Yes, they are affected. When there are recessions, salaries tend to go up slower. But the law firm still has to pay corporate attorneys and other people so that the litigation salaries will stay the same, and they won't change. It depends on the setting that you're in. Though, if you're in a law firm that does nothing but litigation-related work.
Then yes, your salary could go up if there's a lot of work. But yeah, the recession is, in most law firms, the salaries in one practice area will not affect everything when the salaries increase in law firms. It's almost always when corporate is very active. So what happens during good markets is law firms make a lot of money doing m and securities and all sorts of corporate transactional work.
There's a huge demand for corporate attorneys, and the only way law firms can hold onto them is by paying more money because there's pressure for them to go in the house, and other law firms are fighting like mad for them. But really, what always drives salary increases is the presence of corporate work.