Lateral Hiring: 2001 and 2002 — A Second Year of Decline

NALP Bulletin, March 2003 

NALP's "Snapshot of the Recruiting Season" Survey requested information on lateral hiring in 2001 and 2002. The results shown below are based on reports from 435 employers.

  • Overall, based on aggregate hiring of 2,821 lateral attorneys in 2002, the volume of hiring decreased by 17%, with a median figure of four lateral hires in 2002. The average number hired was seven. Firms of 251-500 attorneys reported the largest decrease in aggregate hiring, about 24%. In contrast, firms of 50 or fewer attorneys increased aggregate hiring by about that much.

  • At the same time, as the last four columns in the table show, not all offices reported a decrease in lateral hiring. The number of offices that reported an increase of 10% or more about equaled the number of offices that reported a decrease of 50% or more. Smaller firms were less likely to report a decline of 50% or more.

  • At the regional level, the largest decrease, about one-third, was reported from the Southeast, followed by the Mid-Atlantic region. In contrast, lateral hiring in the Northeast increased slightly, fueled by offices in New York City, which collectively increased hiring by 18%. Increases were the exception however. In addition to New York, offices in Alabama, Cincinnati, New Jersey, Orange County, and Tampa reported an overall increase. Declines were particularly steep, 50% or more, in Greenwich/Stamford, Austin, Houston, and Portland. Hiring was relatively stable in Chicago, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Seattle.

  • The results this year are similar to those of last year's survey, which found about a 23% decrease in aggregate lateral hiring between 2000 and 2001. Survey results, of course, reflect the respondent pool. It is worth noting, however, that the newest edition of NALP's Patterns and Practices: Measures of Law Firm Hiring, Leverage and Billable Hours, which provides information on lateral hiring between 2000 and 2001 from almost 1,200 offices reporting in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers, shows about a 28% decrease in lateral hiring for the same period. This figure thus parallels the findings of last year's Snapshot, and demonstrates that the Snapshot provides a good representation of the lateral market encompassed by the firms represented in the NALP Directory. Comparisons of Snapshot findings with the Directory show consistency for most regions and cities as well. It is thus interesting to note the reversals in some areas that are suggested when the current Snapshot findings are compared with those from last year. For example, the 5% increase in the Northeast contrasts with a 30% decrease from 2000 to 2001; for New York specifically, the current 18% increase contrasts with a 27% decrease during the prior time period. Chicago's relatively stable hiring in 2002 compared with 2001 contrasts with a decrease of about 40% from 2000 to 2001. Minneapolis, in contrast, shifted from modest growth to a decline of equal magnitude.

Lateral Hiring in 2002 and Comparison with 2001

 


# of Offices Reporting Median # Hired in 2002 Average # Hired in 2002 % Change in # Hired 2002-2002 % OF OFFICES REPORTING
Decrease of 50% or More Decrease of 10-50% Change of Less than 10% Increase of 10% or More
Nationwide 436 4.0 7 -17.3 32.3 18.9 16.5 32.3
By number of attorneys firmwide
50 or fewer 73 1.0 2 25.2 26.4 5.6 23.6 44.4
51-100 57 4.0 5 -4.5 22.6 20.8 13.2 43.4
101-250 88 6.0 8 -19.1 32.9 27.1 16.5 23.5
251-500 80 5.5 9 -24.4 32.0 20.0 17.3 30.7
501+ 135 5.0 8 -16.5 39.2 18.5 13.8 28.5
By NALP Region and city
Northeast 69 5.0 11 4.9 29.4 22.1 10.3 38.2
Boston area 7 9.0 12 -32.1 33.3 0.0 16.7 50.0
Greenwich/
Stamford, CT
6 1.5 2 -56.0 50.0 16.7 16.7 16.7
Hartford 6 3.0 3 -43.8 33.3 33.3 16.7 16.7
New York 33 9.0 15 18.5 27.3 27.3 6.1 39.4
Mid-Atlantic 73 5.0 7 -23.4 30.0 24.3 12.9 32.9
Baltimore 3 11.0 8 4.5 33.3 33.3 0.0 33.3
New Jersey 7 0.0 3 33.3 33.3 16.7 16.7 33.3
Philadelphia area 8 9.5 9 -7.6 12.5 37.5 12.5 37.5
Pittsburgh 5 4.0 6 -3.3 20.0 20.0 0.0 60.0
Washington, DC area 35 5.0 7 -39.0 41.2 23.5 14.7 20.6
Wilmington 5 4.0 4 -16.0 20.0 0.0 0.0 80.0
Southeast 107 3.0 5 -33.4 38.8 12.6 19.4 29.1
Alabama 5 2.0 4 120.0 20.0 0.0 20.0 60.0
Atlanta 10 5.5 7 -45.0 50.0 10.0 30.0 10.0
Austin 6 1.0 2 -53.8 66.7 0.0 0.0 33.3
Charlotte 4 1.5 2 -40.0 50.0 0.0 25.0 25.0
Dallas 15 7.0 7 -39.7 20.0 26.7 20.0 33.3
Houston 10 4.0 4 -52.9 66.7 11.1 0.0 22.2
Miami 6 1.5 3 -10.0 33.3 0.0 33.3 33.3
Tampa 6 3.0 5 45.5 16.7 16.7 16.7 50.0
Midwest 96 5.0 7 -17.5 30.3 16.9 22.5 30.3
Chicago 22 9.5 10 -1.7 9.1 40.9 13.6 36.4
Cincinnati 6 1.0 3 100.0 0.0 0.0 60.0 40.0
Indiana 10 1.0 4 -49.3 70.0 0.0 10.0 20.0
Michigan 7 5.0 5 -34.0 42.9 14.3 14.3 28.6
Milwaukee 6 4.5 5 -13.5 50.0 16.7 16.7 16.7
Minneapolis area 8 3.5 4 -43.2 42.9 14.3 28.6 14.3
Missouri 10 8.0 10 -35.8 42.9 14.3 14.3 28.6
West/Rocky Mountain 88 3.0 6 -15.3 30.6 20.0 15.3 34.1
Los Angeles area 15 7.0 10 -2.0 40.0 0.0 20.0 40.0
Orange County, CA 5 0.0 4 100.0 60.0 0.0 0.0 40.0
Phoenix 6 3.0 4 -36.8 33.3 33.3 16.7 16.7
Portland area 7 2.0 3 -57.1 42.9 14.3 14.3 28.6
San Francisco area 16 4.0 6 -12.9 21.4 42.9 0.0 35.7
San Jose area 7 3.0 4 -34.1 50.0 0.0 0.0 50.0
Seattle area 9 3.0 4 0.0 22.2 11.1 22.2 44.4

Source: Snapshot Survey, December 2002/January 2003.

Note: The number of offices reporting both 2001 and 2002 figures is somewhat smaller than the figure shown, which is the number of offices reporting a 2002 figure. Firms indicating that they recruit for multiple offices are excluded from the city figures if the reporting city and its suburban areas account for less than 75% of the firm's attorneys. Some city figures include a few offices in suburban locations. Orange County includes Costa Mesa, Irvine, and Newport Beach. The San Jose area includes Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and San Jose. Figures for New Jersey exclude Haddonfield, which is included in the Philadelphia area.

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