- Raleigh is a growing legal market because of its proximity to tech companies and research institutions.
- Raleigh has many large law firms to pick from; some full-service and others specialized.
- Legal recruiters can be particularly effective in this healthy legal market.
As many corporations have entered North Carolina, Raleigh’s demand for law firms has also increased. Raleigh is proximate to research universities (leading to venture capital clients) and large talent pools while keeping operating costs generally low. Raleigh has many tech and biotech companies to fuel legal work, and the city also serves as a major retail shipping point. Along with Charlotte and Durham, Raleigh is emerging into a legal hub that may see continued expansion from large law firms.
According to the American Bar Association, Wake County where Raleigh is located has around 6,000 attorneys. Although Raleigh is growing rapidly, it currently has less than half a million in population. Looking at the numbers, Raleigh is currently a small legal market but with more attorneys than you’d expect. To compare, both Portland and Baltimore have fewer attorneys while having a higher population. The overall consensus is that the Raleigh legal market is strong and expected to keep growing. To supplement the growing legal market, there are six North Carolina law schools, notably Duke (a top 14 school) and University of North Carolina (top 30), that firms can continue to hire new associates from.
Raleigh, like any other city, will have its pros and cons to living there beyond considerations for legal employment. Starting with the pros, Raleigh is known to have nice neighborhoods, top-notch healthcare, elite education for both grade schools and universities, fresh food from many farmers markets, plus plenty of outdoor nature and activities. However, you’ll have to deal with the high tax rates, humid weather and hurricane season, mosquitos, traffic problems, and a higher-than-average crime rate.
Top law firms in Raleigh
Raleigh law firms will rally around corporate and tech-related transactions, but the larger shops will still be full-service. A lot of the M&A and finance work will actually be in Charlotte, so some law firms might not have an office in Raleigh if they are established in Charlotte. Raleigh’s Biglaw compensation might be slightly lagging the market in some places, but we may see that change as Raleigh continues to grow into a larger legal market. Currently, here are some of the most notable Biglaw firms in Raleigh:
K&L Gates is a global firm with a 40-attorney presence in Raleigh. This office offers legal services for a wide variety of practices including real estate, intellectual property, and labor & employment on top of the usual Raleigh specialties.
Alston & Bird is a V100 law firm based out of the South Atlantic, so it only makes sense that they are also in Raleigh. Their 20-attorney office, however, is very specialized, only listing litigation, federal tax, and intellectual property as the main areas of expertise.
McGuireWoods maintains a Raleigh office of close to 50 attorneys, specializing in litigation, regulatory matters, finance, and private wealth services. McGuireWoods is listed as offering Cravath Scale compensation in their Raleigh office.
Despite being a “small” market, the crowded law firm presence makes it difficult to highlight every firm. Here are a couple more by name for you to keep on your Raleigh radar:
- Fox Rothschild
- Kilpatrick Townsend
- DLA Piper
- Troutman Pepper
The pros/cons of using a legal recruiter in Raleigh
In a healthy, growing, and firm-heavy legal market, a legal recruiter could be the exact tool a job hunt needs to be effective. When there are so many job opportunities at so many firms, how will you know which is best for you? A competent legal recruiter from a staffing firm answers those questions for a living and can ensure that you find a proper career fit. A legal recruiter will be sure to understand you as a person and professional so that any placement at a firm is aligned with your interests, experience, and goals.
No matter whether you’re looking for an in-house position, roles for paralegals, associate attorney openings, or something else, there are benefits to working with a staffing agency. Not all recruiting firms are created equal, however, and it doesn’t always make sense for legal professionals to partner with a recruiter. Truly understanding the legal jobs opportunities in your region and finding the right legal staffing agency might take time.
Here are a few of the advantages that come from using a legal recruiter:
Special Market Insight. A Raleigh legal recruiter will be on top of the hiring trends, recent firm expansions, job openings, and can also provide a local professional network for much of the insider scoop. For full-time roles in the research triangle, you might learn more about jobs before they’re even posted on the open market, which gives you maximum choice and opportunity.
No Payment Necessary. When you are placed at a firm, the recruiter is paid by the firm and not you. In essence, there is very little to lose (except for a caveat; see below). Most headhunters at search firms don’t require you to pay them for their services. For anyone searching for attorney jobs, but especially law students who are new to the market, this can be a big benefit.
Expedited Placement. Sometimes, a lateral move is urgent. Legal recruiters know exactly how to look for open positions, how to contact and communicate with firms, and how to follow up on leads. Not only do you save time and effort in looking for jobs on your own, but a trusted legal recruiter can do it better than you can and reach out to you when they’ve found something. Attorney recruiting is a specialty for someone who works at a legal industry recruiting firm, and they have strong knowledge of the local job market and human resources, too.
Direct and Truthful Feedback. Legal recruiters work for you but get paid by the firm, so there is no incentive to hype you up. Instead, Recruiters can also help correct and weaknesses in your lawyer resume, give you interview advice, and be real about the chances of placement. Where else can you get feedback like that?
On the other hand, here are a few of the disadvantages that come from using a legal recruiter:
Lose the Signing Bonus? Since the law firm pays the recruiter for placement, they may not be willing to pay you any extra. Since you have offloaded some of the work and autonomy of job searching to a recruiter, it makes sense that you would lose some leverage when it comes to negotiations. If a signing bonus or salary/benefits negotiation is important to you, you may want to think twice about outsourcing to a legal recruiter.
The Recruiter’s Reputation Matters. The efficacy of your job search and your personal reputation will be connected to the competency and reputation of the legal recruiter. Avoid bad recruiters or else risk bad career fits and a stinky reputation that will follow you into your new job!
Examples of lawyers who work with legal recruiters in Raleigh
Associate moving to Raleigh from a different legal market
Jackie’s husband will be attending North Carolina State University in Raleigh for a doctorate in Aerospace Engineering. They’ve decided to permanently move, and Jackie needs to transfer her firm job to Raleigh. Thankfully, her practice area is in corporate law so she thinks she can land a job alright, but she calls a legal recruiter because why not maximize your chances at landing at the best firm possible?
Associate that isn’t happy with current firm culture or colleagues
Angie’s practice is venture capital so she knows that she can lateral to other firms in Raleigh with her expertise. Why would she stay at her current firm when the partner that she works for is an ineffective superior and her colleagues only ever talk about Duke basketball? Beyond wanting to be in a more comfortable work environment, Angie doesn’t mind where she ends up in Raleigh, so she outsources her job search to a legal recruiter that can probably siphon information on culture and work environment from the recruiter’s network.
Senior associate seeking immediate partnership
Rob is a senior associate at a Biglaw firm in Raleigh but he’s not confident that he can make partner at his top-heavy practice group. Even though Raleigh has many Biglaw firms, Rob thinks that if he laterals a little bit down in the rankings or into a mid-sized firm that he might be made partner right away. Rob reaches out to a legal recruiter to strategize how he can advance his career with a lateral move.
If you need more information on the best legal recruiters in Raleigh, send me a message using the site’s chat button stating briefly that you’re on the lookout for a firm placement in Raleigh. 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.