Lateral Associate Hiring Cools, But Partner Moves Heat Up in 2022

Lateral Associate Hiring Cools, But Partner Moves Heat Up in 2022

2022 was a mixed year for the lateral hiring market, according to the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) with a distinct decline in 2022 activity compared to the super-hot 2021 year.

While overall lateral hiring declined by 11.5 percent, partner and other lawyer hiring increased by 5.5 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively.

However, the cooling-off of the lateral associate market led to a 20 percent decrease compared to 2021. NALP’s 2022 analyses showed that firms with 250 or fewer lawyers capitalized on the lack of positions at larger firms to acquire new talent, with associate hiring up nearly 12 percent and partner hiring up 56 percent.

In contrast, firms with more than 700 lawyers experienced the largest decline in lateral hiring. Additionally, while overall partner hiring increased, this was not the case across every firm size, region, and city. While the 2022 lateral hiring market may have cooled,

NALP Executive Director Nikia L. Gray expects that firms will continue to exercise caution when it comes to lateral hiring in 2023.

“The fact that the 2022 lateral hiring market cooled from its red-hot state in 2021 is not surprising. Last year was a progressively challenging year for law firms, with many closing out the year down in profits and over-leveraged on talent. Several of the markets that were particularly robust in 2021 fell significantly,
including New York and Boston.

“The news, however, is not all bad. The shifting market was a boon for
firms of 250 or fewer lawyers, which struggled to compete with larger firms during the hiring frenzy of 2021,” said Nikia Grtay.

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