Lateral Hiring - Down Just About Everywhere

NALP Bulletin, March 2009

After five years of growth, lateral hiring was off by more than 25% in 2008. That is the bottom-line finding of NALP's 2008 "Recruiting Snapshot Survey for Legal Employers," which requested information on lateral hiring in 2007 and 2008. The results shown in the table are based on reports from 400 employers who reported at least one lateral hire in one of the two years. The table includes cities with at least five offices reporting figures for both 2007 and 2008, and collectively reporting 25 or more lateral hires in 2008.

  • Overall, based on aggregate hiring of about 3,500 lateral lawyers in 2008, the volume of hiring decreased by more than 26% compared with 2007, with a median of four and an average of nine lateral hires. However, the percentage decrease in partner lateral hires was far less than that in associate lateral hires - 3% compared with 33%. But the volume of associate lateral hiring still outstripped that of partner hiring, with associate lateral hiring accounting for almost three-quarters of the lateral hiring reported for 2008.

  • As the table shows, however, changes in aggregate hiring varied considerably by firm size, with the largest aggregate decreases at the smallest and largest firms. However, aggregate outcomes are only part of the story. For example, the median number of lateral associates hired in 2008 was three or four across all but the smallest firms, but decreases in the aggregate ranged from 18% to 37%. Likewise, not every office decreased hiring by more than the overall average of 26%. As the last column shows, just over half decreased hiring by more than 25%.

  • Regional contrasts are evident, with only the West/Rocky Mountain region close to maintaining the same amount of aggregate hiring in 2008. Elsewhere, aggregate decreases ranged from 22% in the Mid-Atlantic states to 42% in the Northeast. Again, however, changes in the aggregate do not necessarily correspond to levels of hiring. For example, despite an overall decrease of 42% in the Northeast, the median of seven lateral hires was the highest of any region.

  • Aggregate decreases occurred in every major market, with a few exceptions. Lateral hiring increased in a number of areas in the West/Rocky Mountain region, including Denver, Orange County, San Diego, and San Francisco. Modest growth also occurred in Michigan and Ohio. Lateral associate hiring was off just about everywhere, but partner hiring increased in a number of areas including Boston, Northern New Jersey, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, and Los Angeles.

  • Measured as either the average or the median, levels of activity were generally highest in New York City, Northern New Jersey, and Michigan, even though hiring in the aggregate was down by 44% in New York City and by more than 5% in Northern New Jersey.

The results this year contrast markedly with last year's survey results, which found an aggregate increase from 2006 to 2007 of about 11%. Survey results, of course, reflect the respondent pool. Nonetheless, to the extent that the survey pool is similar to that of prior years with respect to firm size and location, NALP's "Snapshot" survey has documented a sharp slowdown after five years of aggregate increases, and in some cases substantial aggregate increases; 18% from 2002-2003; 15% from 2003-2004; 19% from 2004-2005; 7.6% from 2005-2006; and 11.4% from 2006-2007.

Last year's survey (the survey reporting on 2006 and 2007) documented aggregate increases in most cities. For many, particularly in the Southeast, fortunes were reversed in 2007-2008. Others, such as Seattle, continued a slide, as did Indiana and Missouri, despite increases in partner lateral hiring in both states. Only a few areas, such as Orange County, San Diego, and San Francisco maintained aggregate growth. (To view the complete March 2008 article, see www.nalp.org/2008marlateralhiring.)


Lateral Hiring in 2008 and Comparison with 2007

  Partners Associates Total % of
Offices
with
Decrease
of >25%
  # of
Offices
Reporting
Median #
Hired
in 2008
Average
# Hired
in 2008
% Change
in # Hired
2007-2008
Median #
Hired
in 2008
Average
# Hired
in 2008
% Change
in # Hired
2007-2008
Median #
Hired
in 2008
Average
# Hired
in 2008
% Change
in # Hired
2007-2008
Total 400 1.0 2.6 -2.8 3.0 6.3 -32.9 4.0 8.9 -26.3 52.3
By # of Lawyers Firmwide
100 or fewer 67 0.0 0.5 -8.8 2.0 2.1 -22.4 2.0 2.6 -20.1 43.1
101-250 73 2.0 2.8 7.4 4.0 5.4 -26.8 6.0 8.3 -17.8 48.6
251-500 49 1.0 3.4 28.2 3.0 7.0 -18.0 5.0 10.4 -6.9 53.1
501-700 61 1.0 3.0 5.9 4.0 6.3 -37.9 5.0 9.3 -28.3 49.2
701+ 149 1.0 3.0 -16.7 3.0 8.4 -36.7 5.0 11.4 -32.5 59.0
By NALP Region and City or State
Northeast 58 2.0 2.5 -2.9 4.0 6.6 -49.0 7.0 9.1 -41.6 60.0
Boston area 12 1.5 1.7 11.1 3.0 5.3 -39.8 5.5 7.0 -33.1 63.6
Connecticut 7 0.0 1.0 -30.0 2.0 2.7 -48.6 3.0 3.7 -44.7 71.4
New York City 34 2.5 3.1 -6.3 6.0 8.3 -51.0 8.5 11.3 -43.8 61.8
Mid-Atlantic 67 1.0 2.7 3.5 4.0 5.2 -30.4 4.0 7.9 -21.7 46.3
Newark/Northern NJ 6 2.0 2.2 30.0 6.0 9.3 -11.1 9.0 11.5 -5.5 16.7
Washington, DC/Northern VA 41 1.0 2.3 -3.1 4.0 4.0 -40.9 4.0 6.3 -31.0 48.8
Southeast 84 1.0 1.7 -2.3 2.0 3.5 -40.8 3.0 5.3 -32.5 55.0
Atlanta 12 2.0 2.0 -27.3 5.0 4.8 -43.0 7.0 6.8 -39.1 50.0
Charlotte 7 0.0 1.7 0.0 4.0 3.4 -71.2 5.0 5.1 -61.8 66.7
Dallas 10 1.0 1.4 -45.0 3.0 4.0 -46.5 4.5 5.4 -46.2 88.9
Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/W. Palm Beach 9 0.0 0.7 -50.0 2.0 2.2 -31.0 2.0 2.9 -36.6 77.8
Midwest 72 1.0 2.3 -13.0 3.0 4.4 -32.1 4.0 6.8 -26.5 56.9
Chicago 20 1.0 2.0 -34.4 3.5 4.7 -44.4 6.0 6.7 -41.7 65.0
Indiana 7 1.0 2.3 23.1 1.0 2.1 -50.0 2.0 4.4 -27.9 71.4
Michigan 7 4.0 3.4 -29.4 8.0 7.0 36.1 13.0 10.4 4.3 28.6
Minneapolis 10 0.5 1.0 -63.0 1.0 3.0 -45.5 2.0 4.0 -51.2 70.0
Missouri 7 3.0 4.1 31.8 3.0 9.3 -22.6 4.0 13.4 -11.3 28.6
Ohio 11 1.0 3.4 42.3 4.0 4.4 -14.3 7.0 7.7 3.7 45.5
Wisconsin 5 1.0 1.8 0.0 3.0 3.2 -46.7 5.0 5.0 -35.9 60.0
West/Rocky Mountain 104 1.0 1.9 64.7 3.0 4.3 -15.5 4.0 6.2 -0.3 47.5
Denver 7 0.0 0.9 * 3.0 4.7 26.9 3.0 5.6 50.0 42.9
Los Angeles area 22 2.0 2.0 32.3 3.0 3.5 -36.3 5.5 5.4 -21.5 47.6
Orange County, CA 7 1.0 3.0 250.0 3.0 4.3 -3.2 6.0 7.3 37.8 42.9
San Diego 6 1.5 2.3 366.7 2.0 3.8 -20.7 3.5 6.2 15.6 50.0
San Francisco 16 0.5 3.2 168.4 4.0 6.5 11.8 6.0 9.7 38.4 31.3
San Jose area 9 1.0 1.7 -12.5 4.0 4.9 -13.0 6.0 6.6 -12.9 50.0
Seattle area 8 0.0 0.5 -20.0 3.0 3.8 -34.8 4.5 4.3 -33.3 62.5

Source: NALP 2008 Recruiting Snapshot Survey for Legal Employers
The number of offices shown is the total number reporting at least some lateral hiring in either 2007 or 2008.
The number of offices included in each calculation may be less because not all surveys included complete information.
City figures generally do not include offices which provided one survey to cover lateral hiring nationwide or for multiple offices.
Some city figures may include a few offices in suburban locations, or firms whose figures include small branch offices in other
parts of the country.
* These offices reported no lateral partner hires in 2007.

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