2018 Legal Recruitment Trends: Takeaways from our national industry conference

November 2, 2018

Earlier this month, I attended the National Association of Legal Search Consultants (NALSC) national conference, hosted in New York at the new offices of White & Case LLP.  The conference brings together nearly 200 of the top legal recruiters in the US and Canada to discuss trends, practice tips, and general recruitment strategies from both sides of the business. As I recently completed my term as President of the organization, this was my first conference where I had no additional speaking, hosting, or moderating duties, and was able to sit back and take in the entire conference.  It was an exceptional conference (as always), and I was able to truly appreciate all the hard work the organization puts into make these events a success.


Some statistics on the state of the US legal market I thought may be of interest to you – while obviously the US market is significantly larger (and the top law firms even more so), their market provides insight on trend lines and general growth strategies that may be applicable to the Canadian experience.


79% of US law firms surveyed by the American Law Journal believed lateral recruitment is key to improving firm profitability, and the numbers bear this out. The market saw 2,381 tracked lateral partner moves in 2017; the highest number recorded in the past five years. Perhaps even more interestingly, the total value of practices that switched firms in 2017 had an estimated value of $6.4 billion, a sum greater than the growth of the entire US legal market in the same year.


Part of the increased pressure on recruitment is due to the fall off in general growth in the legal market. Prior to 2008, average annual growth of the top 100 law firms in the US had consistently been in the 10-13% range, but in the last decade growth has shrunk to 4-5%, annually.  While this drop may account for much of the negative outlook by pundits on the future of the legal profession, it is worth noting the legal industry continues to outpace both management consulting and accounting firms for annual revenue growth and is nearly double the annual growth rate of the US economy.  In short, the law firm as an institution continues to be alive and well.


Looking ahead, international growth is an increased focus for the US legal market. Canada is a market they continue to explore as a potential for merger territory to meet their ongoing growth objectives.


If you have any questions on legal recruitment, the legal market, or other takeaways from the conference, feel free to drop me a note direct!

Warren Smith, Managing Partner


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