As 2020 and all its upheavals melts into the start of 2021, there’s no denying it has been a remarkable year. But one of the most remarkable parts of 2020 for the lateral partner market in Texas is that it’s been…well, unremarkable. Lateral movements in Texas continued almost as normal (in terms of the volume) when compared with past years. Total lateral partner moves in 2020 were at 196, pretty close to 209 moves in 2019. 

Another sign of the “normalcy”: Law firms continued to open new offices in Texas. Shearman & Sterling; Baker & Hostetler; and Thompson Coburn in Dallas. Perkins Coie and Spencer Fane opened in Austin. And Balch and Bingham, and Frost Brown opened in Houston, to name a few. 

It begs the question of why this normalcy persisted in Texas in the face of a historically abnormal year. Texas was certainly not immune to the economic fallout that came with the pandemic, nor the changes in regulation, funding or business immigration. 

While we didn’t see the anticipated drop-off in lateral moves, we also didn’t see a consistent narrative shared across law firm clients and individual partners/groups last year. Every firm and every practice within the firms were hit by the pandemic differently. Whether an individual partner’s or group’s practice was heavily impacted one way or another depended very much on the impacts their clients were facing. Some firms had a challenging year in terms of meeting their revenue goals and profitability, others had their best year ever. 

With the austerity measures enacted (and often later retracted) by firms, changes in client demands and even the abrupt change to a virtual format, partners and groups did find it advantageous to move during the pandemic, and many firms were strategic and bullish about adding talent during this unique year. 

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