- Seattle is no longer a small legal market and has become a serious destination for many firms and attorneys.
- Law firms are drawn to Seattle because of major clients like Amazon and Microsoft.
- If you’re a practicing attorney in tech, IP, real estate, or employment, Seattle law firms will have opportunities for an excellent career fit.
A number of national law firms have recently planted their feet in Seattle to take advantage of the growing market and large clients. The greater Seattle area is home to many notable corporations including Amazon, Costco, Microsoft, and Starbucks, and large law firms are always looking to place themselves in the backyards of their biggest clients. With this come ample Biglaw opportunities for relevant practice areas and possibilities for a great career fit.
According to the American Bar Association, there are 16,552 lawyers practicing in King County where Seattle is located. The King County Bar Association’s ~6,000 members seek to serve the association’s members, improve the justice system, and serve the King County community. Many attorneys are graduates of either top law schools or local Washington schools including the University of Washington (commonly called “U-Dub”). While historically dominated by mid-sized firms focused on servicing the Pacific Northwest region, Seattle is now considered a growing legal market for large firms and is no longer considered small or insulated. Certain sectors like tech and intellectual property have been booming and continue to draw the presence of large firms.
Seattle is by far the most populated metropolitan area in the Pacific Northwest. The city has recently experienced incredible growth backed by a historic construction boom and the success of its largest companies. By blending an older industrial economy with tech giants and startups, Seattle is now the 11th largest metropolitan economy in the U.S.
Seattle is also one of the most literate and educated among major U.S. cities, so lawyers will feel at home in an environment that caters well to professionals. Seattle provides plenty of ways to fit in, offering a variety of excellent cultures, outdoor activities, and businesses to keep work interesting. If you are looking for a legal position in Seattle, the best way to discover the perfect job could be by hiring a professional legal recruiter.
Top law firms in Seattle
Not every law firm has a Seattle presence yet, but the clients combined with a growth trend make Seattle a serious destination for firms looking to expand. A good number of the law firms in Seattle will not be one-stop-shops, but instead cater to the needs of their clientele and work primarily in select practice areas such as tech, intellectual property, real estate, and labor and employment. In time, this may change as law firms become more established in the Pacific Northwest.
Perkins Coie and Davis Wright Tremaine are two national law firms that originated in Seattle during the early 1900s. Perkins Coie, a firm with well over 1,000 attorneys, has its largest office in Seattle and grew the firm alongside notable clients like Boeing (previously headquartered in Seattle) and Amazon (represented by Perkins Coie during its IPO in 1997). Davis Wright Tremaine has expanded over the years through a series of mergers, now blanketing the west coast and all of the largest U.S. legal markets. K&L Gates’ Seattle office was founded in 1883 (as Preston Gates & Ellis pre-merger) and currently lists over 150 attorneys on their site. This is a huge law office for Seattle and offers a wide variety of services for their clients.
Quite a few large firms have entered the Seattle market in more recent times and continue to do so. Some notable firms that have established themselves in the area include:
- Cooley is a Palo Alto-based Am Law 100 firm with a robust presence in Seattle. Cooley established its Seattle office in 2008 to serve the tech industry and its investors. There are now around 30 attorneys working out of Cooley’s Seattle office.
- DLA Piper lists close to 50 attorneys in their Seattle office and works on a variety of matters for their Pacific Northwest clients, including litigation, transactions, data privacy, and tax.
- Wilson Sonsini is another Palo Alto-based Am Law 100 firm specializing in technology and innovation. The Seattle office is now home to over 90 attorneys since its opening in 2006.
Other well-known Biglaw firms in Seattle include:
- Susman Godfrey
- Dorsey & Whitney
- Fox Rothschild
These are not the only law firms you’ll find in Seattle. Even before Biglaw’s emergence in the Pacific Northwest and the recent trend towards becoming a major legal market, law firms successfully served local clients. Someone in search of a job in Seattle may come across mid-sized firms that still pay handsomely in practice areas of interest. However, in the coming years, expect Biglaw to continue to sprout offices in Seattle and for more career opportunities to arise, especially in areas like tech, real estate, intellectual property, and employment law. Finding a law firm that specializes in your preferred practice area is recommended, as this can both narrow down your job search but also lead to a better result. For top legal talent, including aspiring full-time lawyers and even paralegals, a staffing or recruiting firm can make a big difference.
Is a Seattle legal recruiter right for you?
Law firms in Seattle will be looking for competent attorneys to fill their new or existing offices. A legal recruiter who is familiar with the Seattle legal market can be especially helpful in recognizing who is hiring and for what practices. Because Seattle is no longer a small market, a knowledgeable legal recruiter should be able assess enough opportunities to place attorneys into well-fitted positions at great firms. To make the most of your legal search and tap into the best knowledge in the legal community about open roles, find a firm with experience in executive recruiting in the legal industry.
However, legal recruiters are not always the answer. There are pros and cons to using a legal recruiter, starting with the advantages:
Insider Insight for Outsiders. A Seattle legal recruiter knows the market and can help identify the best firms that are looking for candidates like you. Seattle is a common destination for professionals looking to move around, so Seattle legal recruiters may have useful insights for outsiders looking to break into the market. If you’re coming from San Francisco, New York, Tacoma, Puget Sound, or elsewhere in Washington State, it helps to have someone with their finger on the pulse of the local associate attorney or in-house counsel market.
No Fees for the Attorney. As someone who is looking to find a job, there is no downside to using a legal recruiter. Not only is there no risk for you, the candidate, using a legal recruiter does not create a commitment to change jobs. The recruiter will not be charging you whether or not you are placed with a new firm. (There is a caveat, however. See below.)
Quick Placement. Legal recruiters in Seattle will be up-to-date on all of the latest job openings and hiring trends. If the right opportunity comes up, a legal recruiter can make initial contact and explore leads much faster than if you were to be on the lookout on your own time. Job searching is tiresome and recruiters can save you a lot of the effort!
Real, Honest Feedback. Since recruiters are paid by the firm and not the job seeker, they will be much more transparent about the strength of your resume and which job openings you will be competitive for. Their honesty is something you might not find when you are following career change leads on your own or using your personal network to gauge your opportunities. This kind of unique transparency for feedback and expectations can be valuable for your career.
However, there may be some disadvantages that come with using a legal recruiter:
No Signing Bonus? The downside to having law firms paying the legal recruiter is that the firm might not want to offer you a signing bonus in lieu of the recruiter fees. While the recruiter can expedite a lot of the job seeking process, the final stages of job placement can come with reduced bargaining power for signing bonuses, salary, or other benefits.
Not All Recruiters are the Same. The quality and reputation of the recruiter that you use matters. If the recruiter is not very competent or has developed a poor reputation, many of the benefits for using a recruiter might go out the window. Some recruiters won’t have your best interest in mind and only care to convince you to place somewhere so they can collect their fees. Keep in mind that even a strong recruiter reputation will wear off quickly once you start working in an office. The recruiting process may look different from one executive search firm to another, so make sure you understand their individual approach to sourcing and placement first.
Examples of lawyers who work with legal recruiters in Seattle
Associate moving to Seattle from a different legal market
Wendy is currently living in a city that doesn’t fit her well and she’s ready to change her lifestyle. Perhaps she wants more livelihood than a smaller midwestern city or wants the coastal culture after a few years of high-pressure New York City living. She wants to move to Seattle to take advantage of the coast, coffee culture, and outdoor activities. However, Wendy doesn’t know the local legal market in Seattle very well, so she’s using a legal recruiter with specialized knowledge of the regional firms in the area.
Mid-level associate that wants to lateral up to a higher ranked firm
Bryan has been practicing in Seattle for a few years now at a mid-sized law firm. When he first started practicing, not many national firms were hiring, but with the success of tech companies during the pandemic, Bryan now wants to lateral into one of Biglaw’s newer and bigger Seattle offices. Because Bryan has become more competent and confident in his corporate practice for primarily local tech companies, all he needs now is a legal recruiter that can sell his skillset to a large firm looking to hire in Seattle.
Associate that isn’t happy with current firm culture or colleagues
Valerie realizes that her firm’s culture is not the best fit for her. Her law firm has been steadily serving the Pacific Northwest’s companies for decades but has not tried to originate matters for Seattle’s largest tech companies or most promising startups. Valerie wants to be part of a firm culture that pursues the latest and most innovative matters—one that takes calculated risks and has a growth mindset. She also wants to be surrounded by colleagues that embrace that culture in their own careers. She thinks that Biglaw in Seattle might be the right move, so she calls a recruiter to describe what she is looking for.
If you need more information on the best legal recruiters in Seattle, send me a message using the site’s chat button stating briefly that you’re on the lookout for a firm placement in Seattle. 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.