Lateral Hiring Up Modestly in 2014

NALP Bulletin, April 2015

After two years of declines, down 6% from 2011 to 2012 and down 7% from 2012 to 2013, aggregate lateral hiring nudged up, finishing out the year not quite 5% higher than in 2013. That modest increase notwithstanding, the level of hiring, averaging 14 lateral hires per office/firm, is the highest in a dozen years. These are the overall findings about lateral hiring from NALP’s 2014 “Survey of Legal Employers on Fall Recruiting,” which requested information on lateral hiring in 2013 and 2014.

The results shown in Table 1 and Table 2 are based on reports from 412 law offices that reported at least one lateral hire in one of the two years. Table 1 reports aggregate information not only for partners and associates, but also for two additional categories of lateral hires: lawyers who may generally be eligible for partnership (typically counsel or of counsel or senior attorneys); and lawyers who are generally not eligible for partnership (typically staff or contract attorneys.) Table 2 reports on lateral partner and associate hiring, which accounted for 79% of the lateral hiring reported, and includes cities with at least five offices reporting office-specific information and collectively reporting at least 25 lateral hires in 2014.

  • Overall, based on aggregate hiring of almost 5,800 lateral lawyers in 2014, the volume of hiring was up by 4.8% compared with 2013, with a median of 5 and an average of 14 lateral hires (Table 1). Much of the increase can be attributed to an increase in lateral associate hiring, which accounted for 61% of lateral hiring in 2014, and where aggregate hiring was up by just over 7%. The categories of “counsel/of counsel” and “staff attorney” accounted for about 21% of lateral hiring in 2014, and as the median figures suggest, the majority of offices did not do any hiring of this type in 2014. However, aggregate hiring of lateral counsel/of counsel and staff attorneys increased by about 9%.
  • As Table 2 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 West/Rocky Mountain Region at 30.5; moreover, aggregate volume was down in all regions except the West/Rocky Mountain Region. (Regional figures in this section of the table reflect firms reporting firm-wide information but whose offices are wholly or predominantly in one region.)
  • Among offices reporting activity for a single office, offices generally averaged between 1 and 2 lateral partner hires depending on firm size (except in the smallest firms), whereas associate lateral hiring ranged from 4.6 to 6.5 per office at all but the smaller firms.
  • On a regional basis, the level of lateral hiring per office was highest in the Northeast, with a median of 8 and an average of about 12 lateral hires in 2014, compared with a median of 4 in all other regions and averages that ranged from about 4 to 7. In terms of changes in aggregate volumes, however, it was closest to steady in the Midwest and declined in the Southeast, reflecting in part decreases in Dallas and Houston at the partner level, and also at the associate level in Dallas. Among larger cities (those reporting at least 50 lateral hires), New York, Washington, DC, Atlanta, and Los Angeles/Orange County registered increases in aggregate hiring, but increases occurred only among associates in Atlanta. The median number of lateral hires was highest by far in New York City, followed by Washington, DC, Atlanta, and Chicago, at about 6.
  • Despite the overall increase, of course not every office or firm hired more laterals in 2014 compared with 2013. In fact 42% of offices hired fewer laterals in 2014 than in 2013, and 11% hired the same number overall. The last column in the table shows that 46% of offices met or exceeded the average 5% increase. Among cities with at least 10 offices reporting, this percentage was highest in the Miami area, Houston, Los Angeles/Orange County, and Washington, DC and lowest in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco.
  • This year's survey results document an increase in the level of hiring, following two years of decline. 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 a level of hiring that is most comparable to that of 2006. The comparison is, however, approximate at best, and the average in 2014 was higher than in the three years prior to the recession. The average has increased every year since bottoming out in 2009. See Table 3. (For full results of prior year surveys, see NALP Bulletin columns posted at www.nalp.org/entry-levelhiring.)


Table 1. Summary of Lateral Hiring — 2014

ALL LATERAL HIRING IN 2014 PARTNERS ASSOCIATES
Median # Average # Total # Reported % Change from 2013 Median # Average # Total # Reported % Change from 2013 Median # Average # Total # Reported % Change from 2013
5 14 5,774 4.8% 1 2.6 1,062 -5.9% 3 8.5 3,518 7.1%
COUNSEL/OF COUNSEL/
SENIOR ATTORNEYS*
STAFF ATTORNEYS**  
Median # Average # Total # Reported % Change from 2013 Median # Average # Total # Reported % Change from 2013
0 1.4 575 8.9% 0 1.5 619 9.0%

* Attorneys who may generally be eligible for partnership.
** Attorneys who are not eligible for partnership.


Table 2. Lateral Hiring in 2014 and Comparison with 2013

   # of Offices Reporting PARTNERS ASSOCIATES TOTAL % of Offices with Increase of 5%
or More
Median # Hired in 2014 Average # Hired in 2014 % Change in # Hired in 2013-2014 Median # Hired in 2014 Average # Hired in 2014 % Change in # Hired in 2013-2014 Median # Hired in 2014 Average # Hired in 2014 % Change in # Hired in 2013-2014
Overall Total 412 1.0 2.6 -5.9% 3.0 8.5 7.1% 5.0 14.0 4.8% 45.9%
FIRM-WIDE REPORTS
All firm-wide reports 92 4.5 7.0 -6.5 15.0 22.9 3.1 31.5 39.1 3.5 43.5
By # of Lawyers Firm-wide
    101-250 26 1.5 2.4 8.8 6.0 7.4 -4.5 11.5 14.3 3.9 42.3
    251-500 21 4.0 4.9 -23.1 14.0 14.1 4.2 29.0 26.5 -8.4 33.3
    501-700 16 12.0 10.5 -8.7 20.5 31.0 3.5 43.5 56.3 1.7 37.5
    701+ 24 12.0 13.0 -0.6 35.5 44.6 4.5 65.5 71.5 9.4 62.5
By NALP Region
    Northeast 10 1.0 1.9 0.0 8.5 9.6 -5.0 10.5 12.1 -4.0 30.0
    Mid-Atlantic 6 3.0 3.2 -36.7 16.0 15.2 -9.0 25.0 26.5 -10.7 50.0
    Southeast 13 2.0 3.2 0.0 9.0 9.0 -11.4 17.0 23.6 -2.2 38.5
    Midwest 17 6.0 6.2 -17.8 12.0 10.5 -10.9 24.0 22.8 -13.8 29.4
    West/Rocky Mountain 12 3.5 3.6 -14.0 16.5 23.7 42.7 30.5 32.1 29.6 50.0
OFFICE-SPECIFIC REPORTS
All office specific reports 320 1.0 1.3 -4.8 3.0 4.4 13.7 4.0 6.8 7.1 46.6
By # of Lawyers Firm-wide
    100 or fewer 36 0.0 0.4 -44.0 1.0 1.8 -21.7 3.0 2.9 -22.0 36.1
    101-250 34 1.0 1.7 3.6 3.0 4.6 1.9 7.5 8.1 2.2 47.1
    251-500 66 1.0 1.3 2.4 3.0 4.7 20.9 4.0 7.2 14.6 51.5
    501-700 17 2.0 1.8 -3.2 2.0 6.5 54.9 6.0 9.7 27.9 47.1
    701+ 167 1.0 1.4 -5.4 3.0 4.6 13.6 4.0 6.9 6.5 46.7
By NALP Region and City
Northeast 57 1.0 2.0 -2.6 4.0 8.9 20.3 8.0 12.3 13.4 43.9
    Boston 11 1.0 1.0 -62.1 2.0 3.5 -17.0 4.0 5.5 -29.4 36.4
    New York City 42 2.0 2.4 18.8 5.5 11.0 27.5 10.0 15.0 22.3 47.6
Mid-Atlantic 69 1.0 1.4 -2.0 2.0 3.8 10.2 4.0 6.4 7.6 44.9
    Newark/
    Northern NJ
6 0.0 0.3 -66.7 4.5 5.7 88.9 5.5 7.0 55.6 66.7
    Washington, DC/
    Northern VA
36 1.0 2.1 8.8 3.5 4.5 6.6 6.5 8.1 10.6 50.0
Southeast 61 0.0 0.9 -26.3 2.0 2.8 1.8 4.0 4.4 -5.0 50.8
    Atlanta 6 1.5 1.8 -15.4 3.0 5.8 40.0 6.5 8.8 26.2 100.0
    Dallas 9 0.0 1.1 -60.0 2.0 3.3 -18.9 4.0 5.2 -28.8 33.3
    Houston 11 0.0 1.2 -18.8 2.0 3.0 3.1 4.0 4.6 -1.9 54.5
    Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/
    W. Palm Beach
10 0.5 1.5 114.3 3.0 2.7 35.0 4.0 4.5 60.7 70.0
Midwest 45 1.0 1.5 17.5 3.0 4.1 2.8 4.0 7.2 0.9 35.6
    Chicago 19 1.0 2.2 13.5 3.0 5.1 -2.0 6.0 8.9 -2.9 31.6
    Michigan 5 2.0 3.2 23.1 1.0 5.4 -10.0 3.0 9.8 6.5 20.0
    Minneapolis 7 0.0 0.1 0.0 3.0 3.0 23.5 3.0 6.6 9.5 14.3
West/Rocky Mountain 88 1.0 0.9 -6.9 2.0 3.3 21.6 4.0 5.0 10.3 52.3
    Denver 5 1.0 0.8 -33.3 2.0 4.0 -16.7 5.0 7.0 -14.6 20.0
    Los Angeles and
    Orange County
28 1.0 1.3 6.1 3.0 4.0 24.2 4.0 6.4 16.3 60.7
    San Diego 6 2.5 2.2 550.0 3.0 3.5 162.5 5.0 5.7 183.3 66.7
    San Francisco 13 0.0 0.6 -55.6 2.0 3.1 5.3 4.0 4.1 -14.5 30.8
    San Jose area 10 0.5 0.7 -30.0 2.0 3.5 12.9 3.5 4.4 -4.3 50.0
    Seattle area 9 1.0 0.8 -36.4 3.0 3.3 36.4 3.0 4.9 4.8 55.6

Source: NALP 2014 Survey of Legal Employers on Fall Recruiting.
This table includes offices/firms that reported at least one lateral hire in 2013 or 2014 and which also reported complete information for both years. Collectively these 412 employers reported 5,774 lateral hires in 2014. Cities shown had at least five offices/firms collectively reporting at least 25 lateral hires in 2014. 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 some instances of firms with most attorneys located in that city or whose additional offices are located primarily in adjacent areas, and of multi-office nationwide firms consolidating two geographically adjacent offices onto one survey.


Table 3. Summary of NALP Survey Findings on Lateral Hiring — 2002-2014

Survey Year % Change in Aggregate Lateral Hiring
from Previous Year
Average # of Lateral Hires
2003 17.7% 9
2004 15.2 10
2005 19.1 12
2006 7.6 12
2007 11.4 12
2008 -26.3 8.9
2009 -52.2 5.1
2010 38.4 8.0
2011 48.5 9.5
2012 -6.3 10.3
2013 -7.3 11.1
2014 4.8 14.0
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