Desperate Times Call for Desperate Lateral-Hiring Measures

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on March 15, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Lateral hiring at BigLaw firms is increasing. Some commentators are concerned, as this trend does not necessarily mean the economy is faring well.

In fact, it could actually mean the opposite. The spate of hiring may actually be spurred on by desperation -- and we all know desperation isn't exactly a positive sign.

Lateral hiring increased by 22% from the previous year, the ABA Journal reports. That's a whole lot of firm bigwigs shifting around: More than 2,400 partners joined or left law firms.

The rationale might be that lateral hiring is an easy way to grow, according to the ABA Journal. Generating new clients, developing associates, and creating new business opportunities can take years.

By contrast, poaching a partner from another BigLaw firm doesn't take too long. And the partner's connections, book of business, and reputation follow him. A firm's bottom line can be easily padded with a few high-profile acquisitions.

Hiring a bunch of lateral partners, however, may not necessarily indicate your firm is doing badly. Perhaps your firm is actually doing so well that other partners are willing to jump ship and join the party at your office.

But what are some real signs your firm could be slowly sinking?

  • Managers continue to implement more cost-cutting measures. Cutting costs is vital to any business. But it may be a sign of trouble if your firm is starting to cut back on even the most basic supplies.
  • There haven't been any new hires -- in years. Hiring new associates is expensive. If your firm has halted all hires, it may be a sign that there simply isn't enough business to go around.

So maybe the increased amount of "lateral hiring" at your firm isn't necessarily a bad thing. It might reek of desperation, but at least it means your firm has enough dough to afford new blood.

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