Lateral Moves in the US – Q3 2023

Posted in Latest News on 17 Nov 2023

You may be aware that Douglas Scott Legal Recruitment doesn’t just keep our eyes on the legal market in the United Kingdom – we're also keenly aware of trends in the United States. 

Recently, we’ve seen some statistics around lawyer moves in the third quarter of 2023, and we thought they might be of interest as they hint at some exciting trends in the market. 

Let’s start with the headline figure as published by the American Lawyer; there were 15,109 moves for lateral attorneys tracked by Decipher, the market research service. This is another year-on-year drop for the American market from the highs of 2021. However, this number is still much higher than those from 2019, before the pandemic. These numbers are also broadly reflected in partner and lawyer moves and show a market that is somewhat slowing after a high period of activity. For comparison, there were 24,950 moves in 2021 and 24,033 in 2022. Regarding all lawyer moves, there’s been a drop-off of about 47% from 2022, attributed to a drop-off in moves for associate roles (The decrease was less severe for partner moves – only about 17% down on the previous year).

So, what do all these numbers mean? On the surface, it looks like the numbers might not be good news – after all, they are a drop on the previous couple of years. However, looking more deeply at the numbers, you will find it’s not all doom and gloom. This year’s numbers are still outpacing the six-year average by about 15%, and the market is clearly riding on pent-up demand from 2020. There are also areas of the market that are bucking the trend. While the New York market is generally in line with the averages, the Washington DC market has seen the second-highest number of partner moves in the last five years, behind only the highs of 2021. Recruiters in the market have spoken to the American Lawyer, and the general consensus seems to be that these are government lawyers moving into private practice roles and an upswing in regulatory work. Some areas of the market are progressing apace, in spite of this seeming slowdown. Despite some of these numbers, it’s still clear that most are confident about the market, although the boom of 2021 is very much felt to be over.   

While numbers here might not initially appear to be that strong, delve a little deeper, and you’ll find plenty of positives can still be drawn. The past few years have been turbulent for the market, with peaks and troughs that few could have predicted, and while it does seem like it is settling down, it does seem like it is moving more into a new normal. Specific markets are also predicting a pick-up in activity for quarter 4 – so there’s still some potential for some exciting developments that we will keep an eye on going forward.   

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