As third-year law students look for full-time, post-graduation employment and underclassmen interview for summer associate positions, many factors come into play—location, salary, job satisfaction, work-life balance, and opportunities for professional development and growth. Certainly, large cities and flourishing legal markets—New York City, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Boston, and Philadelphia—will continue to attract new lawyers. Yet, law students should consider other geographic legal markets that are expanding and where it’s still possible to engage in sophisticated, rewarding, and even cutting-edge work.
Here are several locations law students should explore:
- The San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley. With high median salaries and top average compensation for first-year associates, along with it being home to top biotech, life sciences, technology, and financial companies, this area—including San Francisco and San Jose—should be an area you consider.[i]
- Salt Lake City. Given the state’s strong economy, growing tech industry, and idyllic settings for activities that can help one improve work-life balance, it’s no wonder that even BigLaw mainstays like Kirkland & Ellis and Wilson Sonsini have moved into the Salt Lake City area.[ii]
- Seattle. The area’s expanding technology market, real estate and land development opportunities, and progressive legislature that “lends itself to a host of labor and employment matters” has also drawn several national firms, such as Seyfarth Shaw and Snell & Wilmer, in recent years.[iii]
- Denver. It’s one of the fastest growing U.S. cities, especially among young adults, due largely to a healthy economy and incredible opportunities for recreational activities. The area is home to companies working in oil and gas, technology, and real estate, as well as startups in the medical device industry. BigLaw heavyweights Greenberg Traurig LLP, Cooley LLP, and Hogan Lovells have offices in Denver, and more are likely to follow.[iv]
- Miami. Recently, the area has seen an influx of international banks, private equity firms, and venture capitalists—which means a high demand for lawyers. Since 2021, King & Spalding and Quinn Emanuel have set up shop in Miami. People move here because there’s no state income or capital gains taxes, and they stay for the beautiful weather and incredibly diverse culture.[v]
- Orlando. The outstanding regional economy—including local entertainment, real estate development, home and healthcare services, and a projected increase in the number of manufacturing jobs—makes this a desirable place to seek employment.[vi] Also, see Miami (above) for the notable tax benefits.
- Nashville. With a prime geographic setting in the middle of the eastern part of the U.S. and connected to major commercial centers by numerous interstate highways, it’s no wonder that Nashville has become a hub for major industries like healthcare, tourism, auto manufacturing, IT, and agriculture. Companies migrate, too, because of friendly tax policies and a lower cost of living.[vii]
- Oklahoma City. Not only is the area growing—it is now the country’s 20th largest city and added more than 100,000 people from 2010 to 2020[viii]—but it’s a growing market for law firms because of its reasonable cost of living and labor costs.[ix] The area benefits from a diversified economy with industries like aviation, aerospace, bioscience, energy, and logistics.[x]
- Alabama, including Birmingham and Montgomery. As the state’s economy has evolved from coal and steel to banking, automotive, aeronautics, healthcare, and technology, there is a greater need for bright legal minds.[xi] When you factor in the considerable average annual salary and the low cost of living, Alabama is a desirable landing spot.[xii]
- Greenville, SC. With a below-average cost of living and unprecedented population growth on the horizon—the area is expected to grow by 222,000 residents (from its current population of 514,000) and add 86,000 new jobs by 2040—Greenville County is ready to explode.[xiii] The area’s low tax rate and excellent workforce have already attracted Fortune 500 companies like 3M, Lockheed, and GE.[xiv] BigLaw and other law firms would be wise to take note, especially given the city’s proximity to metropolitan areas like Charlotte and Atlanta.
It's not only large cities with established and robust legal markets that law students should consider during their job search. For various reasons—including population growth, economic growth, affordability, and recreation—students should broaden the scope of their search and investigate some of the incredible opportunities offered by these (and other) promising areas.
[i] Embroker. (2022, August 16). 20 Best (and Worst) U.S. Cities for Lawyers. Embroker. https://www.embroker.com/blog/cities-for-lawyers/
[ii] Goalz. (2022, April 12). Why big, global law firms are moving into Salt Lake City. Goalz. https://goalz.online/why-big-global-law-firms-are-moving-into-salt-lake-city/
[iii] Yount, J. (2021, October 19). A Look Inside Big Law’s Push Into Seattle: A Boomtown for Tech, Real Estate and Employment. Law.com. https://www.law.com/therecorder/2021/10/19/a-look-inside-big-laws-push-into-seattle-a-boomtown-for-tech-real-estate-and-employment/
[iv] Wise, J. (2021, July 30). Denver Gaining Shine As Market For Law Firms. Law360 Pulse. https://www.law360.com/pulse/articles/1407241/denver-gaining-shine-as-market-for-law-firms
[v] Michaels, S., Frank, M., and Dull, J. (2022, March 24). The South Florida Legal Market is Hot, Hot, Hot. Bloomberg Law. https://news.bloomberglaw.com/antitrust/the-south-florida-legal-market-is-hot-hot-hot
[vi] Orlando Economic Partnership. (2019, April 2). 7 Forecasts for the Orlando Region in 2030. Orlando Economic Partnership. https://news.orlando.org/blog/7-forecasts-for-the-orlando-region-in-2030/
[vii] Stenberg, K. (n.d.). Tennessee: where healthcare and mid-market work thrive. Chambers Associate. https://www.chambers-associate.com/law-firms/regional-markets/tennessee-where-healthcare-and-mid-market-work-thrive
[viii] Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. (2021, October 7). Oklahoma City Makes Sizable Gains in 2020 Census, Will Benefit from Growth. Velocity. https://www.velocityokc.com/blog/policy/oklahoma-city-makes-sizable-gains-in-2020-census-will-benefit-from-growth/
[ix] CBRE. (2018, November 6). Oklahoma City Is A U.S. Growth Market For Law Firms. CBRE. https://www.cbre.ca/press-releases/oklahoma-city-is-a-us-growth-market-for-law-firms
[x] Greater Oklahoma City. (n.d.). Key Industries. Greater Oklahoma City. https://www.greateroklahomacity.com/industries/key-industries/
[xi] Vogtle, J. (n.d.). Alabama: an ever-adapting market that can offer national reach. Chambers Associate. https://www.chambers-associate.com/law-firms/regional-markets/alabama-an-ever-adapting-market-that-can-offer-national-reach
[xii] Mak, A. (2022, April 25). Best Cities for Lawyers. AdvisorSmith. https://advisorsmith.com/data/best-cities-for-lawyers/
[xiii] McMillan, M. (2022, June 21). Out-of-staters flock to Greenville amid nationwide population shift. Greenville Journal. https://greenvillejournal.com/community/irs-shows-greenville-sc-population-seeing-gains-amidst-nationwide-population-shift/
[xiv] The Cliffs. (2020, August 18). 7 Reasons to Consider Living in Greenville, SC. The Cliffs. https://cliffsliving.com/consider-living-in-greenville-sc/