In a conversation last week, a friend who is a partner in an AMLAW 100 firm told me that he received a record number of calls from search firms during the previous month. In a separate conversation last week, a Managing Partner client noted the incredible number of calls she was receiving pertaining to hiring opportunities.

It appears that the lateral market is abnormally active.

There are a number of reasons an individual lawyer might be available during this unique period; let’s consider two:

  • Concerns about current firm. While an impressive number of firms seem to be weathering the challenges associated with the pandemic, we are seeing many forced to respond with cuts to compensation and/or draws, furloughs and layoffs. Given the environment, it is not surprising that some partners are unhappy with how their firm has responded to the pandemic, and have decided to leave, or at least test the waters of the lateral market. These individuals may represent a real opportunity for a firm with a need for their practice.
  • Individuals who have been victims of the pandemic. Many lawyers have been let go or had their compensation reduced (many more will be subjected to this reality in the months ahead), and are looking for a new home. In a significant number of these cases, a decision to hire will actually make your firm immediately weaker, and more vulnerable to the inevitable stresses of the coming months.

If there was ever a time for real due diligence in the hiring process, it is now. We urge firms to cautiously calculate whether you are really adding value. Most industry observers and advisors agree — more than 50% of lateral hires deliver less than expected.