- Indianapolis firms tend to have histories as strong regional firms with established clients and culture.
- An attorney’s compensation will be lower in Indianapolis but it’s also one of the more affordable metros you can find in the U.S.
- A handful of firms have very large offices that a well-connected legal recruiter can place all sorts of lateral attorneys into.
Indianapolis (or “Indy”) is the capital and largest metro in the state of Indiana. The city is the 15th largest in the nation and third largest in the Midwest coming in behind Chicago and Columbus. Here, you’ll run into a robust auto racing scene including the Indy 500 (the world’s largest single-day sporting event!), the world’s largest children’s museum, and maybe even a great career fit as a lawyer.
The American Bar Association reports ~6,500 attorneys in Marion County where Indianapolis is located. Considering that Indianapolis has a population of just under one million, the market does not appear to be too big or small given the size of the city. For example, San Antonio has fewer lawyers with half a million more. Indianapolis draws its attorneys mostly from in-state law schools including Notre Dame Law School, and Indiana University’s two law schools (Maurer and McKinney).
There appear to be quite a number of large law offices in Indianapolis. For a number of reasons, Indianapolis law firms won’t be exactly the same as Biglaw elsewhere. First, the Midwest tends not to have clients as large as coastal regions. For example, there are no tech giants to drive massive transactions, but you will find more trade and transportation industries. Second, Chicago is a very large legal market just three hours away by drive. Surely, some of the legal work in Indianapolis will be drawn to Chicago. Third, midwestern law firms tend to have lower billing rates, which means that compensation will be lower than you’ll find in Chicago or New York. However, the cost of living in the Midwest tends to be better, so your salary number may not tell the whole story.
When people think about living in the Midwest, they usually think of non-metropolitan areas. The city of Indianapolis certainly offers more than the cornfields that some imagine. Indianapolis is one of the few big cities that remains affordable. Also, the city is spread out across thirty or so miles, so some may find the city life more comfortable than other large cities. Indianapolis has an eccentric sports scene with racing, football, basketball and more, but even non-sports fans can engage themselves in the art scene or state parks. However, Indianapolis, like much of the Midwest, experiences all the seasons for the good and the bad; there is snow in the winters and a summer that is hot and humid. Indianapolis also straddles two time zones, so the confusion could be frustrating.
Top law firms in Indianapolis
Indianapolis has a hybrid Biglaw/midlaw scene. There will be lower compensation (with more affordable living though), more regional clients and matters, and fewer nationally branded law firms. However, the offices can get huge, offering comprehensive legal services and giving lawyers a very Biglaw vibe. The firm and practice you end up with will be more determinative than just getting placed in the city. Here are some of Indianapolis’ most notable law firms:
Barnes & Thornburg has strong midwestern roots, so it’s no surprise that their largest office is in Indianapolis. With almost 250 attorneys, Barnes & Thornburg handles a very broad range of legal matters at both a national and regional level out of the Indianapolis office.
Dentons (Bingham Greenebaum) has close to 100 attorneys that are well suited to serve the midwestern region across a variety of practice areas. As part of a global law firm with incredible brand reach and total headcount, the midwestern firm formerly known as Bingham Greenebaum Doll merged with Dentons. Much of Dentons’ Indianapolis office will integrate with the firm on multiple levels—cohesively with the rest of the midwestern Bingham Greenebaum offices, nationally with Dentons in the U.S., and globally with the firm’s multinational reach. However, because the merger was relatively recent, the culture and compensation may not yet resemble “Biglaw” even if the brand attached is.
Faegre Drinker is a fairly new multinational firm established through a series of mergers. The Indianapolis office is huge, totaling nearly 200 lawyers! The pre-merger firm was in Indianapolis since the mid-1800s, so this particular office has had much time to grow and develop trusted relationships with regional clientele.
You can find many excellent law firms in Indianapolis, so it would be too much to list them all in detail. Just to include a couple more, also keep the following on your radar:
- Dinsmore & Shohl
- Frost Brown Todd
- Ice Miller
- Taft Stettinius & Hollister
- Krieg DeVault
How to conduct a legal job search in Indianapolis
Your job search strategy will depend on the kind of lateral move you make. Indianapolis does not present the usual challenges of some other smaller markets like having satellite offices or insularity but does not mean that legal opportunities are free for all. Whether a legal recruiter should be part of your job search strategy will depend on whether you make one of three lateral moves:
- Same firm, different location
- Different firm, same location
- Different firm, different location
For paralegals, associates, and non-profit lawyers, there are many options in the legal market, but it can be hard to get your foot in the door for a new position without the expertise of human resources experts. Headhunters at recruiting firms often known more about open positions than the average lawyer, and their background in placing legal talent is usually unmatched. Legal professionals who want a personalized experience for general counsel, in-house roles, litigation associate, associate attorney positions, or other positions can benefit from talking over their career goals and potential full-time job openings with a recruitment expert. If you’re the ideal candidate for an open role they know about, you could take a firm next steps in your legal career with their help.
If you want to be in Indianapolis with your current firm, your strategy will look very different than most laterals. Your transition needs to be as smooth as possible, making sure that the partners you work for now are okay with the move. You also want to make sure that your work will continue without speedbumps when you move to the new office. Remote work or interoffice staffing policies can make this easy or difficult for you to figure out. If your firm has a large midwestern presence, perhaps moving between offices is common (e.g., Chicago to Indianapolis and vice versa). Once you’ve got a handle of the situation with the partners, then you’ll want to take it to HR and get it done.
If you’re already in Indianapolis but want to be at a different firm, a legal recruiter can be very helpful. You may have your personal network that can get you the latest buzz and insider information, but some of these offices are very large and structured in a way that a legal recruiter can facilitate a lateral efficiently for you. Plus, using a legal recruiter is free of cost to you, so some of the legwork of job hunting would be off your shoulders. In a smaller legal market like Indianapolis, a competent legal recruiter could navigate job availabilities quickly and effectively while keeping your individual interests in mind.
Coming from some other firm in some other city? Perhaps the affordability of Indianapolis made you want to move. Hoosiers, while very proud of their capital city, are rather welcoming so you won’t have to deal with the insularity issue that small markets often present. Here, a legal recruiter will be able to place you in a firm position that fits well with your career goals without having to worry about whether or not you have strong ties to the area. Especially since there are a handful of very large offices that offer a full range of legal services, most lateral attorneys will have some place to fit well into if they look hard enough with a standout lawyer resume. A legal recruiter is someone that can make sure that gets done.
Examples of lawyers who work with legal recruiters in Indianapolis
Associate that wants to change practice areas
Julian is an Indianapolis firm associate who is part of a commercial litigation practice group. He doesn’t want to do commercial litigation long-term and wants to try labor & employment, but his current firm’s L&E group doesn’t need any more manpower. Because Julian knows that there are many large firms in the city that are constantly hiring or moving attorneys around, he talks to a legal recruiter who will alert him of any new job opportunities in a L&E practice group.
Mid-level associate that wants to lateral up to a higher ranked firm
Caroline is working at a mid-sized firm in Indianapolis. She has seen Indianapolis firms undergo mergers in recent years, becoming offices for national Biglaw firms and she wants to be a part of that. Caroline calls a legal recruiter so that she can capitalize on any opportunities to lateral to a higher ranked firm for the larger matters and increased compensation.
Associate that isn’t happy with current firm culture or colleagues
Caleb has worked for a few years at his first firm and enjoys the work but doesn’t really fit in otherwise. He thinks that maybe a larger office with more structure and larger associate classes might be better. Caleb reaches out to a legal recruiter who can not only place him in one of these larger offices, but will take into consideration other individualized interests and tastes that Caleb has when it comes to his work environment.
If you need more information on the best legal recruiters in Indianapolis, send me a message using the site’s chat button stating briefly that you’re on the lookout for a firm placement in Indianapolis. 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.