Texas Market Update: Lateral Opportunities Abound
Texas has received plenty of national attention over the past couple of years, with Austin now ranking first among the top 50 largest metros for new residents as a proportion of total population. Even before the pandemic, Texas was attracting inbound migration from states like California and New York, buoyed by its lack of state income tax, high-paying jobs, and relatively lower cost of living. But as reflected in the recent wave of major companies relocating their corporate headquarters to the state, that trend has lately kicked into overdrive.
All of this growth has boosted the market for legal services and created terrific opportunities for lateral candidates, including in some practice areas that historically were not prominent in Texas. For out-of-state candidates interested in making the move, hiring conditions have never been better.
The most striking change is the emergence of Austin as a genuine Biglaw hub. Austin has historically supported a relatively small legal community compared to Dallas and Houston, and to be clear, it remains in third place today. But the growth rate has been impressive: over the past year or so, firms including Gunderson, Latham, Kirkland, Quinn Emanuel, and MoFo have opened Austin offices, principally to serve their expanding roster of Austin-based tech clients. To put Austin’s growth into perspective, since January 2021, there have been approximately 70 corporate lateral associate moves compared to 17 corporate moves in all of 2019. (I did not include 2020 stats because of the pandemic and stall in hiring.) The larger cities have also seen growth, such as O’Melveny’s opening in Dallas, but Austin is the big story.
Some new practice areas in demand
Transactional roles in Texas have tended to focus on M&A, and the demand from M&A groups is still strong in the current market. But an interesting new development is the growth in firms seeking capital markets attorneys. Currently, there are over 240 posted corporate opportunities in Texas. On the litigation side, there has lately been an uptick in demand not just for complex commercial litigation but also for IP litigation specialists. Hiring has also been strong in ERISA and real estate practices.
Profiles that firms seek
The sweet spot for making a lateral move remains 2-5 years of experience. But in addition, we are seeing an increase in firms seeking more experienced attorneys who can hit the ground running and take on substantial responsibility. So there are some great opportunities for candidates with 6-8 years of experience who can enter as a senior associate or counsel.
Another notable trend is the declining importance of strong prior ties to Texas. It used to be a real challenge to break into Texas offices without having lived in the state previously. Today, firms will still ask the question, but in this hot market, even weak ties like having law school friends who live in Texas will generally be an acceptable answer.
In summary, the Texas legal market is flourishing, with available positions for associates of all practices and seniority levels. Law firms are open and HAPPY to relocate worthy candidates – and some firms are still offering phenomenal sign-on bonuses for the right attorneys. If you are interested in hearing about the Texas market, please feel free to reach out to me at WendyBoone@laterallink.com.
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. This post is by Wendy Boone Jaikaran, a Principal based in the Houston office, where she oversees associate placements and client services in Texas.
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