Lateral associate hiring market cools in 2022, but partner moves outpace 2021


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 2022 lateral hiring market produced mixed results according to the latest analyses from NALP's Survey on 2022 Lateral Hiring. Analyses include more than 8,100 lateral lawyer hires from 511 offices/firms. Overall, 50% of offices reported a decrease in lateral hiring, 9% reported no change, and 41% reported an increase.

The overall volume of lateral hiring declined by 11.5% compared with 2021 in these same offices/firms, with a median of 6.0 and an average of 15.9 lateral hires per office/firm. This dip in lateral hiring was largely driven by a fall-off in the lateral associate market, which declined by 19.6%. In contrast, lateral partner hiring was up by 5.5%.

The average number of lateral associates hired per office/firm in 2022 was 10.1 and the median was 4.0 compared to an average of 2.9 and a median of 1.0 for lateral partner hires. Lateral associate hiring accounted for 63.5% of lateral hiring in 2022 and lateral partner hiring accounted for 18.0%. Other lateral hiring comprised 18.5% of lateral hiring.

Changes in lateral hiring as compared to 2021 varied considerably by firm size. In firms of 250 or fewer lawyers, lateral hiring was up by 24.0% overall, driven by a 56.0% increase in partner lateral hiring. By firm size, these smallest firms were the only group to report an aggregate increase in lateral hiring, as well as an increase in associate lateral hiring (+11.5%). In contrast, firms of more than 700 lawyers experienced the largest overall decline in lateral hiring (-16.5%), fueled by a nearly 25% decrease in associate lateral hiring.

Among offices reporting activity for a single office, offices averaged from 0.9 to 1.6 lateral partner hires depending on firm size, whereas associate lateral hiring averages ranged from 3.9 to 5.6 per office.

The level of lateral hiring per office was highest in the Northeast — largely driven by the New York City market — with a median of 8.0 and an average of 13.5 lateral hires in 2022. However, in terms of aggregate volume change, lateral hiring fell the most in the Northeast (-23.3%).

Although overall partner lateral hiring increased somewhat, this was not the case across every firm size, region, and city. While firms of 250 or fewer lawyers reported a 56.0% increase in partner lateral hiring, firms of 251-500 lawyers experienced a 17.0% decline. 

Regionally, lateral partner hiring fell by more than 14% in the Mid-Atlantic region, while it grew by almost 16% in the West/Rocky Mountain region. 

By city, year-over-year changes in lateral partner hiring ranged from declines of 50% in Pittsburgh, PA and San Diego, CA to increases of 200% in Wilmington, DE and Charlotte, NC.

Read NALP's full analysis on 2022 lateral hiring at