Welcome to the latest round-up of lateral partner moves in the legal market from Edwards Gibson, where we look back at announced partner-level recruitment activity in London over the past two months and give you a ‘who’s moved where’ update.
July to August is traditionally a quiet time for the announcement of lateral partner moves and whilst this edition is no exception, in view of the current economic shenanigans, it is perhaps surprising that the number of moves we recorded (51) is actually up 9% on the same period last year (47) and even slightly elevated on the statistical average for the same period over the past five years (50).
There has been much discussion in the legal press that survival strategies of COVID-racked law firms include “encouraging” underperforming partners, and even whole practice areas, to move on. Whilst undoubtedly a real phenomenon of the current market, and one which is sure to accelerate as COVIDinduced economic shockwaves increasingly find their mark, in our view, the vast majority of hires outlined this round-up are comprised of anything but distressed émigrés . Indeed, this edition contains a disproportionate number of hires by uber profitable outfits not known for being trigger happy in the lateral partner market – of particular note - Simpson Thacher, fellow New Yorker Cahill Gordon & Reindel (which snared a brace of finance partners from Allen & Overy) and City blue-blood Macfarlanes.
In a likely portent of things to come, three firms launched restructuring & insolvency practices and fully 14% of all the hires we recorded were bankruptcy lawyers.
Firms hiring laterals whose practices were primarily restructuring or insolvency related
|Boies Schiller Flexner|
|Shearman & Sterling|
|Wilkie Farr & Gallagher|
Just under 40% of all hires we recorded were disputes lawyers - which make up by far the highest proportion of movers in this edition. Given the inverse relationship between economic health and litigation, an elevation in the number of contentious laterals was inevitable – and a sustained spike in demand for contentious partners is certainly in line with our own anecdotal experience. For readers in the litigation-friendly United States - where disputes offerings tend to make up a far greater proportion of Big Law’s revenues - the “high” proportion of disputes laterals we recorded may not seem intrinsically unusual, but it is noteworthy that at no time over the past 10 years has Edwards Gibson recorded an occasion where the number of disputes hires outnumbered those of both corporate and finance combined.
Top partner recruiters in London July – August 2020
|Cahill Gordon & Reindel||2|
|Clyde & Co||2|
|Shearman & Sterling||2|
Also of note in this edition
- 24% of all laterals were non-partners moving into partnership;
- Five firms hired partners from in-house;
- Only 7% of the laterals who moved were female (by way of comparison, the annual number of female laterals between 2017-2019 was 26%).
The lateral recruitment market has so far defied gravity seemingly buoyed by law firms using their natural ability to counter-cyclically hedge their businesses - as indicated by the very high proportion of disputes and restructuring hires recorded in this edition.
Whilst there is evidence that alternatively structured law firms, such as Keystone, have sharply increased hiring – likely aided in part by a number of conventional law firms nudging their underperforming partners out, so far at least, the inevitable disruption-induced involuntary movement of transactional partners is yet to be reflected in the hiring patterns of conventional law firms. … unfortunately, it is only a matter of time.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss this article or any other aspect of the market in more depth.
Scott Gibson, Director firstname.lastname@example.org
Sloane Poulton, Director email@example.com
Mark Coates, Senior Consultant firstname.lastname@example.org
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