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Lateral hiring at Texas’ largest firms was down in 2004 compared with the previous year. Nineteen of the 25 largest firms participated in Texas Lawyer’s survey tracking lateral movements during 2004. The 19 firms reported hiring 427 laterals in 2004, 15.5 percent fewer than the 505 hired by the same firms the previous year. The total number of attorneys at the reporting firms increased by a slight 1.2 percent, from 6,609 on Jan. 1, 2003, to 6,681 on Jan. 1, 2004. And the attrition rate, a measurement of the number of departing attorneys, also is slightly higher, at an average of 12.3 percent for 2004 compared with 11.2 percent the previous year. [ See the chart: "Lateral Hiring at Texas Firms."] Three legal recruiters, working the lateral markets in Texas, cite different possible reasons for the lower activity reported among the larger firms, including over-hiring of laterals in 2003, less opportunity to move toward in-house positions and an emphasis on laterals with stronger credentials than required in 2003. During 2003, Texas firms over-hired in certain practice areas, such as corporate and securities, says Robert Shanley, a recruiter in the Houston office of New York-based UpdateLegal. Shanley noted that some practice areas, such as bankruptcy, which were very active in 2003, slowed during 2004. “So the firms have excess capacity in those areas,” he says. Michelle Cash, a recruiter in the Houston office of Major, Hagen & Africa, an attorney placement firm founded in San Francisco, says the lateral market has seen less movement over the past two to three years among junior-level attorneys. “One reason is that the in-house market is not pulling people from firms as it did � there are not as many irresistible dot-coms,” Cash says. “Plus the transactional business was down and so there has not been as much movement in transactional lawyers.” She also says that there seemed to be less job restlessness among junior lawyers last year. “If they have a job they like, they don’t need to see what’s out there, because they are satisfied and happy and know the market is tight. “ Alysa Schildcrout, a principal in Dallas-based Amicus Search Group, says the larger law firms were more selective last year about their lateral candidates, resulting in fewer but more expensive hires. “We were busier, because we were looking for high-caliber candidates, as opposed to just [doing] a volume business,” she says. “We have seen an increase in our business, because we’ve moved to partners with superstar credentials.” Shanley and Schildcrout say that litigation and corporate and securities are the most active practice areas for Texas laterals. The 19 firms participating in the survey indicated this was the case with 126 of the 427 lateral attorneys hired by these firms during 2004 in litigation practices and 61 in corporate and securities. Thirty of the attorneys are in intellectual property, 26 in real estate/finance/banking, 23 in trial practice and 21 in tax.
Top 10 Reasons Attorneys Make Lateral Moves No. 10: “I was engaged to somebody at my firm, and we didn’t want to put all our eggs in one basket.” No. 9: “The nameplate on my door was written in chalk, and there was a wet sponge hanging on a chain. I got the point.” No. 8: “I wanted a firm with a bigger name, a better platform. I wanted to get on the rocket to more money.” No. 7: “My former firm, they didn’t have voice mail. You think I’m kidding?” No. 6: “I don’t mind working more hours, as long as I’m paid for working more hours.” No. 5: “The switch took 10 minutes off my commute.” No. 4: “I made the move several months ago. I had to explain it to so many people, I’m not even sure now if I remember why I moved.” No. 3: “I want to be respected.” No. 2: “I want to make partner.” No. 1: “All the other lawyers in my office had been indicted � just kidding.” Source: A telephone survey of 16 attorneys who made lateral moves during 2004.
Practice Areas For Laterals The following is a list of practice areas that saw the most lateral movement at 19 of Texas’ 25 largest firms during 2004. Practice Areas — Number of Attorneys Appellate — 10 Banking/Real Estate/Finance — 26 Bankruptcy/Restructuring — 18 Biotechnology — 5 Construction — 2 Corporate and Securities — 61 Energy — 15 Environmental — 8 Government Relations — 7 Health — 5 Insurance — 2 Intellectual Property — 30 International — 8 Labor and Employment — 19 Litigation — 126 Mergers and Acquisitions — 3 Professional Liability — 2 Tax — 21 Trusts and Estates — 2 White Collar — 2 Note: Twenty-five of the largest firms in Texas as listed on Texas Lawyer’s “100 Largest Firms in Texas” poster for 2004 were asked to participate in the Lateral Hiring Survey. The 19 firms that participated in the survey hired a total of 427 lateral attorneys in 2004 � 55 of those laterals did not specify their practice area. Six firms declined to participate in the Lateral Hiring Survey: Beirne, Maynard & Parsons; Clark, Thomas & Winters; Hughes & Luce; Jackson Walker; Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson; and Vinson & Elkins. Source: the firms

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