- The Dallas legal market is white-hot, with both law firms and major corporations calling Dallas home.
- A legal recruiter may be the best option for finding a job.
- Feel free to email me if you want help finding a recruiter in Dallas.
The Dallas/Ft. Worth area may conjure visions of searing temperatures, cowboy hats, and rodeos, but the city’s diverse economy is home to 23 Fortune 500 companies, giving attorneys in this legal market the opportunity to practice sophisticated legal work. Lawyers in Dallas can expect to find strong practice areas around real estate, financial services, banking, intellectual property, and M&A work. The city is also home to major industries, including healthcare, accommodation, and food services.
While the State of Texas is home to many attorneys who attended law school in-state, according to the Texas Bar Association more than 27% of in-state attorneys attended an out-of-state law school. The booming Texas economy has created a demand for lawyers that isn’t met by graduates from some of their biggest schools like the University of Texas and Texas A&M. This is good news for lateral candidates who continue to move to Texas from other states, often to take advantage of the lowest cost of living or lack of state income tax rate.
If you’re looking to work at a law firm in Dallas and want to understand the best way to conduct a job search, the hiring process of the top law firms in the state and whether or not you should work with a legal recruiter, we’re going to cover all that and more in this article.
Top law firms are setting up offices in Dallas
You can expect to find a healthy portion of the AM Law 100 represented in Dallas.
None may be as prominent as Haynes Boone, a long-time stalwart of the city, but a surprisingly large number of Biglaw firms have offices here, including firms like Kirkland & Ellis, Jones Day, Sidley Austin, Weil Gotschal, and Perkins Coie, to name a few.
In other words, if you’re interested in moving to Dallas, you may be able to transfer within your firm. If that’s not an option, many firms with offices in Dallas and many practice groups would be interested in discussing a lateral placement to their Dallas office.
Like other markets in Texas, the demand for legal talent has outstripped supply, although that’s not stopping new firms from opening offices in Dallas to satisfy client demands. If you’re a junior associate, this is great news because you can likely transfer to Dallas despite having a limited number of years of experience. For mid-level and senior associates, Dallas is probably not that much different than other cities, where demand is high for associates across the entire legal industry.
How to conduct a lawyer job search
There are typically a limited number of ways that legal professionals lateral from firm to firm (whether switching geographic location or not):
- Staying within the same firm, switching cities
- Lateraling from Firm A to Firm B, staying in the same city.
- Lateraling from Firm A to Firm B, switching cities.
If you’re staying within the same firm but want to switch cities, you may think the first step is to talk to your human resources office. I’d caution against that.
Legal departments are typically staffed to capacity and partners rely on the associates to perform the legal work. If you want to switch cities, you’ll need to work out the politics of how the move will be perceived. Can you stay working for the same partners?
Do you need to shift your work to a different group? Legal staffing is a delicate matter at AM Law 100 firms, so feel out whether the move would be welcomed. Once you’ve discussed it with your partners, having human resources okay the transfer is probably the last step.
If you’re lateraling from Firm A to Firm B but planning on staying in the Dallas area, your legal job search is likely going to focus on network connections, people that you’ve met in the city and headhunters that can tell you about open positions.
If you’re lateraling from Firm A to Firm B and moving to Dallas, your job search will be aided by working with a legal search firm that can help you learn about the Dallas legal market, the job openings available in the city, including the practice groups and legal departments that are hiring. A knowledgeable legal recruiter will be able to help you navigate the process of both switching firms AND moving to a new city.
Best legal recruiters in Dallas
If you’re going to work with a legal recruiter, you want to find someone competent in the field of attorney recruiting! Too many people that work for legal recruiting firms are glorified salespeople playing a number game trying to slingshot as many resumes around as possible.
I’ve written extensively about the benefits and disadvantages of working with a legal recruiter, but the bottom line is that they can help you navigate a difficult transition while saving you significant time and keeping you from making a mistake (a good legal recruiter has zero interest in making a bad placement since it will reflect poorly on them to the law firm going forward).
There are a few fundamental qualities you’ll want in a legal recruiter:
- Integrity. It’s important that the recruiter maintains the confidentiality of your search and treats YOU as the client (and not the firm). Too many recruiters are really outsourced firm recruiters more interested in keeping the firm relationship than in what’s best for you.
- Knowledge. Has experience with the Biglaw market, the firms in Dallas and the positions which are available. Like real estate agents, someone who only has experience in San Francisco will not be as helpful for you in Dallas.
- Project Management. Manages the process for you, including identifying firms, pitching you as a candidate, scheduling interviews and keeping on top of the process while you’re busy at your current job.
I could list a few legal recruiters in Dallas that I’d recommend, but I’ve found over the years that the ideal candidate for you depends heavily on who you are. Therefore, the best way to find the right legal recruiter is to simply email me telling me briefly that you’re searching for a firm job in Dallas. I’ll keep all of your information confidential and get back to you quickly with some recommendations.
Josh’s blog has become my one-stop shop for the latest in financial news, strategies, and tactics. There are plenty of other finance and investing sites, but nothing so squarely targeted at lawyers. If you’re a lawyer who wants to better understand your finances and the markets, it’s a must read! —Keith Lee