London’s Top Law Firms Ramp Up Hiring Despite Recession

March 5, 2024

In the initial two months of 2024, the pace of law firm partner hires reached its second-highest level on record, as revealed by data from legal recruiter Edwards Gibson. The data indicates 101 law firm partner transitions during this period, marking a 7 percent increase compared to the corresponding timeframe in the previous year.

The report notes that this hiring rate ranks second-highest in history, trailing behind 2017, when figures were significantly inflated due to the aftermath of the collapse of the King and Wood Mallesons (KWM).
Examining the demographics of the hires, the data highlights that 38 percent were female, and just under 30 percent were non-partners moving into partnership roles. Among City firms, Pinsent Masons emerged as the most active, adding five partners. However, it is noteworthy that Pinsent Masons also experienced a loss of three partners in London during the same period.

Other notable firms in terms of partner hires included Charles Russell Speechlys, DLA Piper, Fried Frank, Kirkland and Ellis, White and Case, and Paul Hastings, each hiring four partners.
Over the two months, the most significant multi-partner team move occurred at Fried Frank, where its private equity practice gained three partners—Christian Iwasko, Michelle Tong, and Priya Rupal—from Goodwin Procter.

Additionally, five firms made notable hires of two-partner teams: Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (corporate energy and energy finance from Locke Lord), DLA (energy and infrastructure from Paul Hastings), Hunton Andrews Kurth (energy and infrastructure from EY Law), Paul Hastings (disputes and corporate crime from Latham and Watkins), and Pinsent Masons (TMT from Deloitte Legal).

While Pinsent Masons stood out as the most active City firm with five partner hires, it’s essential to acknowledge that the firm also experienced a loss of three partners in London during the same period. The report also suggests that, unlike the hiring trends observed for junior lawyers, law firm partners are witnessing near-record levels of recruitment. This paradox is attributed, in part, to the ongoing counter-cyclical investments by US law firms in private equity-related hires, anticipating a potential resurgence in private equity deal-making with the expectation of falling interest rates.