BCG Attorney Search Announces the Summer 2017 State of the Legal Hiring Market

From: BCG Attorney Search
Published: Thu Aug 31 2017

The West Coast

In Northern California, there was a high demand again this season for corporate/finance attorneys, according to recruiting manager Claudia Barnes. Real estate attorneys were also needed throughout the summer of 2017.

Data Privacy has become very important, particularly to large corporations. For attorneys, the data privacy market’s strength and demand has spilled over into summer. And it’s easier than ever to start with a firm who is need of data privacy attorneys.

Trust and estate attorneys were being sought out, particularly for high and ultra-high net worth individuals.

The San Diego area remains a highly sought after city for new and experienced attorneys alike. Because of this, the competition in this region is extremely fierce. Accordingly, candidates should present with excellent academics and practical experience, such as courtroom work, depositions, and significant client contact. The most sought after candidates are those with 2-5 years of experience although more senior litigators will find opportunities in general commercial, product liability, class action, construction, securities, and antitrust.

Corporate, labor and employment remain the strongest practice areas in the region. Intellectual property also remains solid. Trusts and estates, tax, health care, family law and immigration make up slower to dead practice areas.

Los Angeles, according to recruiting manager Claudia Barnes, continues to have a strong need for corporate and finance attorneys, particularly those with experience in mergers and acquisitions, private equity and capital markets. Other openings also exist for finance attorneys in debt finance, structured finance, as well as banking and corporate finance.

Employment litigation attorneys with experience in all areas of employment law are also in demand in L.A. Membership to the California Bar is mandatory to gain a position as an employment attorney.

Family law attorneys are in high demand in Los Angeles. Anyone with two years of practice experience will more than likely receive multiple interviews.

Claudia Barnes states that litigation attorneys are needed across the board in almost the entire state, and Los Angeles leads that trend. Candidates need to have solid academic and professional credentials. It’s a plus if an applicant has trial experience.

Real estate attorneys are in high demand throughout L.A. Candidates should have experience in any of the following: purchase & sales, leasing, joint ventures, and finance (including CMBS).

Los Angeles firms also continue to heavily pursue patent prosecutors, patent agents, and technical specialists, whether or not they are attorneys. Candidates should be members of the USPTO, have preferably a PhD in the hard sciences or life sciences, while attorneys have to pass the CA Bar.

Entertainment lawyers are always needed in L.A. Boutique firms tend to want lawyers who can spearhead contract negotiations related to artist performances, while large firms concentrate on larger cases such as studio acquisitions. All candidates have to pass the California Bar, and should not have practiced entertainment law for longer than three years.
Environmental attorneys are needed for issues relating to land use, water, CEQA and NEPA experience.

Executive compensation, employee benefits and ERISA have declined in popularity as practice areas. The same can be said for health care, which has also declined.

The need for tax attorneys has also declined since our summer report. If a firm does have a tax attorney opening, that attorney should have no less than three years of experience, while attorneys with an LL.M. in tax can be a strong contender.
Patent litigators will find themselves in, for the most part, a market with little demand, while trademark prosecution attorneys are being sought after by several L.A. law firms.
In Orange County, demand continues for mid-level litigators with experience in business and commercial litigation, product liability, insurance, and financial litigation. Attorneys who apply to these positions should be top academics with solid practical courtroom and deposition experience.

Other steady practice areas in Orange County include patent prosecution, and corporate, particularly for candidates with 2-8 years of experience and knowledge of M&A, finance, VC, private equity as well as general corporate practice. Labor & Employment continue to be strong in California, though demand has declined slightly in the OC. Nonetheless, there are still strong requests for top-notch litigators in L&E.

Bankruptcy, environmental, family law, insurance defense, and trusts and estates make up the slow to dead practice areas.

The Northwest

Paul Danielson, a BCG Attorney Search recruiter maintains that Seattle continues to boom in terms of population, housing prices, the economy, which will make the city a very attractive option for job seekers. Popularity, however, means competition, which in itself can mean that candidates who look for that perfect legal job may be up for strong adversity.

The Southwest

Many legal job opportunities can be found in the southwest region of the country. Phoenix in particular has a lively legal sector due to its population and construction boom. Phoenix is also the location of many national, regional and local law firms. Lawyers from large cities who want to make a lateral career move tend to do well in Phoenix.

Practice areas in which firms in Phoenix and other Southwestern areas are looking for attorneys include litigation, family law and immigration. The corporate practice area is also in need of attorneys who specialize in finance, securities, M&A and governance. Data security and privacy as well as IP-related transactions are also areas in need of legal representation in the Southwest.

Labor and employment is also an area of need, while other areas such as real estate are slightly down. Trusts and estates, patent prosecution, bankruptcy and tax have some demand.
To practice in Phoenix or anywhere else in the state, lawyers must have passed the Arizona Bar.

In Colorado, Denver law firms continue to reach out for associates for assistance in supplementing their transactional, labor and employment, environmental and energy, intellectual property, litigation and real estate practices. The practice fields for which these law firms are hiring are M&A, finance, public finance, securities and private equity. Associates who apply to these firms must have a minimum of two years in their practice field.

Las Vegas’ strange cases and the fact that Nevada has no standing bar makes for a very different legal atmosphere. So one has to be certain Las Vegas is where they want to live and practice before physically moving there. Las Vegas needs strong litigation candidates, labor and employment candidates, and those with solid real estate experience will tend to find a good number of opportunities.


Chicago is very strong. Firms in the Windy City are hiring top lateral talent. They need in particular associates at all levels in general corporate, finance, M&A, private equity, and securities. Litigation also remains strong and we continue to see a significant need in smaller law firms across Chicago. There was an increase in lateral hiring of associates in healthcare practices as well as data privacy experience. IP practices remain busy in patent prosecution, patent litigation and trademark.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis has the least amount of new opportunities posted compared to other Midwest cities. The practice groups in which attorneys are being hired include corporate, patent prosecution, bankruptcy, benefits, health, trusts/estates, commercial litigation, real estate and government contracts.

Wisconsin, particularly firms in Madison and Milwaukee, are seeking lateral associates in these practice areas: intellectual property/patent prosecution, trademark and copyright. Labor and employment as well as trusts and estates are also practice areas that need associates.

In the Twin Cities areas, demand remains strong for litigators and associates who specialize in employment law. Commercial litigation and IP are also areas of need for the Minneapolis – Saint Paul region.
In Saint Louis, litigation has taken center stage in the legal business. Commercial litigation has been very busy, and is looking for additional associates. In addition to general commercial litigation, there has been an increase in insurance defense litigation work, family law, and some real estate litigation. Patent prosecution has also been reasonably active in this market.

Due to a robust local economy, Detroit-based law firms are in need of litigators, corporate and transitional attorneys, tax attorneys, and employment law attorneys.

According to Liz Leach, in Ohio, Cleveland has the largest legal need within the state, with lateral openings in tax/estate, corporate, finance and banking, and affordable housing attorneys. Partners with portable business are in demand with a minimum of $300K in business in the practice groups of health, intellectual property, real estate, consumer finance and commercial litigation. Cincinnati, which is right behind Cleveland, has a need for collection, trust/estate, insurance defense, finance, labor and employment, real estate and corporate attorneys. Columbus is next in lateral openings with needs in litigation, corporate, SALT, intellectual property, affordable housing, real estate and labor and employment.

In Salt Lake City, Utah, demand is up for patent prosecutors, which is the leading growth segment for IP attorneys with a background in data communication, electrical engineering, software or wireless communications. There are also openings for ERISA, tax/estate, litigation, corporate, insurance defense and health attorneys.


In Boston, recruiter Nadeen Weybrecht states that corporate, intellectual property, and real estate attorneys are in high demand within the area. Litigation opportunities remain few but steady, since there is a much lower demand for lateral attorneys in the areas of tax, ERISA, employment, and bankruptcy.

The Boston market is largely reflective of the whole of New England.
Managing Director, Katy Anderman states that practices in Washington, DC, continues to have many open positions in traditional DC practices areas such as litigation, government/political law, international arbitration, international trade and antitrust. Competition for these positions remains fierce. Mid-level associate candidates with 2-6 years of experience are needed in the following practice areas:

Intellectual Property
Labor and Employment
Health Care
Real Estate

New York continues to drag with no real practice area standing out from the others. Litigators aren’t in high demand, any openings at top "big law" firms are far and few between. Corporate does remain steady, with occasional openings in M&A.

Philadelphia enjoys an influx of attorneys who choose to relocate to the city. The same can be said for the Pittsburgh market. Litigation, however, is slow. To be sure, Philadelphia (and Pittsburgh) work within a largely regional legal market, which means large prestigious law firms are for the most part absent in the two cities.

Even so, there are legal job openings, which usually require an attorney to have 2-5 years of experience.

Kansas City, Missouri
According to Senior Recruiter Julie Lehrman, the Kansas City law community has enjoyed an increase in business within many practice areas. Litigation, corporate, and tax-related practices like ERISA and wealth management are seeing local growth. Litigation needs in particular have risen since the last cycle, while ERISA and wealth management also have a need for lateralling attorneys. Corporate is also starting to show a need for attorneys.

Atlanta’s busiest practice area is corporate. This is due in part to so many companies being headquartered in Atlanta. With that, there is a constant demand for attorneys, particularly in M&A and finance. While many firms seek lawyers with top credentials from top law schools, these same firms also consider regional law schools. More experienced attorneys are also desired, particularly if they have a minimum of $500,000 in portable business.

Other areas worth considering in Atlanta include real estate, health care and trademark. Steady practice areas include employment, intellectual property and litigation. Slow practice areas include ERISA/employee benefits, immigration, IP litigation, privacy, restructuring, taxation/trusts & estates, and technology transactions.

North Carolina
Charlotte, as recruiter Jennifer McNeil explains, is the largest legal market in the state. However, there are still legal job openings in Raleigh, and the Research Triangle. In Charlotte, most of the openings are for corporate associates, particularly for those with banking, finance, and capital markets experience. Outside of Charlotte, the busiest practice area is intellectual property, especially for patent prosecutors with electrical engineering backgrounds.

Although the area has not been as strong as it was three to four years ago, it remains one of the most in-demand practice areas in Texas. Most clients this year have been looking for corporate generalists. Finance is another strong and steady area in Texas. At present most legal needs such as the above-mentioned practice areas, as well energy and project finance, litigation, labor and employment, patent, and IP litigation are located in Houston.

Suzanne Dupree Howe, Managing Director for Texas and the Southeast, cites Louisiana as needing mostly litigators with judicial clerkship experience, mostly in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge parishes. The most essential element for an attorney considering a lateral move to Louisiana is the Bar. Howe suggests that if an attorney plans to move to Louisiana, it is highly recommended that they take the Bar exam ahead of their potential move.

Tennessee’s greatest legal needs during this cycle involve litigation and IP. Other practice areas, such as corporate, are weaker this year. Health care and corporate are also strong this year.


The legal hiring market in Florida is currently stagnant. Few law firm openings coupled with an increasing pool of talented lawyers have choked the legal needs of the state. The most openings in Florida are in litigation, but mainly in smaller firms that focus on medical malpractice and insurance defense. There has been a rise in consumer finance and construction litigation openings. Trust & estates remains steady with most openings at smaller firms. Bankruptcy and intellectual property are particularly slow in Florida.

About BCG Attorney Search:

BCG Attorney Search is a premier recruiting firm for experienced attorneys in the United States. Since the year 2000, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys with employers who were the best fit for individual candidates, and helped law firms and companies with their recruitment efforts. BCG Attorney Search has offices in the following 15 cities across the United States: Atlanta; Boston; Century City; Chicago; Houston; Irvine; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Malibu; Miami; New York; Palo Alto; San Francisco; Seattle; and Washington, DC.
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