If 2010 was a year for staying put, 2011 was the year that partners jumped back into the lateral market with full force. In the 12 months ending September 30, 2011, 2,454 partners left or joined Am Law 200 firms. That was a 22 percent increase from 2010, when only 2,014 changed jobs—the lowest number of partner moves since 2000. This year’s figure was consistent with the annual average of 2,458 partner moves from 2005 to 2009 and was higher than the number of lateral moves in 2007, when 2,423 partners moved. Even without the 208 partners that the March dissolution of Howrey added to the 2011 total, there was still a 16 percent increase in partner moves over the previous 12-month period. This year’s uptick in lateral churn does not mean the boom years are back. Both transactions and litigation lagged in 2011, consultants note. So what accounts for the increase in lateral hiring? In many cases, it’s cherry picking, as firms try to counter a stagnant economy by poaching top performers from rivals.
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