner hiring increased by just over 20%. As it has in the past, the volume of lateral associate hiring outstripped that of lateral partner hiring. In 2011 lateral associates accounted for almost three-quarters of the lateral hiring reported.

  • As the table shows, however, changes in aggregate hiring, and the level of hiring, measured by either the median or average number of hires, varied considerably by firm size and geography. For example, for firms reporting their lateral hiring on a firm-wide basis (in the section of the table labeled "Firm-wide Reports") lateral hiring as measured by medians was strongest in the Mid-Atlantic Region, at 32, but the aggregate increase in volume was greatest in the Midwest. (Regional figures in this section of the table reflect firms reporting firm-wide information but whose offices are wholly or predominantly in one region, and does not include regions with fewer than five firms reporting on a firm-wide basis.)

  • Among offices reporting activity for a single office, offices averaged 1 or 2 lateral partner hires and 2-5 lateral associate hires, depending on firm size.

  • On a regional basis, the level of lateral hiring was highest in the Northeast, with a median of 9 and an average of almost 12 lateral hires in 2011, and lowest in the Southeast. In terms of aggregate volumes, however, the increase was greatest for offices in the Midwest, where volume nearly doubled. Chicago specifically mirrored this pattern. Growth was also strong in Dallas and in the Washington, DC area.

  • Despite the overall increase, of course, not every office or firm increased lateral hiring. In fact, more than one-third of respondents reported a decrease in lateral hiring. The last column in the table shows that over half of offices increased the volume of lateral hiring by 50% or more. Offices in Dallas and Washington, DC, and in the Mid-Atlantic Region were most likely to have done so, while offices in Houston and in the Northeast and Southeast were least likely to have increased hiring by this amount.

This year's survey results document the second year of a turn-around in lateral hiring after two years of decline, as measured by this survey in previous years. Survey results of course, reflect the respondent pool. Nonetheless, to the extent that the survey pool is relatively consistent with respect to firm size and location, this survey shows the largest percentage increase in volume in the last nine years, a finding that is of course tempered by the fact that lateral hiring plummeted in 2009, and the level of activity remains below what was recorded in the mid-2000's. (For example, in the 2006 survey, firms reported an average of 12 lateral hires compared with 2011's 9.5.) Before declining about 26% from 2007 to 2008, and then 52% from 2008 to 2009, the survey had documented five years of aggregate increases; 18% from 2002-2003; 15% from 2003-2004; 19% from 2004-2005; 8% from 2005-2006; and 11% from 2006-2007. (See previous year's results in March NALP Bulletin columns.)


Lateral Hiring in 2011 and Comparison with 2010

  # of Offices Reporting PARTNERS ASSOCIATES TOTAL % of Offices with Increase of 50% or More
Median # Hired in 2011 Average # Hired in 2011 % Change in # Hired 2010-2011 Median # Hired in 2011 Average # Hired in 2011 % Change in # Hired 2010-2011 Median # Hired in 2011 Average # Hired in 2011 % Change in # Hired 2010-2011
Overall Total 300 1.0 2.6 20.3% 4.0 6.9 62.8% 5.0 9.5 48.5 52.0%
 FIRM-WIDE REPORTS
All firm-wide reports 57 3.0 5.4 5.5 10.0 16.2 47.5 13.0 21.6 34.2 40.4
By # of lawyers firm-wide
100 or fewer 7 1.0 1.3 -18.2 3.0 3.1 83.3 4.0 4.4 34.8 42.9
101-250 19 1.0 1.8 -29.2 5.0 6.4 11.0 8.0 8.2 -1.3 21.1
251-500 15 5.0 6.0 15.4 11.0 14.3 45.6 16.0 20.3 35.1 53.3
501-700 6 16.0 15.2 24.7 27.5 31.8 66.1 41.0 47.0 50.0 66.7
701+ 10 7.0 8.3 2.5 29.5 37.7 54.5 37.0 46.0 41.5 40.0
By NALP Region
Mid-Atlantic 5 5.0 8.6 19.4 27.0 19.4 34.7 32.0 28.0 29.6 60.0
Southeast 9 2.0 2.0 -37.9 7.0 10.8 49.2 8.0 12.8 22.3 33.3
Midwest 19 3.0 3.6 -2.8 8.0 8.9 60.4 10.0 12.6 35.0 42.1
OFFICE-SPECIFIC REPORTS
All office specific reports 243 1.0 1.9 32.6 3.0 4.7 77.7 4.0 6.6 61.7 54.7
By # of lawyers firm-wide
100 or fewer 14 1.0 0.9 44.4 2.5 3.0 31.3 3.0 3.9 34.1 50.0
101-250 25 1.0 2.4 79.4 1.0 2.0 2.1 3.0 4.4 34.1 44.0
251-500 34 1.0 1.5 0.0 3.0 4.3 86.1 5.0 5.8 52.7 64.7
501-700 23 1.0 2.3 85.7 3.0 4.5 157.5 4.0 6.7 127.9 60.9
701+ 146 1.0 2.0 24.2 3.0 5.2 70.4 4.5 7.1 54.6 53.4
By NALP region and city
Northeast 38 2.0 2.5 4.4 5.0 9.2 82.8 9.0 11.7 57.8 47.4
Boston 11 1.0 1.9 40.0 5.0 5.5 50.0 8.0 7.4 47.3 54.5
New York City 26 3.0 2.8 -2.7 7.0 11.2 92.1 10.5 14.0 60.6 46.2
Mid-Atlantic 44 1.5 2.6 71.6 5.0 6.1 93.5 6.5 8.7 86.4 65.9
Washington, DC/
Northern VA
27 3.0 3.6 81.5 6.0 7.4 117.4 7.0 11.0 104.1 74.1
Southeast 54 1.0 1.4 37.7 1.5 2.8 57.3 3.0 4.1 50.3 48.2
Atlanta 6 1.0 1.3 100.0 2.0 3.3 11.1 2.5 4.7 27.3 50.0
Dallas 8 2.0 2.1 88.9 4.5 5.8 253.8 6.5 7.9 186.4 75.0
Houston 6 0.5 1.0 -33.3 2.0 4.3 62.5 3.5 5.3 28.0 33.3
Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/
W. Palm Beach
10 1.0 1.6 166.7 3.0 2.6 52.9 4.0 4.2 82.6 50.0
Midwest 31 1.0 2.0 44.2 3.0 4.6 136.7 5.0 6.6 98.1 61.3
Chicago 16 2.0 2.9 39.4 5.5 5.7 145.9 8.0 8.6 95.7 62.5
West/Rocky Mountain 75 1.0 1.7 24.0 2.0 2.9 49.0 4.0 4.5 38.8 54.7
Los Angeles and Orange County 21 1.0 1.8 15.6 2.0 2.5 29.3 3.0 4.3 23.3 52.4
San Diego 6 1.5 1.3 -42.9 2.5 3.3 100.0 3.5 4.7 16.7 66.7
San Francisco 9 0.0 1.9 70.0 3.0 3.4 55.0 4.0 5.3 60.0 44.4
San Jose area 10 1.0 1.9 -9.5 4.5 4.3 79.2 5.0 6.2 37.8 60.0
Seattle area 9 2.0 2.6 130.0 1.0 3.7 26.9 6.0 6.2 55.6 55.6

Source: NALP 2011 Survey of Legal Employers on Fall Recruiting. This table includes offices/firms that reported at least one lateral hire in 2010 or 2011 and that also reported complete information for both years. Collectively these 300 employers reported 2,841 lateral hires in 2011. Following the overall total shown in the first line, the table separates out surveys that reported information firm-wide, or for multiple offices, from those that reported office-specific information. Firm-wide information by region includes firms whose offices are predominantly or wholly in that region. However, office-specific information includes a few instances of firms with one small office in an adjacent suburban location or satellite location, and of multi-office nationwide firms consolidating two geographically adjacent offices onto one survey.

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