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Recession Chatter

Sam Reisman LAW360.COM

Lateral law firm recruitment activity rose in the first half of 2019 compared with 2018, with an overall 18% jump over a year ago and increases in the numbers of attorney hires across all tiers, indicating firms remain generally bullish in the face of renewed concerns about a looming recession.

The attorney rank that saw the largest surge in lateral moves was associates, with 4,304 hires in the first half of 2019, compared with 3,420 lateral hires in the same time in 2018 — a jump of 26%, according to data provided by Firm Prospects LLC, a legal industry data company. Multiple legal recruiters using other data gathering methods confirmed to Law360 that they had also seen a rise in lateral activity in 2019.

"Law firms are basically reactive in their associate hiring, in particular," said Michelle Fivel, a partner at legal recruiting firm Major Lindsey & Africa LLC. "They typically don't hire somebody until they go through a pretty detailed analysis regarding the utilization rates of the associates they already have on staff. And then they do an analysis to make sure that when they do hire a new attorney, they will be able to keep that person busy on a full-time basis."

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