- Atlanta is a growing hotbed of economic activity, making it a destination for lawyers of all varieties.
- The Atlanta metro area is home to some of the largest and long-lasting law firms in the country.
- A recruiter can help lawyers new to the Atlanta area find high-quality opportunities in their specific field of expertise.
Atlanta is one of the top cities in the nation for a variety of reasons. Home to world-class arts and entertainment, sports at the highest level of competition, and industries that include technology, finance, and film, Atlanta has become a hub not only for the Southeast, but the entire nation.
For those reasons, individuals and businesses are flocking to the Atlanta area, giving legal professionals numerous opportunities. According to the American Bar Association legal profession statistics, there are over 14,000 lawyers in the Atlanta metro area. From estate services to corporate counseling, lawyers are in high demand in this growing city.
Those hard-working, dedicated, talented lawyers in this area can expect a strong salary. Most large law firms in Atlanta pay according to the Biglaw Salary Scale, but average salaries are high across the state, with the average lawyer salary in Georgia commanding a $128,930 annual salary.
If you’re interested in lateraling to Atlanta, or simply trading firms, keep reading to learn more about the Atlanta legal market and how we can help.
Industries and law firms in Atlanta
With so many job opportunities and a vibrant, diverse community, Atlanta has become a top destination for numerous employers in the Atlanta area, including companies that have national renown and a global footprint.
The largest employer in the Atlanta area is Delta Air Lines, which employs nearly 34,000 people. Emory University and Emory Healthcare together employ over 32,000. Top employers in the Atlanta area also include The Home Depot, which has its headquarters (and the first two stores) in Atlanta, as well as AT&T, UPS, and Marriott International, which collectively employ over 40,000 people.
To keep up with the business demand, there are numerous law firms in Atlanta that have a constant need for high-quality talent. King & Spalding LLP, for example, is perhaps the largest legal firm in Atlanta. This firm has been serving Atlanta and Georgia residents since its founding in 1885, and employs roughly 1,200 attorneys.
Other law firms in the area include Alston & Bird, which employs somewhere between 750 and 1,000 lawyers. The firm dates back to 1893 but has teams specializing in complex modern legal issues such as data security and international finance.
These are just two examples of the thriving law firms that make Atlanta their home. The legal industry has really grown in Atlanta over the last decade. These firms compete on a national and global scale with many of the top organizations across the country.
The bottom line: Freshly-graduated law students, as well as seasoned attorneys with decades of experience, can find work in Atlanta.
How a legal recruiter can help you in Atlanta
Legal recruiters provide a variety of services that help firms maintain a strong supply of lawyers. Generally, they work closely with a firm’s human resources department, as well as management, to ensure that the firm has a steady supply of candidates so that the firm is operating at peak performance.
Recruiters, however, typically play a dual role acting on behalf of the law firm and yourself as a candidate. This can make the relationship a little tricky to navigate.
Legal recruiter compensation and incentives
Recruiters are paid by law firms. They typically receive a 20-25% commission on your salary for a successful placement. This does not, on its face, automatically mean that a recruiter does not have your best interests in mind but it’s important to understand the incentive structure.
Good recruiters want to ensure that the people they bring to a law firm are high-quality professionals who fit the specific needs of the organization. They would not last long in the industry if they sent any candidate to a law firm. They have to provide good candidates or law firms will stop working with them.
The main advantage of this incentive structure is that it’s completely free to you. The main disadvantage is that the recruiter might be more incentivized to prioritize the relationship with the law firm over the relationship with you.
What does a legal recruiter do for you?
Legal recruiters have many different responsibilities in the job search process. They are often contacting and communicating with law firms so they know what positions are open and when these openings need to be filled. They will schedule interviews with job candidates and field questions form the law firms about these candidates.
Because they are incentivized to make sure a candidate is ultimately hired by the firm (a legal recruiter makes nothing if there is no placement), they may assist with resumes, career descriptions, interview strategies, and more.
Essentially, you can expect your legal recruiter to act as a manager of the job search process, which can be extremely helpful given that you’re probably busy with your current job.
Examples of lawyers who work with legal recruiters in Atlanta
Here are a couple of hypothetical examples of professionals who might leverage legal recruiting to their advantage in a job search.
Lawyer moving to a new city
Janet is an attorney working in Washington, DC. She’s been working for a large firm for a few years but is feeling the tug to move back home to Atlanta. She knows the city well but isn’t at all familiar with the legal market, the firms that are currently hiring and is frankly too exhausted every day she comes home to search for another job on top of her current job’s demands.
An experienced legal recruiter can help her understand her options in Atlanta. The legal recruiter can organize the job search for Janet, while also helping Janet get her paperwork (resume, transcripts, etc.) in order.
The legal recruiter might organize a few rounds of phone interviews to help Janet get a sense of which firms feel like the best fit. When Janet is ready to move further, the legal recruiter can help coordinate onsite interviews at potential firms, ultimately resulting in a job offer for Janet.
Senior associate who wants to make partner
Tom is a senior associate at his law firm in Atlanta. He’s had years of good performance reviews and is due for partnership within the next two years. But he’s starting to realize that he may not get elected to the partnership due to personality differences between himself and the partners.
Tom doesn’t want to passively wait it out. He doesn’t want to hope he gets elected to partner. He wants to take control so he engages with a legal recruiter to see if any firms in Atlanta are accepting lateral associate candidates for immediate partnership.
Should you work with a legal recruiter in Atlanta?
Now you know what legal recruiters do and how they do it. But what’s in it for you, the job candidate? Like all choices, there are positives and negatives to working with a legal recruiter.
Here are a few advantages of working with a legal recruiter:
- Good recruiters have a strong understanding of the legal industry.
- They work on legal placement every day so will know about new opportunities and job leads that you might miss.
- They know the market and can help you identify more opportunities.
- It can also be faster and more efficient to work with a recruiter. They perform much of the leg work so you don’t have to spend hours researching job postings, revising applications, placing calls, and performing all the exhausting work that comes with a job search.
Here are a few disadvantages of working with a legal recruiter:
- Although you are not paying for the recruiter’s services, the law firm may be less likely to offer signing bonuses or other financial incentives. They are already paying the recruiter tens of thousands of dollars, so your bargaining power may be limited.
- When you work with a recruiter, you are, in a way, locking your reputation to theirs. This can be advantageous when the recruiter is well-liked by the firm, but it can go against your interest if the recruiter has a poor reputation.
- Legal recruiting can attract people who have little to no understanding of the legal profession. Some view their job as a numbers game, giving little attention to the quality of the candidate, the law firm, or the match between the two.
If you want to work for one of the top firms, you need the right approach. Although demand for lawyers is high, the best firms can still be extremely selective when choosing candidates. Many turn to legal recruiters to help bridge the gap between where they are today and where they want to be tomorrow.
If you’re looking to explore legal job opportunities outside of Atlanta, we have a handy map of legal recruiters throughout the United States.
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.