Best Legal Recruiters in San Francisco for Associates


Legal recruiters in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area are useful tools when looking to expand your career options.

Key Terms

  • San Francisco is quite possibly the second hottest legal market after NYC, with many tech companies, life sciences and private equity driving growth.
  • Nearly every practice area can be found in San Francisco, making it a solid landing spot for most Biglaw associates.
  • Finding the right legal recruiter can help you lateral to San Francisco or change firms in order to improve your career prospects.

Entertainment, tech companies, and real estate drive the legal market in the state of California. There is also a robust corporate market. San Francisco is home to more than 30 international financial institutions, making business and finance another top industry. Others include health care, education and biotechnology. In the city of San Francisco in particular, the legal market is booming and will likely continue to grow. The tech industry keeps San Francisco’s legal market abuzz. 

According to the American Bar Association, there are 20,708 lawyers practicing in San Francisco County. Some of these attorneys are graduates of UC Berkeley’s School of Law (formerly known as Boalt Hall), but many also come from LA law schools or out of state. The SF Bar Association’s 7,500+ members engage in support and advocacy projects for the large legal community in San Francisco. The city’s plentiful legal talent pool, more so than other parts of the state, draws outside biglaw firms. 

The San Francisco Bay Area is among the best places for legal professionals to land the perfect job. More than 70 AmLaw100 firms with offices in the area compete for talented legal professionals. That makes the chances of landing a job higher than in many other cities. 

The Bay Area is the headquarters for global growth in technology. The tech companies generate massive amounts of work for law offices within all practice areas. Other notable facts include: 

  • The San Francisco Bay Area firms are highly active and will continue to stay busy 
  • Tech and life science companies are booming and feeding the legal market in the area 
  • The demand for various legal services for tech companies in San Francisco is continuing to grow 

The San Francisco Bay Area is cosmopolitan, dynamic, entrepreneurial, and independent. It is a leader in innovative industries that significantly impact the global economy. If you are looking for a position in the legal field in San Francisco, the best way to locate the perfect job is by hiring a professional legal recruiter. 

Connect to a Recruiter

Top law firms in San Francisco

Busy law firms in the San Francisco area are always on the lookout for talented associates. Headhunters help to fill these legal staffing gaps for in-house roles and traditional law firm jobs. Many of them are tapped into the market through LinkedIn, using that as a place to recruit candidates from New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between. These recruiting firms can streamline an attorney search process for a San Francisco office, which is also why legal talent should be prepared to put their best foot forward to be found by these recruiters.

A significant portion of the Am Law100 firms have offices in San Francisco, and despite some post-pandemic cooling, the Bay’s legal market is still hot. Law firms continue to count on lateral job placement, partner relocations, and new associate hiring. They plan to win market share in the San Francisco Bay Area through it. 

Jenner & Block, Debevoise & Plimpton, and Paul Weiss entered the San Francisco market in 2021. They all had existing tech clients and opened SF offices to help these clients with increased regulatory enforcement in California.

Some of the most notable firms in the area include: 

  • Alston & Bird is an Atlanta-based AmLaw 100 firm with a robust presence in San Francisco. It prides itself on its reputation as a great place to work and its collegial environment.
  • Skadden’s Palo Alto office has a top-ranked corporate M&A practice group that serves Silicon Valley’s tech companies. The Palo Alto office has been open for two decades, making Skadden an established player in the local market. 
  • Morrison Foerster is a San Francisco original and has been in the market for about 125 years. MoFo opened a Palo Alto office about 30 years ago and both offices offer full-service corporate, finance, intellectual property, and litigation capabilities to clients at all stages of development.
  • Wilson Sonsini’s office in the Financial District helps them stay connected to their clients in fintech, energy, and technology. The SF office has a public and private M&A focus, but also has opportunities in IP and complex commercial litigation, including patent, copyright, and trade secret law.

Other well-known Biglaw players in San Francisco are:

  • Cooley
  • Gibson Dunn
  • DLA Piper
  • Kirkland
  • Latham
  • Sidley

While some high-profile companies have moved to lower-cost areas, the world’s most profitable tech company giants remain in San Francisco. 

They stay because of its unique combination of a dynamic environment, geographical beauty, and constant inflow of venture capital funding. Legal tech combines the legal industry with software technologies that come with the technology industry. 

Get Introduced to a Recruiter

Law firms in San Francisco are always looking for talented attorneys and top legal professionals. Lawyers often look for their next challenge to transition or pivot their careers. A legal recruiter will help legal professionals locate the fitting position and avoid stressful and time-consuming job searches. Skilled Bay Area legal recruiters will help you find the law firm and job that best fits you. San Francisco legal recruiters are highly-experienced and knowledgeable of the area’s legal community, allowing them to recruit qualified legal professionals effectively. 

If you’re looking for a full-time role and want someone who will pay attention to your specialties, a search firm is a great way to approach landing a professional services role. The recruitment process can feel overwhelming without a good recruiter in your corner.

However, you’ll want to consider the pros and cons of using a legal recruiter. Here are a few of the advantages that come from using a legal recruiter:

Provide Market Insight. A San Francisco legal recruiter knows the market and can help identify the best firms that are looking for candidates like you. If you are unfamiliar with the area, this can be a valuable resource. 

No Cost to You, the Job Seeker. There is no risk for you, the candidate, even if you decide not to change jobs. If you work with a recruiter, whether they place you with a firm or not, you won’t pay a dime. Essentially, you have nothing to lose. (There is a caveat, however. See below.) 

Faster Job Placement. If you need to change jobs quickly, a recruiter can help. Good San Francisco legal recruiters are up-to-date on the latest job openings and can put you in touch with leading firms much faster. 

Blunt, Honest Feedback. Recruiters are paid when they place lawyers in a position, so they will be frank with you about how strong of an applicant you are and which openings are likely to lead to an offer for you. They will give clear feedback on your chances of landing at a firm, and they won’t sugarcoat what they say. This honesty, while brunt, can be valuable to your career. 

On the other hand, here are a few of the disadvantages that come from using a legal recruiter:

Goodbye Signing Bonus. The law firm has to pay the recruiter, and that money might come out of your would-be bonus. After working with a recruiter, you may have less negotiating power for signing bonuses, salary, and other benefits. 

Your Job Search is Chained to the Recruiter’s Value. Your job search will be directly connected to the quality and reputation of the recruiter. If the reputation is poor, you may not find quick placement or you could be placed in a job that doesn’t fit your goals. Also, the recruiter’s reputation could rub off when you work in the law office. 

Beth is currently living in another California city, and she’s ready to change her lifestyle. She wants to move to San Francisco to take advantage of the cooler weather, amazing food scene, and being able to ditch her car. However, Beth doesn’t know the local legal market in SF very well, so she’s using a legal recruiter with specialized knowledge of the regional firms in the area.

Associate who wants to change practice areas

Josh is concerned about climate change and wants to develop his legal practice around environmental law. His current firm has him pigeonholed into a practice area he doesn’t feel much passion about, so he’s looking to lateral to a firm with a robust environmental practice in San Francisco. The legal recruiter he’s working with is helping him connect with partners growing their practice. Josh is able to learn the lay of the land in his new practice area more quickly with the help of his legal recruiter, who has decades of experience in San Francisco.

Senior associate seeking immediate partnership

Jen is a senior associate at her firm and is starting to realize that she might not get elected to the partnership for various reasons. She knows that a few of the largest firms in San Francisco are offering partnership within 1-2 years and give them counsel positions immediately upon joining the firm. Jen is using a legal recruiter to help her advance to partner as quickly as possible.

If you need more information on the best legal recruiters in San Francisco, send me a message using the site’s chat button stating briefly that you’re on the lookout for a firm placement in San Francisco. I’ll keep all your information confidential and get back to you quickly with some recommendations.

If you’re looking to explore lateral opportunities and the best legal recruiters in other states, we can connect you with legal recruiters throughout the United States.

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Joshua Holt

Joshua Holt is a lawyer with 10 years of experience in Biglaw working at the country’s largest law firms, culminating in his work at a Vault 30 law firm in the private equity mergers & acquisition group. He has extensive experience counseling associates in lateraling to a firm with a better fit, helping associates make partner and working with law students navigating on-campus and call-back interviews.

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