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Where are the US's legal hotspots?

Posted by: Michelle Bigler 07/09/16
Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group recently released its report on the state of the US legal profession and confirmed what many commentators suspected; tepid, but steady growth. Two key takeaways from the report are that revenue growth is primarily attributable to steady rate increases, and, that BigLaw’s profit margins continue to rise. But, where are these big firm lawyers based, and which legal markets should lawyers consider if they are looking for new opportunities?

Somewhat unsurprisingly, New York recently ranked first in a National Law Journal (NLJ) 500 market report. The report, which analyzed the top 500 firms, found that 22,642 lawyers were working at NLJ 500 firms in the US’ number one legal market, a figure which accounts for 14% of all NLJ 500 lawyers. The report also found that 223 of the top 500 firms have offices in the market, with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom the top firms in the city in terms of headcount, with a total of 781 and 634 lawyers respectively.

Washington, D.C. ranked second, with 13,330 lawyers working at NLJ 500 offices, representing 8% of all NLJ 500 lawyers. Interestingly, 217 of the top 500 firms have offices in Washington, only 6 less than the 223 in New York. However, average headcount drops significantly from first to second place, with an average of 61 lawyers in each NLJ 500 firm, down from 102 in New York. Third place is occupied by Chicago, with 8,649 lawyers operating out of one of the US’ top 500 firms. While the number of firms with a presence in the top two markets holds fairly steady, there is a sharp drop to third place, with just 123 of the NJL 500 occupying an office in the US’ third most populous city. Average headcount in Chicago increases from Washington, up to 70 from 61.

The NLJ 500 market report goes on to include Los Angles, Boston, San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and Miami in its top 10. So while lawyers, across the US, and indeed globally, may naturally gravitate towards New York when considering a career move, it’s also worth considering the growing potential of the US’s other thriving legal markets that are sophisticated and offer substantial career opportunities. Several of these cities offer salaries, after a cost of living adjustment, that are competitive with the New York market, an affordable lifestyle and an easier commute. Many smaller market cities struggle to find qualified talent to fill their positions, so they offer attractive compensation packages that include attainable billable hour minimum and a clear path to partnership that is achievable. Talented attorneys that are willing to forgo the bright lights of the Big Apple, will likely find hidden gems in smaller markets and a high quality career path.
Tagged In: Law firms, USA
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