Law firms increasingly offer title of partner to lure lateral associates

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Law firms are increasingly dangling the prospect of partnership status to lure needed associates from other law firms.

Associate-to-partner hiring in the nation’s top-grossing 100 law firms increased by 35% from 2019 to 2021, Law360 reports. Its story is based on information from Firm Prospects, which tracks lateral hiring.

Law firms “needed bodies,” said Adam Oliver, CEO and co-founder of Firm Prospects, in an interview with Law360. “The only way they could get people to jump ship was to offer partnership on day one.”

Gary Miles, founder of Miles Partner Placement, identified another factor likely influencing such hiring: requests by clients for partner-level lawyers on their cases. Firms that hire senior associates as partners can offer a partner for the work and can charge more too, he told Law360.

Still, the number making the associate-to-partner move was a small percentage of all hires in the Am Law 100, increasing from 0.96% of all hires in 2019 to 1.29% in 2021, according to statistics in the article. And most of those jumping into partnerships were going to firms with two-tiered partnerships.

Two-tier firms Kirkland & Ellis, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith and Polsinelli had the most associate-to-partner hires.

In the nation’s top-grossing 200 law firms, associates most likely to lateral into partnerships were corporate lawyers (56), followed by lawyers in litigation (40), real estate (16), banking (15) and intellectual property (14).

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