Hiring in bread-and-butter practices such as corporate M&A and litigation, which drove firm profits in the decade before the novel coronavirus pandemic, has slowed dramatically, even as areas like bankruptcy and data privacy see a flurry of action, causing lateral movement to drop year over year by nearly a third.

In March, the coronavirus pandemic forced state and local governments to close businesses, and the economy shuddered in response. Law firms, fearing double-digit revenue drops, instituted austerity measures, cut spending and suspended much of their hiring.