Dentons was the biggest lateral recruiter of any firm operating in Continental Europe in 2015, exclusive analysis by The Lawyer has shown.

The firm picked up 15 partners during the course of the year across Europe as it opened in Milan and bulked up in Budapest. The figures do not include the firm’s planned merger with Luxembourg firm OPF Partners, which takes effect on 1 January 2016.

Meanwhile just one partner was reported as having left Dentons in Continental Europe as Warsaw construction partner Joanna Lagowska joined K&L Gates in August.

Bird & Bird was the next most active firm when it came to recruitment, hiring 10 European partners over the course of the year with another two associate hires also reported. Meanwhile DLA Piper and Jones Day both recruited seven European partners in 2015, along with several associates each.

German firm Noerr was the most active independent firm during the course of 2015. It reported the hire of two equity partners, nine associated partners and a senior associate over the 12-month period and lost just one partner. Munich healthcare partner Boris Handorn moved to Simmons & Simmons in September.

Clifford Chance saw the most movement out of its ranks last year, predominantly in Germany where 10 partners left for other firms during 2015. The German departures followed a review of the magic circle firm’s operations in the country in late 2014, but included heavy-hitters such as private equity head Oliver Felsenstein who quit for Latham & Watkins in February.

Madrid corporate partner Jésus Dúran left Clifford Chance for Dentons, and the firm also lost UK corporate partner Michael Bray to Italian firm Grimaldi Studio Legale in 2015.

Partly due to the movement from Clifford Chance, lateral hires of partners and other lawyers shot up in Germany in the course of 2015.

Out of 357 hires reported to The Lawyer over the course of the year, 88 were in Germany – almost 25 per cent of the total. This compared to 60 German hires in 2014, just 19 per cent of those reported.

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Despite the increase in hiring frequency by firms in Germany, France remains the lateral hiring hotspot of Europe. It accounted for 28 per cent of all European hires reported to The Lawyer during the last 12 months, with 101 moves to firms in France. That compared to 97 French hires in 2014, when the jurisdiction represented almost 31 per cent of all the recruitment reported.

The number of hires in Italy also rose in the last year, according to the analysis. In 2015 firms hired 41 partners and other lawyers in Italy, mostly in Milan, up from 31 the previous year.

Belgium, with 21 hires, the Netherlands, with 20 hires, and Spain, with 16, also saw significant amounts of movement.

As in 2014 independent firms dominated the recruitment scene, representing 150 of all the hires reported to this magazine – 42 per cent of the total. However this was a drop from 2014, when independent firms made 54 per cent of reported hires.

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US-headquartered firms were the next most-active hirers, a change from 2014 when UK firms were busier hiring than their US or global counterparts. Another change saw the frequency of US hires from independent firms pick up markedly, with 31 of the 57 hires by US firms coming from European independents compared to just nine out of 43 hires the previous year.

Around a quarter of the hires – 85 – were of corporate lawyers. Finance, competition, real estate and tax were also popular areas to recruit in with hires of employment and restructuring lawyers also in double digits.

The majority of the reported hires, 257 or 72 per cent, were of partners (including associated and salaried partner positions).

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The analysis takes into account every lateral hire reported to The Lawyer by a firm during the course of 2015 and does not include retirements or any hires which are not publicly reported.