Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Lateral Law Moves Are Skyrocketing


COVID is causing an unprecedented number of law associates to jump from one firm to another – and partners are also changing firms, though not as rapidly.

Just look at the numbers: nearly 14,000 associates made lateral moves in the first three quarters of 2021 – a 51 percent rise from the previous four-year average. Some practices areas – notably, data privacy and corporate law – saw increases of 100 percent or higher.

“The rapid movement of associates to new law firms continued through the third quarter of last year,” according to the ABA Journal, citing statistics from the legal data company Decipher. “The two most active practice areas for lateral associate moves were data privacy, which saw a 116 percent increase, and corporate, which experienced a 91 percent increase over the four-year average. Insurance also saw a 66 percent increase in lateral associate moves.”

Law firm partners were also restless in 2021. Lateral moves of partners were up eight percent through the third quarter of 2021.

Industry experts says they expect this trend to continue throughout 2022.

Read “Lateral Associate Moves Increased 51 Percent” in the ABA Journal here.

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Lateral Moves Skyrocket in the Pandemic

Here are some takeaways from the ABA Journal piece (quotes are from the article’s author, Lyle Moran):

  • All the major markets saw at least double-digit increases in associate moves compared to the previous four-year average, the ABA Journal notes, drawing on data from Decipher.
  • The geographical regions that saw the most activity for associate moves were Miami (64 percent increase in associate moves), Chicago (62 percent) and New York (56 percent).
  • There were 3,912 lateral moves by law firm partners through the third quarter of 2021. That’s an 8 percent increase over the prior four-year average.
  • The most volatile areas of practice for partner moves were data privacy law (58 percent increase) and energy law (48 percent increase).
  • Some areas of practice saw a drop in later partner moves: bankruptcy (-26 percent) and environmental law (-15 percent).
  • The geographical regions that saw the most activity for partner moves were Orange County, CA (75 percent increase); the District of Columbia (33 percent) and Denver (31 percent).
  • Some regions (led by Philadelphia, Dallas and Houston) saw a drop in lateral partner moves.

Sources: Lateral associate moves increased 51% compared to prior four years, new data shows (


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About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

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