- Denver’s diverse economy offers legal work opportunities in industries such as aerospace, tech, telecommunications, food & beverage, and energy.
- Denver has a rapidly growing legal market where many large firms are opening smaller offices.
- A legal recruiter can help associates from other markets know which firm in this region is the best fit for them.
The Mile High City has grown from its Old West roots into an evolving tech and business hub. While its claim of 300 days of sunshine per year might be slightly exaggerated—the average is closer to 245—the merits of Denver’s economy, culture, and proximity to outdoor recreation areas can’t be oversold.
With a population of over 715,000, it is the 19th most populous city in the United States, and the 18th largest metro economy in the country. This can be partially attributed to its geographic position and connection to some of the country’s major systems of transportation. The economy of the city of Denver is one of the key features which makes it stand out amongst other cities in the United States. The city of Denver is home to 10 Fortune 500 companies, which provides ample opportunities to attorneys practicing in the area to gain experience in diverse fields. Geography also allows Denver to have a considerable government presence, with many federal agencies based or having offices in the Denver area.
The city of Denver has over the years enjoyed an expanding client base in its legal market. The population of lawyers in Denver has also grown significantly to become the third-fastest growing in the United States and currently totals 7,404 according to the American Bar Association. The most prominent practice areas among attorneys in Denver are immigration law and agricultural law and telecommunications.
The average lawyer salary in Colorado is $147,560, and the median is $127,070, but it is possible to bring in a Biglaw market salary if you work at one of Denver’s growing number of Biglaw satellite offices. Recruiting firms make it easier for lawyers to find jobs as in-house counsel in Denver, CO or in other positions throughout the legal community. Working with a recruiting or staffing firm can speed up a job search and allow for more personalized sourcing and placement of full-time legal professionals.
The state of Colorado has a voluntary rather than mandatory bar association, and Denver also has its own voluntary bar association. The growing economy in Denver has brought about a high demand for lawyers that cannot be met by just the two law schools in the Denver area—the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, the only law school located in the city of Denver. There is, therefore, a considerable influx of both young and seasoned attorneys to Denver from other states and a strong market for attorneys from outside of Colorado.
Top law firms in Denver
Law firms in Denver tailor their practice areas to the needs of their clients and tend to specialize in aerospace, construction, emerging growth, energy, financial, healthcare, life sciences, manufacturing, minerals, natural resources, oil and gas, real estate, recreation and resorts, technology, and telecommunications.
A good number of the Am Law 100 firms have a presence in Denver, including:
- Gibson Dunn
- Haynes Boone
- Husch Blackwell
- Morrison & Foerster
- Perkins Coie
Some of the largest offices in Denver include:
- Holland & Hart: Employs over 230 attorneys in the Denver area and has two offices in the metro area (Denver and Boulder). Holland & Hart is one of the oldest firms in Denver and the head office of the largest Colorado-based law firm.
- Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck: Focused on lobbying in addition to providing legal services. This firm specializes in policy expertise surrounding cannabis law, real estate, natural resources, and Indian law & policy. It employs about 150 lawyers in the Denver area.
- Sherman & Howard: A Mountain West regional firm with offices in New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado. Sherman & Howard is a full-service law firm with practices in corporate, family law, IP, litigation, real estate, and estate planning. Of the firm’s 170 lawyers, 125 of them are located in the Denver area.
- Davis Graham & Stubbs: The second-largest law firm in Colorado with expertise in the energy, mining, technology, hospitality, private equity, and asset management industries.
For lateral attorneys, there are opportunities at either midsize Colorado-based firms or smaller offices of national and global firms. The list of big firms with offices in Denver continues to grow as attorneys leave cities with larger markets in response to post-pandemic demands for remote work and flexibility.
Is a Denver legal recruiter right for you?
The expansion of the legal market in Denver has created an employment boom for lateral attorneys, and working with a legal recruiter can be a great way for a candidate to enter into a new market.
Unlike scouring a job board or submitting a resume directly to human resources, a search firm starts with what is most important to you in your job hunt. Whether you’re looking for corporate legal departments or joining a big Denver firm, your recruiter helps you position yourself as strong legal talent for open positions. Headhunters are familiar with general counsel roles, open positions in practice groups at big and small firms, and more. Working with Denver legal recruiters through executive search increases the chances of landing your dream job.
Benefits and disadvantages of using a recruiter
A legal recruiter can assist you in updating your resume, give you their acute perception of the legal market, prep you for job interviews, notify you of job vacancies that you might never be aware of, and, most importantly, they help save your time in your search for a job. Lawyers’ time is precious and usually mostly accounted for. A legal recruiter can do the legwork to get you ready for your interview and transition so you can focus on your day-to-day.
However, just like every other good thing, working with a legal recruiter also has its downsides. One of the possible disadvantages of working with a legal recruiter in your search for a job is that your employer might be reluctant to give you a signing bonus. It might also affect your ability to negotiate your salary or individualized work arrangements, such as an extended parental leave or part-time employment. This is because firms are already paying the legal recruiter 20-25% of your starting salary for their services, so they may be less willing to spend much on a new employee. That’s why it’s important to choose a recruiter who will stay laser-focused on your goals.
What to look for in a recruiter
There are a few fundamental qualities you should also be looking for in a legal recruiter, the most important of which is good project management. A lateral transition will involve many details and timelines, and you want to make sure that your legal recruiter is on top of things.
Integrity is also important because the confidentiality of your search needs to remain sacrosanct. The worst thing that can happen is for your current employer to find out about your search from your recruiter.
It goes without saying that knowledge and experience in the legal market is essential in any good legal recruiter. You want to work with someone who knows the industry and can distill what the firm is looking for in its candidates so they can help their clients find the best fit.
Examples of lawyers who work with legal recruiters in Denver
Lawyer who is moving to Denver from a different legal market
RJ is a corporate lawyer in Chicago who loves his firm but is feeling the crush of long, gray winters and too little square footage in his work-from-home-office. His firm doesn’t (yet) have a Denver office, but he is interested in moving to the Mile High City to have greater access to the outdoors and a lower cost of living. He’s already got a full schedule and chooses to use a legal recruiter to help him understand the legal market in Denver better and more quickly.
Associate who wants to change practice areas
Kate is a junior associate who, after two and a half years, has found herself only getting work from a single partner whose practice focuses on a relatively niche industry. While she’s pretty much become an expert in that one area, she doesn’t want to do that kind of work forever. She knows that Denver’s economy is diverse and hopes to move to one of Denver’s many full-service law firms where she can work on a broad range of matters. Kate is using a legal recruiter to figure out which firm will best help her diversify her practice.
If you need more information on the best legal recruiters in Denver, send me a message using the site’s chat button stating briefly that you’re on the lookout for a firm placement in Denver. I’ll keep all your information confidential and get back to you quickly with some recommendations.
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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.