Day One has just published its barometer of the lateral moves of partners in corporate law firms and the results speak for themselves.
With 340 partner moves, up 33% compared to 2018 (256), 2019 saw the symbolic bar of 300 moves passed: never before had so many partners moved in business law firms in France. This strong growth is in line with 2018, which had already seen an all-time record.
“More than a record, we are witnessing a real change in the market for business law firms in France, which clearly seems to have entered a new era from a structural point of view. “insists Jérôme Rusak, a partner at Day One, which has been piloting the barometer for 14 years. How else can we explain such moves?
Is it the logical extension of the VTC revolution in the world of Law around Value, Technology and Collaborative? Is it the impact of generational evolutions on the business model of law firms and on professional career choices? Is it the consequence of clients’ evolution? Opportunities linked to new regulations?
*Note that the volume of 340 moves does not take into account the moves between Fidal and KPMG Avocats since the two entities did not communicate much on the identity of the partners (and their expertise) concerned by these moves. However, the Day One barometer of partner moves collects the information transmitted by the firms to the press.
Since 2011, a median of 115 firms were concerned annually by partner arrivals, including 83 French firms, 16 English firms and 15 American firms. In 2019, the number of firms affected by the arrival of at least one partner grew to an unprecedented 167! Including 125 French firms.
The main reason for the very strong growth in the number of moves is undoubtedly linked to this figure. Several hypotheses can be put forward: these firms are recent structures created by lawyers who wish either to become partners by creating their own structure or by joining a human-sized structure. Another hypothesis would be the acquisition of new skills by established firms in order to offer an even wider range of skills. Finally, the last more than credible hypothesis is the merger of structures.
In addition to the transfer of teams from Fidal to KPMG Avocats, several moves have been observed in the French business law firm market. These mergers and creations respond to 2 different logics: on the one hand, firms that wish to reinforce their capacity to serve clients and to perpetuate the structure for its development; on the other hand, niche firms or boutiques on a human scale to work differently.
Figure 3: Main inter-firm partner flows
136 moves involved women, i.e. 40% of the total, constituting a new historical record, 40% more than in 2018. At the same time, the number of moves of male partners also increased sharply (204 in 2019 compared to 160 in 2018, i.e. 28% growth).
We note that American firms recruited many more women in 2019 compared to 2018 (only 4), reaching almost their historical record of 2008. Moreover, in 2019, they welcomed 13% of the moves of women partners.
There has been a clear underlying trend towards a rebalancing of the distribution of associate moves between men and women since 2006.
“On the basis of a linear equation derived from quantitative data collected since 2006, we believe that the gender balance in shareholder moves could be achieved by 2028,” says Jérôme Rusak. Given the transformation of the market and the evolution of moves since 2006, and the continuous growth of the share of women in the move of partners, this perspective seems quite plausible. Moreover, if it is based on a statistical hypothesis, this hypothesis remains no less encouraging as to the positive response of the world of law to an obvious societal evolution: parity between men and women. It remains to be seen when parity of male and female partners in firms will be on the agenda.
In French law firms, the rate of women in partnership recruitment is stable compared to 2018 at around 43%. With 89 moves, never before have so many women joined French firms as partners. American firms have almost reached parity, with 20 male arrivals for every 18 female arrivals.
In 2019, 31% of partner moves involved employees who became partners by changing firms, with a historical record of 105 moves ; 63% involved lawyers who were already partners in their former structure. This distribution is fairly typical, since for the last 14 years, an average of 62% of moves have involved this type of partnership. In other words, each year, 1 move out of 3 produces a new partner. Interestingly, the change of firms has benefited the promotion of women (51) as much as the promotion of men (54). This has been a basic trend since 2016: 53% in 2016, 44% in 2017, 53% in 2018, 49% in 2019. In total, never before have so many women become partners by changing firms.
115 moves of partners were made to new firms (created in 2018 or 2019), i.e. 35% of moves compared to only 29% in 2018. Of these 115 moves, 49 involved women, which is a record. Thus, 39% of women’s moves went to new firms (created in 2018-2019), as in 2018.
Figure 7: Distribution of Partner Moves by Lawyer Technical Expertise in 2019
Figure 8: Table of appraisals that broke the record for partner lateral moves in 2019
The Day One barometer of partner lateral moves in French business law firms has been compiled daily since 2006 from information published in the general and specialist press (paper or electronic) as well as on the websites of the law firms concerned.
Jérôme Rusak, Partner
Tel: +33 (0)1 53 30 08 63