Law firms are pumping the breaks on lateral hiring from the unprecedented heights of last year, but there’s an open question as to how far this slowdown will go: Is the legal industry careening toward the layoffs and hiring freezes of 2008 or 2020, or is it normalizing to a point of pre-pandemic stasis?

It’s not just the lower volume of lateral movement that’s indicating a cooling of the legal industry’s hiring environment; recruiters interviewed for this report said firms are investing less in their talent acquisition teams, while the sign-on bonuses offered to associates have been reduced to a minimum.