- The Houston legal market is intense, with numerous major corporations and large law firms calling it home.
- Energy law is a mainstay of the legal market, but Houston’s diverse business community provides a range of legal work for attorneys in the city.
- For many lawyers, a legal recruiter is the best option for finding a job in Houston.
The Houston area is home to some of the largest energy, biomedical, and aeronautics companies in the country. It’s known for its incredible diversity, high quality of life, and the big outdoors. It is also home to 24 Fortune 500 companies—Phillips 66, Sysco, and Hewlett Packard being some of the highest in revenue—and one of the top cities in the country for large, established corporations. As of 2022, Houston ranks #3 among U.S. metro areas in Fortune 500 headquarters.
Attorneys looking to practice corporate law in high-stakes industries will find Houston the ideal place to do that. From oil and gas to real estate, port management, and biomedical research facilities, there are a number of large companies doing significant business in Houston. The energy sector dominates the landscape in Houston; the Houston Bar Association’s Energy Law section boasts over 800 members.
Texas is home to many attorneys who attended law school through in-state colleges and universities. That said, the Texas Bar Association reports that 27 percent of the attorneys in Texas went to a college or university outside of the state for law school. Even some of the largest law schools in the state, such as the University of Texas as well as the University of Houston, cannot meet the demands of the legal market in Houston. For those lawyers looking to move to Texas from out of state, the Houston legal market offers a lot of opportunities. According to the American Bar Association, there are currently 23,937 lawyers in Harris County, where Houston is located.
Texas boasts a lower cost of living than many other states and does not have a state income tax, which makes it a highly desirable place to call home.
Top law firms in Houston
Many of the Am Law 100 firms have an office in Houston. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld is perhaps the most prominent among them. Akin Gump’s Houston office has a strong energy focus as well as a corporate practice, IP litigation group, an international trade practice of 70 lawyers, and a labor & employment team.
Tracing its roots to the Texas oil boom over 100 years ago, the largest law firm in Houston is Vinson & Elkins. While most well-known for its energy practice, V&E Houston has over 300 lawyers in its office who handle high-profile transactions and disputes. V&E is a Texas firm with a global reach, and it enjoys a very positive reputation in the Lone Star State.
Baker Botts was founded in 1840 when Texas was its own country, the Republic of Texas, but it has grown and expanded along with the Houston economy. Baker Botts is connected to energy markets in Asia and the Middle East and serves as a full-service firm to its clients in Houston.
Other Biglaw firms with offices in Houston include Gibson Dunn, Latham & Watkins, Locke Lord, and Kirkland & Ellis. Several of these firms opened Houston offices within the past 10 years to keep up with the demands of the legal market there. For those interested in a move to Houston, you may be able to make the move within your existing firm.
In situations where that is not an option or if you’re ready to leave your current firm, there are numerous law firms in Houston that would be happy to discuss the opportunities for lateral placement into their Houston office. Texas is no different than many other leading legal markets in that there is far more demand than there are available attorneys to fill positions. The area has seen a significant number of new law firms opening offices in the Houston metro area. This has led to more demand not only for well-experienced attorneys but also for junior associates who may be looking to lateral to a new firm and/or new city.
Advantages and disadvantages of using a legal recruiter in Houston
For legal professionals, the job search can be exhausting. This is why many of them turn to Dallas or Houston legal recruiters to get a pulse on which positions are open. A staffing headhunter will work to get to know you and what you want out of a role, then engage in legal search strategies to connect you with good full-time roles. A recruiting firm should be very familiar with legal placement practices and human resources, but also the legal industry itself. Using your years of experience and job desires, your recruiter seeks to make connections between law firms, corporations, nonprofits, or government agencies who may be hiring for a legal position. They’ll leverage their recruiting team to streamline the application process, too.
For law students who just passed the bar exam and associates looking to make a change, finding the right recruiting and staffing expert makes the process easier.
Here are a few of the benefits that come from using a legal recruiter:
Market knowledge.A legal recruiter knows the major players in the Houston market and can help identify the firms that are seeking attorneys with your experience. If you are new to the area, you can really benefit from this insider knowledge.
No cost to the candidate. There is no financial risk for you, since you don’t owe any fees to the recruiter. If you work with a recruiter, whether you get a job from them or not, you won’t have to pay them. Essentially, you have no skin in the game. (See below for a caveat.)
Potentially faster job placement. If you need placement in a legal position quickly, a recruiter can help. Good legal recruiters in Houston know about the latest job openings and can put you in touch with leading firms much faster. You’re busy; using a recruiter can save you a lot of time.
Clear feedback.Recruiters are rewarded when they connect a firm with a good-fit candidate, so they will be clear with you about your prospects. They will give real, honest feedback on your chances of getting a signing bonus, making partner immediately, or having to step back a class year. This honesty, while brunt, can be valuable to your career.
On the other hand, here are a few of the disadvantages that come from using a legal recruiter:
You might lose your shot at a signing bonus.The law firm has to pay the recruiter’s fees—often about 25% of your starting salary. When using a recruiter, you may lose significant negotiating power for signing bonuses, salary, and special benefits.
Your placement depends on the quality of the recruiter.The quality and reputation of your recruiter will be directly connected to the opportunities available to you. If their reputation is poor, you may experience delays in getting a placement or you could lose access to certain firms with unlisted openings.
There are both good and bad things about working with a legal recruiter. The most important thing to consider is that they can help you navigate a difficult transition by saving you time and ensuring you are avoiding moving somewhere that isn’t a good fit. No good recruiter wants to make a poor placement, as it directly reflects on the service they provide.
As you consider your options in a legal recruiter, here are the things you need to remember:
- Hire a recruiter with integrity. They should maintain your confidentiality throughout the search and treat you as the client rather than the firm.
- Make sure they’re knowledgeable. Be sure the recruiter has Biglaw market knowledge, don’t assume they do. You want someone that knows the Biglaw market in Houston well.
- Choose a project manager. Be sure the professional you hire manages the entire process for you, including identifying firms, pitching for you, scheduling interviews, polishing your lawyer resume, and handling the entire process.
Examples of lawyers who work with legal recruiters in Houston
Mid-level associate who wants to lateral up to a higher ranked firm
Stephen is a 3rd year associate at a midsize Texas firm. He has gained valuable experience at his firm, but he wants to push himself to move to a more prestigious firm before he commits to staying at his firm for the long haul. A legal recruiter is helping Stephen find a position at an Am Law 50 firm in Houston where he can work on international business projects as an associate as he decides whether to move in-house or try to make partner.
Lawyer who is moving to Houston from a different legal market
Ann has built a legal career in New York but is ready to transition to an area where her paycheck will stretch two or three times further. She’s not familiar with the partners at the major law firms in Houston, so she’s using an experienced legal recruiter to expedite her transition to Texas.
Senior associate seeking immediate partnership
Lauren is a senior associate at her firm and is starting to realize that she might not get elected to the partnership for various reasons. She knows that a few of the largest firms in Houston are willing to make lateral hires equity partners within 1-2 years and give them counsel positions immediately upon joining the firm. Lauren is using a legal recruiter to help her advance to partner as quickly as possible.
If you need more information on the best legal recruiters in Houston, send me a message using the site’s chat button stating briefly that you’re on the lookout for a firm placement in Houston. 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.