The 10 Law Firms That Hired The Most Lateral Associates in 2017

2017 turned out to be a good year for associate lateral hiring, with a 3.9% increase over 2016 (though still well below 2015 levels). In previous posts we looked at the hottest practice areas and locations for lateral associates and counsel in 2017. Today, we're looking at which specific firms were most active in associate lateral hiring.

Firms with the most associate lateral hiring overall

These firms were the biggest movers in the lateral market nationally, hiring the most lateral associates overall:

 300 North LaSalle, Kirkland's Chicago headquarters

300 North LaSalle, Kirkland's Chicago headquarters

  1. Kirkland & Ellis – 192 hires
  2. DLA Piper – 67 hires (tie)
  3. Morgan Lewis – 67 hires (tie)
  4. Winston & Strawn - 65 hires
  5. Latham & Watkins – 59 hires
  6. Cooley – 58 hires (tie)
  7. Sidley Austin – 58 hires (tie)
  8. Jones Day – 53 hires (tie)
  9. Morrison & Foerster – 53 hires (tie)
  10. Wilson Sonsini – 49 hires

Kirkland & Ellis led the pack in associate lateral hiring by a wide margin this year, increasing its lead from last year with a 34% increase in hiring. Morgan Lewis was 3rd in 2016 and tied for 2nd in 2017, and DLA Piper rose all the way to 2nd from 11th place, hiring 41% more associate laterals this year. Winston & Strawn was the surprise of the year in 4th place, hiring 65 associates after adding just 26 associates in 2016. This came in the wake of a partner hiring spree. 

Of the firms to make the list, Winston, MoFo, and Cooley did the most lateral hiring relative to their size. Lateral hires in 2017 now represent 16% of all Winston associates, 14% of all MoFo associates, and 13% of all Cooley associates.

Firms winning the battle for lateral associates

 The MetLife Building, Winston & Strawn's NY offices

The MetLife Building, Winston & Strawn's NY offices

Some firms do a lot of lateral hiring, but merely to maintain their current size. Other firms are growing through lateral hiring. These firms are winning the battle for associate talent, attracting a significant number of laterals, while convincing their own associates not to leave for other firms. Here are the firms with the largest net gains of lateral associates in 2017:

  1. Kirkland: +104 (192 hires, 88 departures)
  2. Winston & Strawn: +46 (65 hires, 19 departures)
  3. Cooley: +38 (58 hires, 20 departures)
  4. DLA Piper: +29 (67 hires, 38 departures)
  5. Morgan Lewis: +26 (67 hires, 41 departures)
  6. Littler: +25 (45 hires, 20 departures)
  7. Davis Wright Tremaine +24 (27 hires, 3 departures)
  8. Polsinelli +21 (32 hires, 11 departures)
  9. Covington: +20 (32 hires, 12 departures) (tie)
  10. Mintz Levin +20 (34 hires, 14 departures) (tie)

Firms with the most associate lateral hires in major cities

The following firms were most active in major markets this year:

  • Atlanta: Alston & Bird - 10 hires
  • Boston: Kirkland & Ellis – 19 hires
  • Chicago: Kirkland & Ellis – 38 hires
  • Dallas: Winston & Strawn – 19 hires
  • Denver: Perkins Coie – 8 hires
  • Houston: Kirkland & Ellis – 25 hires
  • Los Angeles: DLA Piper – 18 hires
  • Miami: Holland & Knight – 8 hires
  • New York: Kirkland & Ellis – 60 hires
  • Orange County: Crowell & Moring – 5 hires
  • Philadelphia: Morgan Lewis – 12 hires
  • San Diego: Mintz Levin – 6 hires
  • San Francisco: Morrison Foerster – 21 hires
  • Seattle: Perkins Coie – 11 hires
  • Silicon Valley: Wilson Sonsini – 14 hires
  • Washington D.C.: Hogan Lovells – 17 hires

Congratulations to all the firms that grew their teams this year and to the young lawyers who found the next stop in their careers!

Rankings give a sense of the size of the market, but if you'd like to see lateral move data on all firms, you can sign up on Laterally to get access to Move Tracker. Attorneys find this useful when considering a job move or when deciding between offers from multiple firms.

If you're interested in gaining a deeper understanding about the lateral market, we spend our days counseling attorneys on lateral moves. If you have questions about particular firms (i.e. what's driving hiring at a particular firm, or which firms have provided positive experiences for our lateral candidates), you can sign up on Laterally and our consultants will reach out. Or email us your questions at consulting@laterally.com.