Lateral hiring is the growth strategy of choice at US law firms

February 4, 2012 The lateral market is heating up, as law firms reduce their graduate recruitment and seek to expand by hiring partners with established client lists from other law firms.

The rate of partner defections rose last year, and January this year has aready seen a large number of hiring announcements with firms responding to the difficult economic conditions by pursuing speedy growth rather than investing in business development that could take many years to pay off.

A report published this week by The Amercian Lawyer shows that 2,460 partners exited or joined top law firms in the year through September, a 22 per cent increase on the previous year. The increase was partly was attributable to the demise of Howrey, which put more than 200 partners into the job market.

An Altman Weil survey of 240 law firms also showed that lateral hiring was the growth strategy of choice among large law firms, with more than 91 per cent of partners who responded saying that they planned to pursue more lateral hires, compared with 25% who said they planned to open a new US office.

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