Lateral Hiring Up for the Second Year in a Row

NALP Bulletin, March 2005

NALP’s "Snapshot of the Recruiting Season" survey requested information on lateral hiring in 2003 and 2004. The results shown are based on reports from 443 employers who reported at least some lateral hiring in one of the two years. The table includes cities with at least five firms collectively reporting 20 or more lateral hires in 2004.

  • Overall, based on aggregate hiring of 4,449 lateral attorneys in 2004, the volume of hiring increased about 15%, with a median figure of six lateral hires in 2004. The average number hired was ten. Firms of 51-100 lawyers reported the largest increase in hiring, about 40%; firms of more than 500 lawyers collectively increased hiring by almost one-quarter. Although large firms typically do more lateral hiring, measured as either the median or average number hired, this does not necessarily translate into increased hiring in the aggregate. For example, lateral hiring in firms of 251-500 lawyers was almost the same in 2004 as in 2003.

  • At the same time, as the last four columns show, the increase in the aggregate number of lateral lawyers hired does not mean that every office or firm increased hiring. In fact, over one-third of offices reported a decrease of more than 10%, while almost half increased hiring by more than 10%. Thus, relatively few offices maintained steady or nearly steady hiring.

  • At the regional level, the largest increase by far, over one-third, was reported from the Northeast. This increase was largely fueled by an increase of almost 50% in New York City. Hiring in Boston, by contrast, was up only slightly. Lateral hiring in the Southeast was up by 18%, with firms in Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston posting aggregate increases. Lateral hiring increased much more modestly in other regions of the country, where at least one city in each region posted an aggregate decline in hiring. In the Mid-Atlantic Region it was Philadelphia, in the Midwest Chicago, and in the West San Francisco that showed aggregate declines. As noted above however, individual offices can vary from the aggregate. For example, while a plurality of offices in San Francisco reported a decrease in lateral hiring, almost 30% did report an increase of more than 10%. Likewise, in Chicago 45% of offices reported an increase of more than 10%.

  • Other cities reporting aggregate increases include Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Denver, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. Lateral hiring was steady or relatively so in Boston, Philadelphia, the Washington, DC area, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Michigan, and Orange County, CA.

The results this year are similar to those of the 2003 survey, which found an aggregate increase from 2002 to 2003 of almost 18%. Survey results, of course, reflect the respondent pool. It has been shown, however, that this survey tracks with the larger lateral market encompassed by 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 1.4% decline in Philadelphia follows a 25% increase in the prior period, and the 5.6% decline in Chicago contrasts with a more than 60% increase in the prior period. Some cities, such as Atlanta, Dallas, and Denver, posted increases in both periods, whereas the opposite is true of Orange County, CA, the San Jose area, and Seattle.

Lateral Hiring in 2004 and Comparison with 2003


# of Offices Reporting

Median # Hired in 2004

Average # Hired in 2004

% Change in # Hired 2003-2004

% OF OFFICES REPORTING:

Decrease of More than 10%

Change of 10% or Less

Increase of 11-75%

Increase of More than 75%

Nationwide 443 6.0 10 15.2% 38.0% 13.6% 18.3% 30.0%
By # of Lawyers Firmwide
50 or fewer 57 2.0 2 14.0 37.5 16.1 14.3 32.1
51-100 49 4.0 6 39.5 42.6 4.3 21.3 31.9
101-250 79 9.0 11 7.4 34.2 18.4 22.4 25.0
251-500 94 5.0 11 0.9 41.3 15.2 17.4 26.1
501+ 162 7.0 14 23.2 36.6 12.4 17.0 34.0
By NALP Region and City
Northeast 75 9.0 15 34.2 37.8 8.1 17.6 36.5
Boston area 13 9.0 14 3.9 38.5 15.4 15.4 30.8
Greenwich/Stamford, CT 5 2.0 4 90.9 20.0 20.0 0.0 60.0
New York City 44 13.5 18 48.5 31.8 6.8 20.5 40.9
Mid-Atlantic 79 7.0 13 7.2 39.5 14.5 25.0 21.1
New Jersey 8 10.0 12 -7.1 25.0 12.5 37.5 25.0
Philadelphia 8 24.5 34 -1.4 25.0 37.5 25.0 12.5
Pittsburgh 6 3.0 11 20.0 50.0 16.7 16.7 16.7
Other VA locations 5 4.0 21 75.0 60.0 0.0 0.0 40.0
Washington, DC area 41 8.0 11 4.8 41.5 9.8 26.8 22.0
Southeast 97 4.0 6 17.6 35.5 14.0 17.2 33.3
Atlanta 15 6.0 10 25.4 46.7 0.0 20.0 33.3
Charlotte 5 7.0 13 -11.0 40.0 20.0 20.0 20.0
Dallas 12 12.0 12 23.0 16.7 16.7 41.7 25.0
Houston 10 3.5 4 72.0 10.0 20.0 30.0 40.0
Midwest 87 6.0 10 7.5 38.4 12.8 17.4 31.4
Chicago 20 10.0 15 -5.6 50.0 5.0 25.0 20.0
Cincinnati 6 2.0 3 -13.6 33.3 0.0 33.3 33.3
Kansas City 6 10.5 18 111.8 16.7 0.0 16.7 66.7
Michigan 11 4.0 5 -3.8 36.4 27.3 9.1 27.3
Milwaukee 5 11.0 13 0.0 60.0 0.0 20.0 20.0
Minneapolis area 7 7.0 12 36.5 14.3 28.6 28.6 28.6
St. Louis 6 7.5 10 0.0 33.3 0.0 16.7 50.0
West/Rocky Mountain 104 5.0 9 11.2 39.6 17.7 14.6 28.1
Denver area 5 5.0 7 17.2 20.0 0.0 80.0 0.0
Los Angeles area 26 5.0 9 10.5 38.5 26.9 7.7 26.9
Orange County, CA 9 2.0 3 -3.7 44.4 22.2 0.0 33.3
Phoenix 5 9.0 9 100.0 20.0 0.0 0.0 80.0
San Francisco 14 5.5 10 -17.0 42.9 28.6 28.6 0.0
San Jose area 8 4.0 5 -5.0 37.5 25.0 0.0 37.5
Seattle area 8 4.0 5 -16.7 50.0 25.0 0.0 25.0

Note: The number of offices reporting both 2003 and 2004 figures is somewhat smaller than the figure shown, which is the number of offices reporting a 2004 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, Palo Alto, and San Jose. Other Virginia locations include Richmond, Norfolk, and Roanoke. Source: NALP Snapshot Survey of the 2004 Recruiting Season, December 2004/January 2005.

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