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2012 Expected to be Good Year for Law Firm Lateral Market

Experts expect the market for lateral moves to continue its rebound in 2012 after is began its initial rebound in 2011 following a handful of drought brought on by the recession.

Law firms will look to increase their lateral moves in 2012 in an effort to expand their existing services. Firms hope to hire new lawyers who will bring new clients to the firm that fall into sectors the firms are trying to increase. According to Petrini-Poli, lateral hiring should be up at all law firms across the country.

“It feels like it’s been picking up steam and will continue to do so. There’s a lot of people looking to make moves,” said chief operating officer Christopher Petrini-Poli of HBR Consulting LLC.

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Thomas S. Clay is an author of the report issued by Altman Weil. Clay thinks that the increase in lateral hiring is due to lawyers needed who have plenty of business, not to refill jobs that were lost during the recession.

Altman Weil Inc. released a survey in September which questioned 240 United States law firms about their strategies for growth. Of the firms that responded to the survey, 91.6 percent of the law firms said that they were trying to hire new lateral attorneys in 2011. Most of the law firms surveyed also said that the firms were hoping for high returns on their additional hires.

“The people who were let go during the recession were mainly young lawyers,” Clay said. “This has nothing to do with filling up those ranks.”

Lawrence Mullman, a legal recruiter from Major Lindsey & Africa LLC, said that law firms might have trouble filling some of their practice areas because a lower number of attorneys have had the chance to develop their experience within the business world.

“Historically, everyone always wants corporate M&A,” he said. “But even more so in these uncertain times, there are not many qualified partner candidates with the kind of business experience that makes sense. Transactional work, whether in corporate or real estate, is soft.”

O’Malley also said that his law firm was able to add 110 lawyers working in the United States in 2011 but said the firm was still looking for candidates to hire.

“When the upside for [gross domestic product] predictions is 2.5 percent and the stock market can move two or more percent in a day, that creates turbulence in capital markets which makes it difficult for transactional practice,” the managing partner for DLA Piper’s U.S. activities, Terry O’Malley, said.

“We’re eager to add some regulatory bench strength in Washington — we think it’s going to be a very active year inside the beltway, both because of the election and because of the regulatory initiatives underway under Obama administration,” O’Malley said.

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