March 5, 2012 4:04 PM

The Am Law 200’s Leaders and Losers In Lateral Hiring Through First Two Months of 2012

Posted by Brian Baxter

Much has been written lately by The American Lawyer, The Am Law Daily, our sibling publications, and others about the boom in lateral hiring among large law firms. The start of a new year is a particularly busy time in this regard, as lawyers time potential moves that they hope will improve their standing until they know what kind of bonuses the prior year might yield.

With the market for lateral moves especially hot in the first two months of 2012, The Am Law Daily set out to determine which firms within the Am Law 200 saw the most hiring activity from January 1, 2011 through February 29, 2011.

The methodology we adopted for this not-quite-scientific exercise was as follows: We awarded firms a point for each lateral partner hired and a half-point for each counsel, of counsel, senior adviser, or specialist added. (Associates were only factored in when they joined a new firm as partner or counsel.) Similarly, firms lost points for losing partners, counsel, of counsel, senior advisers, and specialists.

For example, a firm that hired five lateral partners and lost three in the first two months of 2012 would have a net score of +2. A firm that hired one partner and lost three partners and one counsel would have net score of -2.5.

It’s important to remember that such calculations only measure the quantity of movement. We know full well that not all lateral hires are created equal, and the quality of later hires is not reflected here. An associate hired as a partner by one firm counts the same as a rainmaker brought on by another firm. As we said, it’s a not-quite-scientific exercise.

The list below provides a breakdown of the six Am Law 200 firms that enjoyed the greatest net gains in lateral hiring during the first two months of 2012 and the six that suffered the greatest net losses during that same period. We’re also including a “hold the line” category for firms that roughly broke even on the lateral front. (Not included: Luce, Forward, Hamilton Scripps, which, per our previous reporting on the firm’s sagging finances ahead of its looming merger with McKenna Long Aldridge, has seen multiple defections this year.)

The hundreds of lateral moves we measured were gleaned from our weekly Churn column, news stories, press releases, and other internal and external databases. We tried to be as comprehensive as possible, but feel free to let us know if we’re missing something of substance. Readers can click here for a attached PDF containing a comprehensive list of all moves considered in arriving at the rankings below.


DLA Piper, +14. The world’s largest law firm by attorney head count continued to grow, opening an office in Mexico City, expanding in Miami and Silicon Valley, and picking up an energy team in Washington, D.C. At the same time, the firm did suffer a spate of losses in Los Angeles.

Littler Mendelson, +14. The opening of a Memphis office through a merger with local employment firm Kiesewetter Wise Kaplan Prather was responsible for most of Littler’s growth.

Bracewell Giuliani, +13. The firm bolted on a 14-partner public finance practice in Texas from Vinson Elkins that chose to part ways with Bracewell’s Lone Star State rival because of ongoing conflicts issues.

Perkins Coie, +11. The Seattle-based Am Law 100 was active in the domestic lateral market, picking up partners in cities like Boise, Chicago, and Phoenix.

Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, +11. Three years after its creation through a merger between Birmingham- and Nashville-based shops, Bradley Arant kept scooping up partners throughout the southeast.

Hughes Hubbard Reed, +10.5. The opening of an office in Kansas City, Missouri, and the hiring of a trio of Paris-based partners helped Hughes Hubbard get off to a strong start in 2012.


Vinson Elkins, -14. Vinson has been refocusing on its bread-and-butter oil and gas expertise. The bulk of the firm’s lateral losses were tied to the January departure of the public finance practice to Bracewell.

Greenberg Traurig, -11. Expanding its operations in Mexico City couldn’t help the Miami-based Am Law 100 firm fully offset the departure of partners in several other cities.

Dewey LeBoeuf, -9. The firm’s finances have been a hot topic in the legal blogosphere of late, and the addition of an eight-partner South African team couldn’t make up for the loss of 16 partners in the first two months of 2012.

Orrick, Herrington Sutcliffe, -8. Despite hiring aggressively in London after the loss of its local managing partner, Orrick suffered from defections in Washington, D.C., and Silicon Valley.

Bryan Cave and Day Pitney, tied at -5.5. Bryan Cave was hurt by a raid on its Hong Kong office and the departure of two partners in St. Louis; Day Pitney saw two top whistle-blower advocates break away in Washington, D.C.


McDermott Will Emery, +4. In the wake of our story last fall on the firm’s efforts to grow its business amid a rash of lateral losses, McDermott has been busy bolstering its ranks with hires across the country, despite a steady drumbeat of defections.

Dechert, +1. The Philadelphia-based Am Law 100 firm lost two big litigators from its New York office in February, but also made a few big hires of its own, including reopening an office in Frankfurt.

Crowell Moring, 0. What had been a productive six weeks of hiring by Crowell, including making a rare lateral hire from Cravath, Swaine Moore, hit a bump in mid-February when the firm lost the chair of its financial services and international arbitration practices.

Baker McKenzie, -1. Despite the pending closure of its San Diego office and a five-partner defection in Amsterdam, the firm, one of the world’s largest by head count, made some key lateral hires of its own in Spain, Tokyo, and Toronto.

Hogan Lovells, -1. While DLA raided the firm’s energy practice for five partners, Hogan Lovells was busy enough on the lateral hiring front to offset some of those losses.

Mayer Brown, -3. The firm’s London office was popular among lateral-seeking rivals, although Mayer Brown did push back by picking off laterals of its own in New York and Washington, D.C.

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