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Fewer associates appear ready to move to new firms after 'great reshuffling,' recruiters say

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The hot market for associates is cooling slightly, as associates appear more reluctant to make lateral moves and law firms are becoming more cautious in hiring, recruiters told Law.com.

Law firms are still seeking associates, but they are “far more picky,” according to Andrew Glynn, a recruiter and managing director in the associate practice group at legal recruiting firm Major Lindsey & Africa. He spoke with Law.com about his observations.

Last year, midlevel associates who were “slightly impressive” would get snapped up by a law firm within a week or two, Glynn told Law.com.

This year, the interview process is three to five weeks, even for attorneys with “highly desirable credentials,” he said.

One reason associates are staying put is because they accepted signing bonuses last year that require them to remain with their new firm for at least a year.

Glynn pointed to another change in the Boston and Florida markets, where he does recruiting, that could be putting a damper on lateral movement. Law firms that were offering six-figure signing bonuses last year are now offering half that amount.

That’s not the case in North Carolina, according to Clay Costner, a recruiter with Lee Hecht Harrison in Charlotte, North Carolina. He told Law.com that the market there is still “tremendously hot” and large signing bonuses are still being offered. But he does see some “fatigue” that is slowing lateral moves.

Last year was a big year for hiring, Law.com reports in another story. Am Law 200 firms hired 10,073 associates last year, more than double the number hired in 2020, the story reports, citing figures from Firm Prospects, which tracks moves in the Am Law 200.

Some media reports have noted that workers left their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic in what has been called the “Great Resignation.” But in the legal job market, there was more of a “great reshuffling,” the article suggests.

Michelle Fivel, a Major, Lindsey & Africa recruiter, told Law.com that she rarely sees associates who want to leave law practice entirely.

“Most of the attorneys that I spoke to were looking for a change within the industry,” she said.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “‘The pandemic has left its mark’ on law firm talent management, says legal tech CEO”

ABAJournal.com: “Top 4 unexpected culture killers for post-COVID-19 hybrid work”

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