Steady Growth Across Multiple Practice Areas. Positive Outlook for Lateral Partners & Associates
At first glance, everything looks like a steady, but positive, change over the last few years for both Southern and Northern California. Some practice areas have seen a significant increase in demand, while others have seen a slight decrease in demand or have been relatively stagnate. Biggest Winners: Litigation across the board is having a renaissance, Life Sciences, Real Estate, Tax and Transactional, particularly M&A and Capital Markets, and the burgeoning, but continuously growing area, of Cannabis Law.
While there are firms that have seen many people elevated to partner, the lateral associate hiring trends are of equal importance. This often provides a stronger insight into the Southern and Northern California markets rather than partner laterals and promotions alone.
In our conversations with clients, we have seen a jump in demand for associates across a decent spectrum of practice areas, including but not limited to: Corporate, focus on M&A and Capital Markets; Litigation, Patent Prosecution (specifically with scientific and/or engineering degrees), Labor and Employment, Tax, Real Estate, Data Privacy and/or Cybersecurity.
On the surface, these practice areas align with trends we’ve seen across the domestic US market. In particular, the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity comes as a result of the increased pressure on tech firms brought about in part by the GDPR regulations in the European Union, and the political environment domestically. Even though GDPR is an EU mandate, many companies in the US have proactively adopted best practices themselves (either because they have an office/sell in the EU and felt it better to roll it out across their entire company, and/or they agreed with the principles); accordingly, law firms have expanded their respective practices to comport with these regulations.
Litigation Partners & Associates
Looking at what we’ve seen in other practice areas, several firms, of all shapes and sizes, have bolstered their litigation arms across California. Bay Area firms have seen an uptick in litigation hires over the last year. The demand for litigation associates is climbing, with many firms looking to take on as many qualified attorneys as they can get at all levels, and of course the ever popular “team move(s)” are the most coveted.
Corporate M&A/Capital Markets
Much the same can be said about corporate transactional M&A and Capital Markets associates – our clients have more work than they sometimes have bandwidth for and they are losing that work to competitors who do not always have the best California presence, but have the capacity to do the necessary work. Partners are also seeing an increase in demand for their services across the corporate spectrum, specifically in M&A, Capital Markets, and Private Equity.
It goes without saying that throughout California, Intellectual Property and all of its affiliated practices are in demand. The practice area still sees a large portion of the new hires and promotions in California, particularly in the LA, San Diego, and San Francisco markets. We expect to see the demand for Intellectual Property practitioners continue to grow in all California markets, particularly in patents and litigation.
We have also seen an increase in demand for tax partners and associates in Northern California as well as the LA market.
Expansion into Cannabis law by both boutiques and some larger firms is occurring in both Northern and Southern California. With Greenspoon Marder’s opening of an LA office, Clark Neubert’s hiring of several new attorneys and opening of a Sacramento office, we are seeing firms of all sizes start to address the demand of this rapidly growing practice area. From basic incorporation needs to litigation, environmental, regulatory and financial matters, these predominantly cash-operated businesses need firms that can provide a bevy of support in multiple practice areas.
Additional Practice Areas
Other practice areas we’ve seen continued demand in: Environment; Energy; Healthcare (though always doing well in Northern California); Life Sciences; Labor & Employment; Entertainment (still very strong in LA); Tax and Real Estate. The only practice area that may see a downturn over the course of 2018 is Bankruptcy, as we’re cresting the mid-way point to the year, we will see how that plays out. White Collar and Antitrust, while staples of many firms in both Northern & Southern California and selling points for many of them, have not really seen any substantial rise or fall in numbers. Although they are active practice areas, they tend not to see as much movement in the market.
California: Catching up to New York in Partner Promotions
California has also taken a leap in partner promotions, nipping at the heals of the New York numbers. As detailed in a recent article in The Recorder, California is now just behind New York with 480 lawyers promoted to partner, to New York’s 530. City wise, LA saw the largest number of promotions with 162, then San Francisco with 112, and San Diego with 40. Not surprisingly, and in accordance with the aforementioned trends, Litigation (86) and Intellectual Property (84) were the two practice areas that saw the largest number of promotions.
California is continuing to grow its own market and California’s home-grown firms are continuing to express interest in other domestic and international markets in the form of office expansions, mergers, and business partnerships with international firms.
Many firms are looking to even out their numbers between their Southern and Northern California offices and create a better balance for the work as a result. For right now, let’s just say that the majority of the California legal market is seeing an increase in demand for practitioners – so if you’re considering a move, or want to know what the market has to offer, this is probably one of the best times to get the process started.
For more information on the California legal market or to find out more about our global search/placement capabilities, please contact:
Director, San Francisco and Silicon Valley
T: 1 650 815 9178 E: email@example.com