The Best and Worst Practice Areas for Associates Looking to Lateral in 2017

Big Law attorneys approaching the lateral market find widely divergent demand for their services depending on the type of law they practice. 

When hiring lateral associates and counsel, firms almost always do so to fill specific gaps in their capabilities. And those gaps occur far more often in certain practice areas than others. 

Ranked below, using data from Move Tracker, are the practice areas that had the highest percentage of lateral hires among associates and counsel in 2017.*

RankPracticeLateral Hires/# of Associates and Counsel# of Lateral Hires# of Associates + Counsel
1Banking & Finance12.2%5154212
2Securities & Capital Markets11.9%4193512
3Emerging Companies/Venture Capital11.9%1291087
4Bankruptcy & Restructuring11.8%1641394
6Licensing & Tech Transactions10.5%1291229
7Media, Sports & Entertainment10.4%33317
8Investment Management10.2%1251231
10Trusts & Estates9.8%46471
11Privacy & Data Security9.0%84930
12Real Estate9.0%1992216
13Exec. Comp and Employee Benefits8.8%60680
14IP Prosecution8.3%1191439
15Antitrust & Competition7.8%2483094
17IP Litigation7.2%3014182
18Commercial/Securities/White Collar Litigation5.4%67312435

As the chart shows, associates and counsel with experience in finance, securities, emerging companies, and bankruptcy were significantly more likely to be hired laterally in 2017 than attorneys in other practices. Around 12% of all associates and counsel in these practices joined their firms as laterals in the first 10 months of the year.

Just 673 commercial litigators were hired as laterals out of the 12,435 (5.4%). That's more troubling news for litigators, who also have fewer opportunities to go in-house. From our experience, this does not reflect a lack of interest from litigators in making a lateral move, but a lack of opportunities. 

If you're curious to learn more about the market for your services, you can use Move Tracker to see all of the data on lateral moves by peers in your practice, city, and with your level of experience. 

In subsequent posts in coming weeks we will be looking at the cities and career stages that were most amenable to making a lateral move in 2017. We'll also look at the firms that grew the most through lateral hiring this year.

*Data from our Move Tracker shows all publicly available moves at 156 firms in the 16 largest US markets. Data is as of Nov. 1 and only includes associates and counsel who graduated from law school after 2001.