Lateral Hiring: Recovery after Two Years of Decline

NALP Bulletin, March 2004 

NALP's "Snapshot of the Recruiting Season" survey requested information on lateral hiring in 2002 and 2003. The results shown are based on reports from 412 employers.

  • Overall, based on aggregate hiring of 3,568 lateral attorneys in 2003, the volume of hiring increased about 18%, with a median figure of five lateral hires in 2003. The average number hired was nine. Firms of 50 or fewer attorneys reported the largest increase in aggregate hiring — 26%. In contrast, aggregate hiring at somewhat larger firms of 51-100 attorneys was nearly steady.

  • At the same time, as the last four columns show, the increase in the aggregate number of lateral attorneys hired does not mean that every office or firm increased hiring. In fact, one-third of offices reported a decrease of more than 10%. This figure was somewhat lower at firms of 50 or fewer attorneys and somewhat higher in firms of 51-100 attorneys.

  • At the regional level, the largest increase, about 38%, was reported from the Midwest, followed by the West/Rocky Mountain region, at 26%. In contrast, lateral hiring in the Mid-Atlantic region decreased slightly, driven in large part by decreased hiring in the Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia areas, where aggregate lateral hiring was down 16% and 19%, respectively. In addition to the Washington, D.C. area, Houston, Columbus, Kansas City, Orange County, the San Jose area, and Seattle all experienced an overall decrease. In contrast, lateral hiring was particularly strong in Chicago, Michigan, Denver, and San Francisco. Hiring was relatively stable in Miami and Tampa.

The results this year contrast with those of the 2002 survey, which found an aggregate decrease from 2001 to 2002 of nearly equal magnitude, -17.3%. Survey results, of course, reflect the respondent pool. It has been shown, however, that the Snapshot survey provides a good representation of the broader lateral market encompassed by NALP members and the NALP Directory of Legal Employers. 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 35% increase in Boston comes on the heels of a 32% decrease from 2001-2002. San Francisco's increase comes after a decline of 13% in the prior period. In some locations, however, such as the Washington, D.C. and San Jose areas, hiring declined in both periods. Firms of 50 or fewer attorneys have seen increases across both periods.

Lateral Hiring in 2003 and Comparison with 2002 Hiring



PERCENT OF OFFICES REPORTING
# of Offices Reporting Median # Hired in 2003 Average # Hired in 2003 % Change in # Hired 2002-2003 Decrease of More Than 10% Change of 10% or Less Increase of 11-75% Increase of More than 75%
Nationwide 412 5.0 9 17.7% 33.7% 20.2% 16.1% 30.1%
By # of Attorneys Firmwide
50 or fewer 53 2.0 2 26.0 25.5 29.4 7.8 37.3
51-100 44 4.0 5 -0.5 40.5 23.8 14.3 21.4
101-250 93 8.0 9 15.4 37.1 18.0 20.2 24.7
251-500 78 7.0 11 19.4 30.7 20.0 18.7 30.7
501+ 143 6.0 12 20.4 34.3 16.4 15.7 33.6
By NALP Region and City
Northeast 68 7.0 13 15.7 43.1 13.8 21.5 21.5
Boston 8 15.5 29 34.7 42.9 14.3 14.3 28.6
New York 40 8.0 13 13.5 46.2 10.3 23.1 20.5
Mid-Atlantic 74 6.0 10 -3.5 38.6 21.4 14.3 25.7
New Jersey 10 4.5 9 10.6 50.0 20.0 10.0 20.0
Philadelphia 9 15.0 28 24.9 50.0 0.0 25.0 25.0
Other VA locations 8 4.0 5 -18.9 62.5 12.5 12.5 12.5
Washington, DC area 35 6.0 8 -15.5 28.1 15.6 15.6 40.6
Southeast 88 4.0 6 20.6 27.4 22.6 16.7 33.3
Atlanta 12 6.5 7 10.0 33.3 33.3 16.7 16.7
Austin 5 2.0 4 220.0 25.0 0.0 0.0 75.0
Charlotte 7 8.0 8 31.0 14.3 14.3 28.6 42.9
Dallas 11 10.0 12 6.5 20.0 30.0 40.0 10.0
Houston 9 2.0 2 -15.8 37.5 25.0 0.0 37.5
Miami 7 9.0 9 1.6 42.9 0.0 28.6 28.6
Raleigh 5 1.0 2 100.0 20.0 60.0 0.0 20.0
Tampa/St. Petersburg 6 1.5 5 0.0 33.3 33.3 16.7 16.7
Tennessee 6 3.5 5 111.1 0.0 40.0 20.0 40.0
Midwest 76 5.0 10 38.2 33.3 16.7 19.4 30.6
Chicago 17 13.0 18 62.2 23.5 23.5 17.6 35.3
Columbus 6 4.0 7 -4.8 50.0 16.7 16.7 16.7
Kansas City area 6 9.0 17 -6.2 60.0 0.0 20.0 20.0
Michigan 8 4.0 11 49.2 37.5 12.5 25.0 25.0
Minneapolis area 8 4.5 5 34.4 37.5 12.5 12.5 37.5
St. Louis 5 3.0 7 9.7 60.0 0.0 20.0 20.0
Wisconsin 5 3.0 4 11.1 20.0 40.0 40.0 0.0
West/Rocky Mountain 105 4.0 8 26.2 30.0 23.0 11.0 36.0
Denver area 6 8.5 10 59.0 0.0 16.7 33.3 50.0
Los Angeles area 25 11.0 12 31.1 26.1 17.4 21.7 34.8
Orange County, CA 8 2.0 5 -23.1 50.0 12.5 25.0 12.5
Phoenix 5 6.0 6 6.9 20.0 40.0 20.0 20.0
Portland area 6 1.5 3 58.3 16.7 33.3 0.0 50.0
San Diego 5 6.0 14 5.3 33.3 33.3 0.0 33.3
San Francisco area 18 4.5 11 75.9 16.7 16.7 5.6 61.1
San Jose area 6 6.0 6 -20.5 66.7 33.3 0.0 0.0
Seattle area 10 3.0 3 -20.0 44.4 11.1 0.0 44.4

Note: The number of offices reporting both 2002 and 2003 figures is somewhat smaller than the figure shown, which is the number of offices reporting a 2003 figure. City figures may include offices which indicated that they recruit for multiple offices. 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, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and San Jose. Other Virginia locations include Richmond, Norfolk, Roanoke, and Virginia Beach.

Source: NALP Snapshot Survey, December 2003/January 2004

National Association for Law Placement, Inc.® (NALP®)
1220 19th Street NW, Suite 401, Washington, DC 20036-2405
(202) 835-1001 info@nalp.org
© Copyright 2021 NALP

STAY CONNECTED



View Full Site