New York Legal Market
New York is the largest legal market by headcount in the country. It is the financial center of the US (and many would argue the world), so much of the practice is driven by corporate work and all of the firms located in NYC have financial institutions as clients. Other potential clients may include consumer products companies and retail companies. A high percentage of the most highly regarded firms in the world call New York home and many of the most high profile clients go there for legal services. These clients may be large or small, but they likely have needs that cross practice areas from transactional to regulatory to litigation. As a result, the firms that service these clients tend to offer a broad range of services in their New York office. The average headcount of NLJ 350 firms in this market is 101. There are 234 NLJ 500 firms in New York who employ 23,649 attorneys.
New York also has many types of firms – large, international firms with several offices as well as smaller, prestigious boutiques. Large New York firms set the market for associate compensation – not only for the city, but for other major legal markets across the country. However, outside New York, only a small handful of firms match the high end of the New York payscale.
Practice Area Overview
- Transactional (specifically M&A and Private Equity)
- Commercial Finance
- Real Estate (Finance and “Dirt”)
- Investment Funds
- Capital Markets/Securities
- Litigation/White-Collar Bankruptcy
- IP Litigation
What is Warming Up?
- Venture Capital
Small/Niche Practice Areas
- Labor & Employment
- Trusts & Estates
New York is headquarters to a high percentage of the most profitable firms in the world. Massive revenues support high lawyer headcounts – and therefore large recruiting classes.
With the largest summer classes (reflective of citywide headcount) in the country, New York continues to bring in huge numbers of summer associates from all over the country each year. New York is second only to DC in terms of where Georgetown students spend their summers and go after graduation and if you take away the public sector numbers, the private sector placements of those two cities are very close. While most students don’t expect that students will come to the firm with skills in a particular area, students with backgrounds in finance, life sciences, or technology may be particularly well-received.
New York firms seek students who are hungry and entrepreneurial and who will not just sit around and wait for work to come and find them. They expect young attorneys to show initiative and work hard and to be willing and able to service their clients whenever needed. New York may be one of the most challenging cities in which to be a young lawyer, but it is also one of the most rewarding because of the training and platform to which you are exposed.
New York is not only home to firms with headquarters in the city, but is often the main domestic office for UK-based firms and is often one of the larger offices for non-New York based firms. Three things to consider when looking at a New York firm (or really any firm) are: 1) its client base; 2) its business origination; and 3) where business decisions are made.
Client base: New York based firms will have most of their clients housed in New York, whereas non-New York based firms may have clients based elsewhere. This can make a difference in terms of the types of clients you may have (see above regarding the types of clients you might find at New York firms) and how you interact with them (i.e., in person or via email/phone/videoconference). For firms based on the west coast and in the UK, this can impact when you’re working with your clients (i.e., during “off” hours).
Business Origination: Where do partners who develop the most business sit? This can impact the volume and flow of the work that you do.
Where are Business Decisions Made? If you have partnership aspirations, you’ll want to make sure that you’re in an office where you’re working with partners who can make a business case for your promotion to partnership. If you’re in an office of a firm that hosts several members of the Executive Committee, you may have an easier road to partnership than if you’re not.
New York Market Resources
Check out the links below for more information regarding the New York legal market, networking opportunities, and job listings.
Georgetown Law Resources
- New York Market Podcast (2016)
- Practice Areas in the Market, prepared by Cardinal Search Partners
- Upstate New York Job Search Handout