The idea of going lateral – or in normal language, switching firms – is not new. However, there might have been a time when switching from one firm to another, especially as a partner, raised eyebrows. Moving from one firm to another is now so normal that it has become the most common appointment to partnership.

Here is the data to prove it

The January 2019 AFR Law Partnership survey provided startling statistics. In the survey, 35 law firms reported appointing new partners. Of the 146 new partners, 90 were lateral hires and 55 were internal promotions.

62% of new partner appointments were the result of lateral moves and 38% were from internal promotions.

Is this an Australia phenomenon? No.  

Consultant and commentator, Mark Cohen has analysed the most recent Citi report on law firm trends. At Forbes.com he writes:

Citi reported that equity partner turnover– lateral hires, defections, and “de-equitization”—was the highest in five years. This coincided with more laterals achieving equity status than internal promotions, another blow to firm morale and a further impediment to succession planning. Citi projects this pattern will continue; “we believe that is unlikely that there will be an imminent return to law firms clearly favoring promotions.”

Sideways to the top is also an international phenomenon.