Analyzing Recent Trends in Lateral Partner Hiring Across Major U.S. Cities

The legal industry is dynamic, constantly evolving with shifting trends and patterns. One intriguing aspect of this evolution is the lateral partner movements, where attorneys switch law firms for several reasons. Using Leopard Solutions data tracking attorney movements, we analyzed the partner movement landscape across eight major U.S. cities- Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.– considering three different date ranges to understand recent changes in partner lateral moves. By examining the data from a historical perspective and comparing it with current trends, we shed light on what these numbers truly mean for the legal industry.  

Recent Changes in Lateral Partner Movement Trends 

To gain insights into the hiring trends, we focused on three key metrics: 

  • The change between the past three months compared to the three months prior 
  • The shift from the past 12 months compared to the 12 months prior 
  • The transition from the Year-to-Date (YTD) in 2023 compared to the same period in 2022  
Partner Lateral Hire Trends for 8 major US Cities.
Partner Lateral Hire Year-on-Year Comparisn for 8 major US Cities.

Chicago’s Fluctuating Trends 

Chicago, a legal hub, has witnessed a 13% increase in partner lateral moves over the past three months compared to the period from February to May of 2023. However, placing this data in a historical context reveals a distinct perspective. Compared to the same period in the previous year, Chicago experienced a 37% increase, and in 2021, it saw a 31% increase. While the recent uptick may seem like a surge, it is not exceptional from a broader historical lens.


Houston and Los Angeles: Surging Lateral Moves  

Unlike Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles have undergone more pronounced surges in partner lateral moves. Houston’s lateral movements have surged 38% over the past three months, aligning with the previous year’s trend. Meanwhile, Los Angeles, which typically witnesses a decrease during this period, had a substantial 43% increase in lateral moves. These noteworthy surges underscore a shifting landscape within these cities’ legal markets.  


San Francisco and Washington, D.C.: Potential Reversal of Downward Trajectory

The data reveals fascinating dynamics in the partner hiring landscape across major U.S. cities. While Los Angeles has shown a decrease in year-over-year lateral moves, a recent surge in the past three months defies the norm. Similarly, most cities are experiencing a decline in lateral hiring over the past 12 months. Still, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. are bucking the trend, indicating a potential strategic shift in their hiring practices. Recent legal media coverage may have sensationalized the increase in lateral partner moves in Chicago. A closer look at historical data and trends indicates that while the surge is noticeable, it might not be as notable of an increment. As the legal industry evolves, it is crucial to consider historical context and broader patterns to interpret these shifts in the lateral partner move landscape accurately. The legal community should remain vigilant in observing how these trends unfold and whether they genuinely indicate a significant change in the industry’s momentum as we move forward into 2024.

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