The Big Law Free Agent Era rolled on in 2018. It was perhaps the busiest year for partner moves in the Am Law 100. More U.S.-based partners departed Am Law 100 firms in 2018 than in any year since 2013, according to data from ALM Intelligence.
Breaking the data down by quarter, it shows that recruiters are busiest at the beginning of the year. That is a result of law firms’ compensation systems, which pay out the majority of the past year’s earnings sometime in the new year. Some firms have begun drawing those year-end payments out, said Mark Jungers of recruiting firm Lippman Jungers. That has had two effects: Drawing out the busy season from the beginning of the year and, in some cases, forcing firms to pay so-called “true-ups” to compensate incoming partners for their previous year’s work. The data below likely also includes partner retirements, which are clustered in the beginning of the year.
That data equates to roughly 35 percent of all partner departures happening in the first quarter. But it’s not all crickets after that. The second quarter saw 27 percent of all departures, while 23 percent occurred in the third quarter. About 14 percent of all departures since 2013 have occurred in the fourth quarter.