NALP Bulletin, April 2016
Aggregate lateral hiring was up for the second year in a row, finishing out 2015 8.5% higher than in 2014. This follows an aggregate increase of 4.8% from 2013 to 2014. Lateral hiring averaged almost 15 lateral hires per office/firm, and is the highest it’s been in the last 13 years — greater even than in the years leading up to the recession. These are the overall findings about lateral hiring from NALP’s “Survey of Legal Employers on 2015 Recruiting,” which requested information on lateral hiring in 2014 and 2015.
The results shown in Table 1 and Table 2 are based on reports from 374 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 for 2015, and includes cities with at least five offices reporting office-specific information and collectively reporting at least 25 lateral hires in 2015.
Overall, based on aggregate hiring of over 5,500 lateral lawyers in 2015, the volume of hiring was up by 8.5% compared with 2014, with a median of 6 and an average of 14.8 lateral hires per office/firm (Table 1). Although both partner and associate lateral hiring were up by over 7%, the volume of associate lateral hiring was far greater, averaging 9 per office/firm, compared with an average of 2.7 per office/firm for lateral partner hiring. Lateral associate hiring accounted for 61% of lateral hiring in 2015. The categories of “counsel/of counsel” and “staff attorney” accounted for about 21% of lateral hiring in 2015, and as the median figures suggest, the majority of offices did not do any hiring of this type in 2015. However, aggregate hiring of lateral counsel/ of counsel and staff attorneys increased by over 13%.
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 ranged from 10 to 24 depending on region, and changes in aggregate volume ranged from a decrease of almost 8% to an increase of over 25% . (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 averaged between just 0.7 and 1.5 lateral partner hires depending on firm size, whereas associate lateral hiring averages ranged from 4.6 to 6.3 per office.
On a regional basis, the level of lateral hiring per office was highest in the Northeast, with a median of 11 and an average of almost 14 lateral hires in 2015, compared with medians of 3 to 5 in all other regions and averages that ranged from 5 to just over 9. In terms of changes in aggregate volumes, however, it was up the most in the Midwest, by 20%, whereas in the Northeast overall volume was actually down by 5%. The Southeast was the other region showing a decrease. These figures reflect, in part, decreases in New York and Houston at both the partner and associate level.
Outside of the West/Rocky Mountain Region, most cities recorded decreases in partner hiring, whereas for associates both increases and decreases occurred across all regions. Among larger cities (those reporting at least 75 lateral hires) — New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, Los Angeles/Orange County, and San Francisco — all but New York registered increases in aggregate hiring, but increases occurred only among associates in Washington, DC, and San Francisco. Aggregate decrease notwithstanding, the median number of lateral hires was highest by far in New York City, at 12, followed by Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, where medians were between 8 and 9.
Despite the overall increase, of course not every office or firm hired more laterals in 2015 compared with 2014. In fact 39% of offices hired fewer laterals in 2015 than in 2014, and about 8% hired the same number overall. The last column in the table shows that offices were about evenly split between those exceeding the overall average of an 8.5% increase and those below the average. Among cities with at least 10 offices reporting, the percentage of offices exceeding the average was highest in San Francisco and lowest in Miami and the San Jose area.
This year’s survey results document the second year of increase in the level of hiring, following two years of decline, from 2011 to 2012 and again from 2012 to 2013. 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 approximate, however, and in fact the average in 2015 was the highest in the 2003-2015 period documented here. 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.)
|ALL LATERAL HIRING IN 2015||PARTNERS||ASSOCIATES|
|Median||Average #||Total # Reported||% Change from 2014||Median||Average #||Total # Reported||% Change from 2014||Median||Average #||Total # Reported||% Change from 2014|
|Median||Average #||Total # Reported||% Change from 2014||Median||Average #||Total # Reported||% Change from 2014|
* Attorneys who may generally be eligible for partnership.
** Attorneys who are not eligible for partnership.
|# of Offices Reporting||PARTNERS||ASSOCIATES||TOTAL||% of Offices with Increase of 9% or More|
|Median # Hired in 2015||Average # Hired in 2015||% Change in # Hired 2014-2015||Median # Hired in 2015||Average # Hired in 2015||% Change in # Hired 2014-2015||Median # Hired in 2015||Average # Hired in 2015||% Change in # Hired 2014-2015|
|All firm-wide reports||77||5.0||8.3||15.1||16.0||24.8||7.9||30.0||42.2||10.3||52.0|
|By # of Lawyers Firm-wide|
|100 or fewer||5||0.0||0.0||-100.0||4.0||4.4||-12.0||5.0||5.0||-13.8||40.0|
|By NALP Region|
|All office specific reports||297||1.0||1.3||-3.6||3.0||4.9||6.5||5.0||7.6||5.9||50.8|
|By # of Lawyers Firm-wide|
|100 or fewer||45||0.0||0.7||88.2||2.0||2.2||-2.9||3.0||3.6||11.0||48.9|
|By NALP Region and City|
|New York City||37||2.0||2.3||-11.6||8.0||10.0||-12.5||12.0||14.9||-8.0||45.9|
DC/ Northern VA
W. Palm Beach
| Los Angeles and
|San Jose area||11||0.0||0.8||50.0||2.0||2.9||-22.0||2.0||4.4||-17.2||27.3|
Source: NALP Survey of Legal Employers on 2015 Recruiting. This table includes offices/firms that reported at least one lateral hire in 2014 or 2015 and that also reported complete information for both years. Collectively these 374 employers reported 5,522 lateral hires in 2015. Cities shown had at least 5 offices/firms collectively reporting at least 25 lateral hires in 2015. Following the overall total shown in the first line, the table separates out surveys which reported information firm-wide, or for multiple offices, from those which 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 nation-wide firms consolidating two geographically adjacent offices onto one survey.
|Survey Year||% Change in Aggregate Lateral Hiring from Previous Year||Average # of Lateral Hires|