Legal Business Blogs

Recent spate of lateral hires a blip in a quiet year so far

Despite the City lateral hire market recently showing few signs of returning to its pre-credit crunch peak, yesterday (1 May) saw a string of key partner hires announced by Allen & Overy (A&O), DLA Piper, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and Olswang.

A&O announced the hire of Fried Frank partner Alasdair Balfour to join its City antitrust group, while DLA Piper expanded its London corporate group with the hire of Berwin Leighton Paisner partner Rob Salter and Kirkland & Ellis partner Anu Balasubramanian.

Meanwhile, Herbert Smith Freehills has seen the departure of another high-profile disputes partner with global co-head of arbitration Charles Kaplan leaving to join Orrick.

In a further announcement, Olswang revealed it has boosted its IP practice with the hire of McDermott Will & Emery’s former head of European IP prosecution and opposition practices, Justin Hill. Notable London hires earlier this month include Shearman & Sterling’s global head of project development and finance, Tim Pick, who joined Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s City office at the start of May.

The hires come despite recent data revealing that London lateral hires in the first quarter of 2013 stood at an almost record low. According to Motive Legal Consulting’s London Lateral Hiring Trends Bulletin for January to March 2013 , ‘Q1 2013 was the second-worst Q1 for seven years, ‘beaten’ only by the depths of the recession.’

Just 101 hires were announced during this period, dominated by litigation (20%), closely followed by corporate (16%).

These latest announcements are likely to be the culmination of a spike in firms looking to make strategic hires at the start of the year, although few firms are interested in hiring purely for growth’s sake. At recruiter First Counsel, head of the private practice group William Cock said: ‘The start of this year was quite buoyant and we were starting to get to a situation where there was more strategic hiring -firms wanting to grow and making strategic hires to achieve that.’

This is demonstrated among hires including DLA’s Balasubramanian, who said: ‘In addition to its strong global private equity practice, DLA Piper has a keen interest in India, and offers me an excellent platform on which to build my practice in the region and increase the firm’s penetration of India-related transactions.’

As firms focus on their year-ends there has once again been a predictable dip in interest in lateral hires, although with a slew of results expected this week – Forsters yesterday reported a rise in fee income of 16% – firms may shortly be in the position to execute their next London move.