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Laterals Remain Prized Law Firm Commodity, but Offices also Tapping New Attorneys


In mid-December, six intellectual property attorneys walked out of one law firm, boarded the elevator in their downtown Indianapolis office building and pushed the button for a competing law firm on the 19th floor.

Thus, Frost Brown Todd bolstered its Indianapolis IP practice group by luring the entire intellectual property team from SmithAmundsen’s Indiana office. The move underscored what law firms are saying is a competitive job market where experienced lawyers are the hottest commodity.

Through 2018, Indianapolis firms added newly minted lawyers to their stables, as well as lateral hires at the associate, of counsel and partner levels. The recruitment and employment offers were driven by client needs and increasing workloads, and looking at what’s ahead for 2019, managing partners and practice group leaders expect hiring to continue.

Jeffrey Lowe, global practice leader of Major Lindsey & Africa’s law firm practice, expects lateral hires will continue to dominate the job market. Snatching a productive partner from another firm is an easier way to grow a legal practice than hiring and training new associates or undertaking the difficult task of merging with another firm.

Although experience is valuable, Lowe said the most important asset firms are interested in is the business lateral hires bring. The clients and work a seasoned attorney will arrive with are key hiring considerations.

“There’s a lot of attorneys with experience, but only so many with a profitable book of business,” Lowe said. “For better or worse, firms are more focused on the book of business than experience.”

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