The 15 Hottest (and Coldest) Markets for Associates in 2017

Last week, we wrote about how the associate lateral market in 2017 was either hot or cold depending on your practice. The same goes for your city.

Although U.S. lateral hiring looks likely to dip slightly from last year, the lateral market looked very different depending on where you were located. In some cities, you were more than twice as likely to get hired as a lateral than in others. 

To measure the hottest and coldest cities in 2017, we looked at which cities had the most lateral associate hires relative to the number of practicing associates. Our data, from our Move Tracker, covers 156 major firms in 15 cities nationwide. Here are the results:

2017's Hottest Markets

1) Houston


How was a city battered by natural disaster the hottest market in 2017? You guessed it. An oil market recovery started in 2016, which led firms to expand their corporate and energy practices. This is now the second year in a row with robust lateral hiring. Kirkland & Ellis continued its massive hiring in Houston after opening their office there in 2014, bringing on 23 lateral associates this year; Vinson & Elkins also hired 16 new lateral associates after a quiet 2016. Firms were poaching associates from local rivals, but also drawing in associates from New York, Chicago and Washington D.C.

View all Houston lateral moves.


2) Seattle

Rapidly emerging as an outlet for startups facing high costs of living in California, Seattle is also an outlet for lateral associates from firms around the country. More than 50% of lateral hires this year were from outside the state. Also of note was that in this relatively small market, just three firms were responsible for 57% of all lateral hiring: Perkins Coie, Davis Wright Tremaine, and Wilson Sonsini. 

View all Seattle lateral moves.

3) Dallas


Dallas' high rank was heavily determined by firms opening new offices and mass moves taking place. Dorsey & Whitney sucked up 6 associates from Schiff Hardin, as Dorsey launched its Dallas office and Schiff shuttered its own. Drinker Biddle brought over 12 Sedgwick associates when they opened their Dallas office in February. And Winston & Strawn hired 18 associates from a range of firms when they opened their office there in February. A more insular market than Seattle or Houston, only a handful of lateral hires came form outside of Texas.

View all Dallas lateral moves.

And here are the remaining hot markets:

4) Miami

5) Denver

6) San Francisco

7) Los Angeles

8) Silicon Valley


2017's Coldest Markets

1) Atlanta

Atlanta's economy is growing and firm revenues are up, but, counterintuitively, firms made just 49 lateral hires this year. The slow 2017 comes on the heels of 107 hires in 2015 amid some mass moves, and 67 hires in 2016. The difference between this year and last? Roughly the amount that one Atlanta heavyweight firm reduced their associate lateral hiring this year. After all the hiring from previous years, Atlanta may have just needed a breather. With 37 openings in the market right now, many of them new, 2018 may be very different. 

2) Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. has never been a leader in lateral hiring, since firms in DC also grow their ranks by pulling in attorneys from government. Still, hiring is down from previous years. Did something suck the excitement out of our nation's capital?

3) San Diego

4) New York

5) Chicago

6) Philadelphia

7) Boston

Laterally is the legal industry's leading hiring platform. We place attorneys at law firms worldwide and our website lets attorneys track the lateral market without the cold calls and opacity of the traditional recruiting process. In our 2017 Year in Review, we share insights on the market using data available in real-time to Laterally users.