California Legal Market
Legal work in California is driven by the tech companies, real estate and entertainment industries, but corporate work thrives there as well (especially in Southern California). California firms have relatively small classes of associates compared to New York (think 5-7 summer associates in a class), and the number of attorneys relative to the California population is lower than New York City, the market is highly competitive. The cost of living remains high in California with costs of renting in San Francisco and LA being 1st and 9th in the country, respectively. San Francisco has only two firms with over 200 attorneys while Silicon Valley has three. LA has five firms with more than 200 attorneys (but none exceed 300 attorneys). Historically, LA has been a general practice legal market but the tech industry is bleeding south and growing a bit. San Francisco and Silicon Valley are still dominated by the tech industry. In general, participation in job fairs by California firms is up (more in LA than SF).
Practice Area Overview
- Intellectual Property: Especially in areas concerning electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and biotech.
- Real Estate
Tech work is hot in LA as well, not just in the Bay Area. This includes work in entertainment, gaming, cloud-based e-commerce, and social networks. Microsoft, Facebook and Google all have increased their office space there recently.
- Banking and Financial Services
Entertainment law is a very competitive practice and is concentrated in
small firms, some of which do not have websites. It is hard to break
experience and connections. Concentrate on getting experience first in
related areas, such as negotiations,
contracts, labor, and film financing.
Growing or New Practice Areas
- Technology Transactions
- Food and Beverage
Many firms have opened California offices in 2015 and 2016, including Baker Botts, Boies Schiller, Cozen O'Connor, King & Spalding, Lewis Roca, McGuire Woods, Troutman Sanders and Womble Carlyle.
If you are thinking of going to California later in your career, corporate and real estate attorneys are having an easier time transferring from New York to California. Litigation lawyers are having a much more difficult time moving as laterals to California.
An interesting fact is that Georgetown Law had the second most alumni promoted to partner in California in 2015.
The highest number of Georgetown Law grads in Southern California can be found at O'Melveny, Gibson, Sheppard and Latham. The highest number of Georgetown grads in Northern California are at Morgan Lewis, Orrick, Cooley and Wilson Sonsini.
- National Law Journal –Los Angeles Market
- National Law Journal –San Francisco Market
- NALP Perspectives on Recruiting (2015)
Local Legal Associations
Largest Law Firms
- Lewis Brisbois
- Gibson Dunn
- Latham & Watkins
- Sheppard Mullin
- Wilson Sonsini
- Morrison & Foerster
- Fenwick & West
- Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe