Legal Employment/QOL at Secondary Market Southern Firms

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whitman
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Legal Employment/QOL at Secondary Market Southern Firms

Postby whitman » Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:23 pm

Since law schools place best in their region, I think this is relevant to choosing a law school. We all know NY has the biggest market but works you like a dog, DC is tough as hell to get and works you like a dog, Seattle is tiny, etc, but can some people shed some light on secondary southern markets?

To clarify, I have read recent threads about Birmingham and Atlanta and how Birmingham is thriving relative to Atlanta. I'm really interested in life/work balance, pressure to compete for high billable hours, hours/week, opportunities to do pro bono and get involved in the community, and stuff like that in the following cities: Charlotte, Raleigh, Wilmington, Nashville, Birmingham, Richmond, Louisville. Also, how the legal markets are in those cities (aside from Birmingham, which has been discussed extensively). Thanks.

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jeeptiger09
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Re: Legal Employment/QOL at Secondary Market Southern Firms

Postby jeeptiger09 » Thu Jan 19, 2012 2:05 am

whitman wrote:Since law schools place best in their region, I think this is relevant to choosing a law school. We all know NY has the biggest market but works you like a dog, DC is tough as hell to get and works you like a dog, Seattle is tiny, etc, but can some people shed some light on secondary southern markets?

To clarify, I have read recent threads about Birmingham and Atlanta and how Birmingham is thriving relative to Atlanta. I'm really interested in life/work balance, pressure to compete for high billable hours, hours/week, opportunities to do pro bono and get involved in the community, and stuff like that in the following cities: Charlotte, Raleigh, Wilmington, Nashville, Birmingham, Richmond, Louisville. Also, how the legal markets are in those cities (aside from Birmingham, which has been discussed extensively). Thanks.


It's extremely firm-dependent. Aside from Atlanta, most southern markets (from what I have heard and experienced) are pretty relaxed as far as work-life balance.

Charlotte is probably the most competitive on this list because the city has (relatively) a lot of "biglaw" firms--as in NY biglaw and not just regional biglaw. Generally, the larger national firms have higher billable requirements that correlate with higher salaries. Charlotte is also kind of a wreck right now because it's pretty dependent on the banking industry, and we all know that banking is an extremely volatile market right now. Charlotte is extremely competitive because you've got a lot of UNC and Wake with kids coming from UVA, Duke and Vandy, and the market isn't the size of Atlanta either. Offer rates aren't terrific (probably similar to ATL) but better than Nashville and Birmingham.

Nashville is different--definitely more of a "southern" market than Charlotte and Atlanta. You won't find any NY/DC firms in Nashville. The pay for the Big 4/5 starts around $110K (which is great when viewing the cost of living); but it's also a much smaller market than Atlanta and Charlotte (and probably Birmingham too for that matter). While Bham and Atlanta can house 80-100 SAs each summer, the number for Nashville is probably between 35 and 45. It's also extremely insular, so without ties or Vandy/Tennessee, you're going to be on the outside looking in. Billables for the largest firms are somewhere between 1800 and 1900; never heard of anything over 2000, and most firms seem to have really solid work-life balances. Worst thing is probably the offer rate in Nashville, but it's definitely getting better.

Birmingham and Nashville are probably the two most similar places on this list, especially considering lots of firms in TN also have strong presence in AL. Cost of living, billables, salary are all pretty close as well. Same thing with ties. Birmingham is more Bama then Vandy/UVA/Duke, but the only difference is that Birmingham traditionally hires a lot of 1Ls--something ridiculous like 40, meaning you have a lot better shot at getting paid for your first summer. Low offer rates (like Nashville, but probably even lower) are a downside.

Don't know a ton about Richmond, but it's likely going to be competitive. You have Richmond right there and W&M just down the road. And that's not even factoring in UVA, G'Town and WnL. Smaller market as well, but similar to Charlotte, there are more "biglaw" firms in Richmond.

Louisville is a midwestern city (when looking at its legal market). The biggest firms in Louisville are based in the region and usually have a good presence in KY/OH/IN. In Louisville, there are really only 5-6 "large" firms, and the market salary is lower than peer cities (starting around $90K). Louisville is dominated by UK/U of L/IU and some kids coming from Michigan/NW/WUSTL, so it's definitely competitive. Also firm-specific when looking at QOL; FBT supposedly has a lower billable requirement for first year associates so they can get adjusted to firm life (unsure if this is true). Dinsmore and Greenebaum are in the same building and you probably can't find any two firms further apart in culture. Billables here are 1800-1900. Higher offer rates; no split summers in Louisville (whereas all the other cities on this list will encourage/force you to split).

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whitman
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Re: Legal Employment/QOL at Secondary Market Southern Firms

Postby whitman » Thu Jan 19, 2012 1:45 pm

jeeptiger,

Thanks for the in-depth, insightful response. That's really a wealth of information. Have you learned all that through OCI and talking to people that got jobs in those markets, or through representatives, or what? I'm trying to gather as much information as possible before committing to law school, so that I have the clearest picture as possible of what I'm getting into. I don't want to quit my job to become a paralegal, though, so I'm not sure how to go about it.

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drylo
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Re: Legal Employment/QOL at Secondary Market Southern Firms

Postby drylo » Sun Jan 22, 2012 8:14 pm

jeeptiger09 wrote:Nashville is different--definitely more of a "southern" market than Charlotte and Atlanta. You won't find any NY/DC firms in Nashville. The pay for the Big 4/5 starts around $110K (which is great when viewing the cost of living); but it's also a much smaller market than Atlanta and Charlotte (and probably Birmingham too for that matter). While Bham and Atlanta can house 80-100 SAs each summer, the number for Nashville is probably between 35 and 45. It's also extremely insular, so without ties or Vandy/Tennessee, you're going to be on the outside looking in. Billables for the largest firms are somewhere between 1800 and 1900; never heard of anything over 2000, and most firms seem to have really solid work-life balances. Worst thing is probably the offer rate in Nashville, but it's definitely getting better.

Birmingham and Nashville are probably the two most similar places on this list, especially considering lots of firms in TN also have strong presence in AL. Cost of living, billables, salary are all pretty close as well. Same thing with ties. Birmingham is more Bama then Vandy/UVA/Duke, but the only difference is that Birmingham traditionally hires a lot of 1Ls--something ridiculous like 40, meaning you have a lot better shot at getting paid for your first summer. Low offer rates (like Nashville, but probably even lower) are a downside.


The only city on your list that I can really speak intelligently about is Nashville. I think there is a lot of truth to the above post, but I will add a little more.

There are no NY firms with a presence in Nashville. There are a a number of firms in Nashville with multiple offices, but I can only think of two or three that have more than a handful of offices and/or extend geographically beyond the immediate region (e.g., Adams and Reese, Baker Donelson, Dickinson & Wright). The rest of the "biglaw" equivalent firms fall into two categories: big firms and smaller firms. There are a handful of large firms in Nashville (e.g., Baker Donelson, Bass, Bradley Arant, Waller). There are a number of smaller firms (approximately 20-40 lawyers) that deal with generally similar work and have equivalent payscales (e.g., H3GM, Neal & Harwell, Riley Warnock, Sherrard, and a few others). The "market" rate for first year associates is generally $110,000, but I believe a couple of these firms (e.g., Baker Donelson) technically start a little lower than that.

The Nashville market is very competitive, and if you aren't from the general area, married to someone from the area, or in law school at Vandy/UT, you are going to find it very hard (but not necessarily impossible) to get a job in Nashville. I'd guess that the number of 2L summers at market-paying firms is approximately 50 or so.




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