The market for entry-level associates at law firms continues to grow, according to the 2001 edition of Patterns & Practices: Measures of Law Firm Hiring, Leverage & Billable Hours, an annual publication from NALP. Law firms increased entry-level hiring by 5% from 1999-2000 and projected an increase of about twice that, almost 11%, from 2000 to 2001. This acceleration in projected hiring occurred across all firm sizes but was greatest at firms of 100 or fewer attorneys. Interestingly, employers had projected that their entry-level hiring would increase by 11% between 1999 and 2000, (see the prior edition of Patterns & Practices) but in fact the increase turned out to be 5%.
Using information drawn from the two most recent editions of NALP's National Directory of Legal Employers, Patterns & Practices provides expansive documentation of the hiring of entry-level associates, summer associates, and lateral attorneys at about 1,000 law offices representing well over 600 major law firms nationwide. NALP's unique access to such broad coverage over time makes Patterns & Practices the premier source for valuable perspectives on hiring at the national, state, regional, and city level.
Distinct regional differences in hiring are evident. The market was particularly strong in the Southeast region, with a 15% increase expected in entry-level hiring. In the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic region, and the Midwest, expected entry-level increases were about 9%.
Among the cities which collectively expected to hire at least 100 entry-level associates in 2001, changes from 2000 ranged from -4.4% in Orange County, CA to 30.2% in San Francisco. In some cities, the change from 2000 to 2001 is very different from the change from 1999 to 2000. For example, firms in both Dallas and Houston expected to increase entry-level hiring by about one-quarter from 2000 to 2001, compared with decreases of 11% and 18%, respectively, in the prior period. San Jose, Charlotte, and Orange County, CA, also showed contrasts from increases to relatively flat growth.
Lateral hiring increased dramatically (30.5%) between 1999 and 2000, resulting in firms hiring in aggregate 36% more laterals than entry-level attorneys in 2000, compared with a nearly one-to-one ratio in 1999. Lateral hiring increased the most in firms of more than 500 attorneys, with an increase of 40.7%, compared with a rate less than half that, 18.5%, at firms of less than 100 attorneys.
Although some regional contrasts in lateral hiring are evident, differences are most dramatic at the city level. Among larger cities (again, those whose firms collectively hired more than 100 laterals in 2000) lateral growth was particularly strong in Atlanta (52%), Boston (47%), Houston (46%), and Orange County, CA (65%). In contrast, a decrease in lateral hiring occurred in Seattle.
Patterns & Practices documents other findings, including:
In addition to documenting nationwide and regional hiring trends, the 116-page report presents detailed information on entry-level and lateral hiring, offers, leverage ratios, and billable hours for 30 cities and 7 states, including:
Cities - Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Hartford, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York City, Orange County California, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Oregon, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose area, Seattle area, Tampa/St. Petersburg, and Washington, DC.
States - California (outside Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, San Francisco, and the San Jose area), Florida (outside Miami and Tampa/St. Petersburg), Missouri (outside of Kansas City), New Jersey, New York (outside New York City), and Virginia.
Hiring Trends, 1999-2001
Lateral Hiring, 1999 and 2000
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