- San Antonio is a large city with a relatively small legal market.
- Many will pursue the lifestyle and environment of San Antonio, but legal job placement will be competitive and insulated.
- The right legal recruiter can offer insights to the San Antonio legal market and effectively place attorneys in the right positions for them.
San Antonio has the second highest population in Texas and the seventh highest in the whole nation. While already huge, San Antonio is also one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S., with the greatest population increase between 2020 and 2021. Although many people are being drawn towards San Antonio, law firms may be another story.
Most law firms’ Texas offices focus on other major cities like Houston, Dallas, and Austin. San Antonio’s size does not bring with it a high volume of Biglaw-caliber legal matters. Compared to other large Texas cities, San Antonio not only lacks the corporations that would hire large firms, but most work for the city can usually be managed by an office elsewhere. In fact, one legal recruiting firm only lists Austin, Dallas, and Houston as “major legal markets” in the state of Texas. The American Bar Association lists a little over 6,000 attorneys in Bexar County where San Antonio is located. That puts San Antonio’s legal market on comparable levels with much smaller cities like Indianapolis or Raleigh. Even if San Antonio is not a “Biglaw market,” the city’s population alone means that some firms will choose to have a physical presence. These firms are where there will be most opportunities for attorneys.
There are compelling reasons to live in San Antonio even with limited job placement. San Antonio’s affordable living—8% lower than the national average—is a primary appeal. Housing is also way below the national average; this may be one driver of the rapid population growth. Like the rest of Texas, there is no state income tax. All this means that your dollar in San Antonio can go much further than it would elsewhere.
The city is recognized as a gastronomic city and is full of excellent food and wonderful culture. The Riverwalk provides a one-of-a-kind dining and shopping experience. These are some of the best reasons to try to live and work in San Antonio even if the legal market is hard to break into. There are, of course, a few downsides like high property taxes and excessive summer heat to watch out for.
Understanding the San Antonio legal market is going to be necessary to job seekers because opportunities will be competitive and short-lived. Texas already has 10 ABA accredited law schools including University of Texas—Austin and Texas A&M, so non-Texans start with a disadvantage. A legal career in San Antonio requires both breaking in and locating the right fit under limited options. This is where a San Antonio legal recruiter can make a huge difference.
Top law firms in San Antonio
Unfortunately, San Antonio is going to be slim pickings for a Biglaw attorney. However, that does not mean that the market is completely void of options. A handful of firms with a national brand do keep a presence in San Antonio. However, because the industries that bring in legal work tend to be elsewhere in the state, most of the larger Texas offices will follow those industries. San Antonio could be your desired destination for reasons other than its legal market, so here are the top Biglaw legal shops you’ll find if you’re be looking:
Norton Rose Fulbright is a massive multi-national law firm with a relatively large office in San Antonio of close to 50 attorneys. While Norton Rose Fulbright will be most powerful with their energy, technology, and life sciences sector, this office handles a wide variety of practices that could fit well with many lateral attorneys’ career goals.
Jackson Walker is an exclusively Texas law firm, but their local strength resembles Biglaw. Their compensation is competitive, their summer programs robust, and their almost-50 attorney San Antonio office deals with a broad range of legal matters. A Biglaw associate looking to lateral to San Antonio should keep Jackson Walker in mind as a potential destination.
Haynes & Boone maintain a small office in San Antonio—about 15 attorneys large. A handful of associates here work on a variety of matters, probably as satellite members of larger practice groups in other offices. The firm is based out of Texas though, so they aren’t foreigners to local clients by any means.
Bracewell is a regional Texas firm with not quite enough attorneys to be definitively “Biglaw”, but it currently pays Cravath and maintains an office large enough to have a group of associates. The San Antonio office handles mostly finance and infrastructure matters with a little bit of healthcare and labor & employment sprinkled in there.
Akin Gump is a multi-national Biglaw firm that pays Cravath Scale for all offices, including San Antonio. However, at the time of writing this article, there is not a single associate in their 7-person San Antonio office (they even have two partners emeritus and some general counsel). Akin Gump may have a unique position for an IP or litigation associate who might end up working just for one or two partners, but it won’t be a lateral hotspot.
Is a San Antonio legal recruiter right for you?
As stated earlier, law firms in San Antonio are often satellite offices with narrow practices… sometimes they don’t even have a single associate in the office! However, with a few larger offices from national or strong regional firms like Norton Rose Fulbright and Jackson Walker, you’ll want to be on top of any opportunity when it happens to arise. Skilled San Antonio legal recruiters can expedite the job search but will also locate the best opportunities as they become available. With an in-roads to staffing and human resources, and also their personal knowledge of your career goals, headhunters make this process more enjoyable and easier for you.
You’ll want to consider some of the pros and cons of using a legal recruiter. Let’s start with the advantages. First, a legal recruiter will have information about the local market that may be difficult to research on your own. Legal recruiters will also have an established professional network that can be especially valuable to dip into if you are an outsider looking to break into San Antonio. Because the market is small and insulated, all of these resources that you can access through a legal recruiter will make a huge difference. The best part is that because legal recruiters get paid by the firms and not you, there is no out-of-pocket cost for you! For qualified candidates and top talent throughout the industry, this makes it very easy to see why a staffing agency is a great fit.
Legal recruiters are used to making contact with firms and conducting initial follow-ups to job openings. They’ll know when and where to look for the latest jobs while you focus on other things. Because a legal recruiter will tailor their efforts to your individual strengths, goals, and circumstances, a lot of the job-hunting legwork can be taken care of—possibly more efficiently than if you did it yourself. You may even get unbiased feedback about your interviewing skills, applications, and overall candidacy that you may not get elsewhere. Legal recuriters keep their finger on the pulse for the entire market for legal professionals, including paralegals, administrative assistants, and associate roles. You can avoid the hassle of looking all over LinkedIn and just trying to get your foot in the door when you work with search firms or recruiting services. Legal staffing experts use their industry knowledge of the job market, executive search strategies, and expertise on your personal wishes when helping you find the right fit.
Using a legal recruiter also comes with some disadvantages. Although using a legal recruiter will be free of cost, the firm you ultimately get placed at may want you to forego a signing bonus. Understandably, letting go of some autonomy in your job search is counterbalanced by sacrificing leverage in negotiations over salaries and benefits. You’ll also want to be careful about getting a legal recruiter with a bad reputation. Although a legal recruiter’s good reputation can be a gamechanger, you don’t want your own reputation to be tied to someone with a bad reputation. Even if you get placed into a new job, the legal recruiter’s reputation will linger around for a while as you start working, so make sure you find one that others view positively.
Examples of lawyers who work with legal recruiters in San Antonio
Associate moving to San Antonio from a different legal market
Quentin is drawn to San Antonio for all of its good reasons, particularly the affordability and great food. Understanding that San Antonio is a smaller and insulated market with narrow opportunities that are hard to spot, he calls up a reputable legal recruiter that has local insights. Together they start to strategize how he can move his career to San Antonio along with the rest of his life.
Mid-level associate that wants to lateral up to a higher ranked firm
Clara is a mid-level associate at a decently sized regional law firm in San Antonio. She recognizes that her ambition and growing competence as a litigator could make her an attractive candidate for a Biglaw firm looking to expand their San Antonio office. However, because she hasn’t broken into Biglaw yet, she doesn’t have the insider information or network to capitalize on the right job opportunities quickly enough. Clara talks with a legal recruiter so that she can have those job opportunities made available to her sooner with less effort.
Senior associate seeking immediate partnership
Jaden wants to become a partner, but his prospects at his current firm are not looking too good because his firm is already very top-heavy and unwilling to generously promote every senior associate. As a senior associate, Cade understands that sometimes firms will accept laterals and make them partner immediately, or at least make them counsel in preparation for making partner. This is a very nuanced career advancement move that doesn’t get posted on job boards, so Cade decides that the help of a legal recruiter could improve his chances at finding those specific opportunities in San Antonio.
If you need more information on the best legal recruiters in San Antonio, send me a message using the site’s chat button stating briefly that you’re on the lookout for a firm placement in San Antonio. I’ll keep all your information confidential and get back to you quickly with some recommendations.
If you’re looking to explore lateral opportunities and the best legal recruiters in other states, we can connect you with 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.