- Salt Lake City is the latest Biglaw boom and expects to become one of the nation’s largest metros in the coming decades.
- Newly nicknamed the “Silicon Slopes,” Salt Lake City law firms like to focus on tech-related transactions.
- As many firms make their way into Salt Lake City and grow their offices, legal recruiters will be impactful for lateral attorneys.
Spend some time reading about the Salt Lake City legal market and you’ll see many articles in the past year detailing new Biglaw firms opening offices in the capital of Utah. We’ve got a list of some notable firms further down this article, but you can be sure that legal recruiters and lateral attorneys all have their eyes on the latest Biglaw boom.
The American Bar Association reports a little over 5,000 attorneys in Salt Lake County. Most of Utah’s attorneys happen to work around Salt Lake City, as the Utah State Bar only reports ~8,500 active attorneys in the entire state. It is hard to predict exactly what the Salt Lake City legal market will become, since the past year has produced many headlines for new Biglaw offices and recruiting efforts. As we see continuing expansion into Salt Lake City, we can expect lawyers from all over the country to consider working there. However, Utah already has two top-50 law schools in Brigham Young University and University of Utah that can also supply new associates to Biglaw’s new offices.
Newly nicknamed the “Silicon Slopes,” Salt Lake City is sure to have new Biglaw jobs that need to be filled for certain sectors, namely transactional attorneys in venture capital, intellectual property, health and life sciences, and private equity. Utah offices may be billing out at cheaper rates than the traditional tech hubs in high cost of living coastal cities. Salt Lake City is not only growing as a legal market but also in population. Projections from the University of Utah’s think tank estimate a population of 2.2 million come 2060. That would mean Salt Lake City would be similar to what we see in Houston today. No wonder the law firms see a bright future in Salt Lake City.
Top law firms in Salt Lake City
Some of the latest firms to enter Salt Lake City are so reputable they need no introduction at all. However, new offices tend to be smaller and more specialized, which means that they won’t fit the bill for every attorney looking to lateral into Salt Lake City. We’ll list a few established offices first and then list a whole bunch of firms that either made a recent entry or maintain a smaller office.
Dentons (Durham Jones Pinegar) maintains over 50 attorneys out of Salt Lake City as part of a multi-national firm brand. This office offers legal services for a wide range of matters. Formerly a regional mid-sized firm, Durham Jones Pinger merged with Dentons in 2020, so you’ll still get a blend of mid-sized culture and clients with a global firm brand. Compensation will be set by the Durham Jones Pinegar component rather than the global Dentons, so it may not be quite the same as other global firms that have fresh offices in Salt Lake City.
Ballard Spahr keeps close to 20 attorneys in its Salt Lake City office. The office was opened in 1987, so decades ahead of the recent boom. This office is actually bottom-heavy with non-partners making up a majority of the office. The two main practices are litigation and real estate.
Dorsey & Whitney’s ~80 attorney office could be a destination for many laterals. The office appears to engage in mostly intellectual property and corporate transactions.
Other law firms you’ll probably recognize by the name alone include:
- Kirkland & Ellis
- Quinn Emanuel
- Foley & Lardner
- Greenberg Traurig
- Mayer Brown
- Wilson Sonsini
Is a Salt Lake City recruiter right for you?
It depends. If you happen to work at a firm that is opening a Salt Lake City office and you’re already in one of the relevant practice groups, a legal recruiter probably won’t help much. If you’re looking to break into the Salt Lake City market or lateraling between firms in the city, your odds will be better with the larger, more established offices (until the new offices grow). Here, a legal recruiter can be incredibly helpful. However, you’ll want to consider some of the pros and cons of using a legal recruiter. Let’s start with the advantages.
First, legal recruiters know a lot about the local markets. Salt Lake City might not be an insulated market, but there is an established community of lawyers from the area that have attended the local law schools. If you can’t dip into any network of your own, a legal recruiter can be handy. Legal recruiters will also know hiring trends, the latest buzz, and can hear about job openings even before they hit career boards. Since legal recruiters are free to you, the lateraling attorney, all of these benefits come free of cost! With their knowledge of human resources, sourcing in the local market, and common staffing concerns at major firms, you may get an inside track on open positions and even in-house positions that can help you find your dream full-time role.
Even if you have a professional network in Salt Lake City and can gather information on your own, you’re probably inexperienced in lateraling while legal recruiters do it professionally. Legal recruiters know how to make contact with firms and follow up on job leads. A legal recruiter can also give advice, both honest and individualized, about your strengths and weaknesses, interviewing skills, and chances of getting placed at various destinations.
Using a legal recruiter also comes with some disadvantages. As mentioned, legal recruiters don’t charge you, they charge the firm you ultimately get placed at. It wouldn’t be a surprise if successful placement comes with less negotiating power (e.g., no signing bonus). In addition, while a competent legal recruiter can help advance your career effectively, a legal recruiter with a bad reputation or one who only cares about collecting the check can hurt you. The reputation of the recruiter will follow you, at least for a little bit, so you want to ensure you find a diligent, thorough, and experienced legal recruiter. Legal professionals should always know the policies of their talent acquisition expert so that a lawyer can decide if this is the right fit for them, as not all headhunters are created equal. Finding a recruiting agency for paralegals, general counsel, or other roles in the legal industry should be done with care, and always when you believe that a recruiting firm is really the best fit for you.
Examples of lawyers who work with legal recruiters in Salt Lake City
Associate moving to Salt Lake City from a different legal market
Ann has no ties to Salt Lake City, but she thinks it would be a great place to live (plus she likes to ski!). Her firm has not opened an office there so she’s looking for other firms to lateral to, either new or established. However, since she has no ties to the region, she calls a legal recruiter who can help her get placed into a Salt Lake City office. With this legal search, executive recruiters keep their finger on the pulse of what’s new with top talent professionals who have years of experience and use that to help law firms with their hiring process in various practice areas. These recruiters providing staffing services to the firms and help with job postings and job alerts, too, but they may also support finding the ideal candidate.
Mid-level associate that wants to lateral up to a higher ranked firm
Paul is a mid-level associate doing corporate transactions for a strong regional firm in Salt Lake City. With the recent influx of Biglaw firms, Paul is wondering whether any of the corporate groups from these national firms need immediate support in building their Salt Lake City team. Paul reaches out to a legal recruiter to access the recruiter’s know-how of communicating with firms to scope out any lateral opportunities.
Senior associate seeking immediate partnership
Gloria is a senior associate at a reputable Biglaw firm’s Salt Lake City office that opened a few years ago. Coming from a small and specialized office, Gloria is wondering if she can leverage her experience and resume to lateral to a lower ranked firm while simultaneously being made partner. Since Gloria’s local network and market insight is limited, she reaches out to a legal recruiter to strategize the best firms in Salt Lake City for lateraling and making partner.
If you need more information on the best legal recruiters in Salt Lake City, send me a message using the site’s chat button stating briefly that you’re on the lookout for a firm placement in Salt Lake City. 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.