London partner moves for January, February second highest on record

Promise of resugence in private equity-led dealmaking fuels red hot recruitment market, according to research by Edwards Gibson
Sunset at the City of London, England, with traffic light trails and illuminated skyscrapers

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Law firm partner hires in London in the first two months of 2024 were the second-highest on record, according to a report by legal recruiters Edwards Gibson.  

There were 101 announced partner-level hires in the City in January and February – an increase of 7% on the same period last year, when there were 94, and up 9% on the cumulative five-year and 10-year averages of 92 and 93 respectively. The rate of hiring was only bettered in 2017, when the figure was artificially inflated following the collapse of KWM’s European verein.

The report argues the red-hot business law firm hiring market of early 2024 continues a trend seen in 2023 when US firms bet heavily on the expectation that high inflation and global interest rate hikes would prove temporary and that their fall would presage a return to private equity-led dealmaking.  

“These counter-cyclical investment hires, whereby firms essentially bought future books of business, remain in stark contrast to the recruitment market for junior lawyers which more accurately reflects the softer ‘real-time’ demand for transactional legal services relative to the ‘post-Covid bounce’,” the report observes.

It adds that the market remains robust not just in transactional areas linked to private equity-led investment but also in disputes and restructuring where “thanks to a UK economy that is now technically in recession, the partner recruitment market is probably more reflective of the real-time demand for legal services”.  

The most acquisitive firm of the past two months is Pinsent Masons, which hired five partners, including financial services corporate lawyer Peter McCusker from Royal London and pensions litigation specialist Charlotte Scholes from Gowling WLG. 

The largest multi-partner team move was Fried Frank’s hire of a private equity trio led by Christian Iwasko, which moved over from Goodwin Procter following earlier joint stints at Sidley Austin and Kirkland.  

Five other firms hired two-partner teams: Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner added corporate energy and energy finance specialists from Locke Lord; DLA Piper (energy and infrastructure from Paul Hastings); Hunton Andrews Kurth (energy and infrastructure from EY Law); Paul Hastings (disputes and corporate crime from Latham & Watkins); and Pinsent Masons (TMT from Deloitte Legal).   

Paul Weiss, 2023’s top London partner hirer, continued its eye-catching build out of its City office in January and February with a lateral hire apiece from Linklaters, Ropes & Gray and, according to, a private funds partner from Kirkland.  

The latest additions mean the firm has hired 17 laterals since last August, 11 of which have moved over from Kirkland and the rest joining from Linklaters (three), Clifford Chance (two) and Ropes (one).  

The UK Magic Circle firms came out flat against their US rivals, with a departure apiece from Linklaters for Gibson Dunn and Paul Weiss and one from Freshfields, also for Gibson Dunn, offset by Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Freshfields hiring from Milbank, Paul Hastings and Akin respectively.  

In January it emerged that Linklaters, which lost a dozen partners to rivals in London last year, was considering altering its compensation structure in response to enable it to effectively lock-in partners who want to defect to competitors by withholding their retained profits.  

Edwards Gibson described the proposal as “looking extremely weak – an unhelpful image for a firm desperately trying to break the US market”, adding that it would put the firm at a considerable disadvantage when hiring laterals from US firms.  

Almost four in 10 (38%) of the hires in the first two months of the year were women, while 29 of the hires were non-partners moving into the partnership.  

Six firms also hired from in-house: Addleshaw Goddard (from the Bank of England); Bracewell (BP); Morrison & Foerster (Deutsche Bank); Pinsent Masons (Royal London); RPC (Associated Newspapers); and Stephenson Harwood (Natixis Investment Managers). 

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