Scepticism in the value created by partner hires has led to a record fall in the number of recruits during the first half of 2013, according to research.

Only 198 lateral partner hires were announced in the first six months of the year, a 17% fall compared with the same period in 2012, and the lowest number since 2009, according to research from Motive Legal Consulting.

However, the research, which monitors announcements across the top 200 firms, found a 5% increase in the number of corporate hires, compared with an average of 18% since 2008.

Jeremy Black, partner in Deloitte’s professional services practice, said firms have become increasingly cautious in making partner hires from rival firms. ‘Firms have experienced mixed success in this strategy, and are becoming more sophisticated in doing due diligence on individuals.’

Mark Brandon, managing director of Motive Legal Consulting, said consolidation in the market has led to firms promoting from within, as organisations have increased in size. ‘With more consolidation, lateral hires will either remain flat or decrease,’ he said. ‘Previously firms had seen [this strategy] as a primary method of growth. However, for many it often hasn’t worked that way.’