State of the Market - Spring 2014
State of the Law Firm Market: San Francisco

by Evan P. Anderson, Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search

Healthy Practice Areas:

Intellectual Property/Patent Litigation

This practice area continues to be the hottest sector in the California legal market. Hiring has remained steady in this practice for several years. Firms continue to seek both in-state and out of state candidates to keep up with the demand.Attorneys with electrical engineering and computer science degrees (graduate or undergraduate) continue to be the most desirable candidates and there is no indication that this is going to change. That said, there has been an increase in the number of postings for IP litigators with a science/life sciences background. Associates across all levels of experience are sought, including the partner level. For patent litigators, firms like to see candidates who have Markman hearing experience as well as ITC experience. Admittance to the Patent Bar is a priority for patent associates and, increasingly, it helps to have USPTO admission for litigators as well. Candidates do not need membership to the California bar.


Activity in corporate hiring in San Francisco has remained very strong for the last three years. The demand for junior and mid-level associates remains high. Experience in emerging companies/venture capital, M & A, and securities is expected almost unilaterally, although a few firms have begun hiring associates with experience in private funds and debt finance. Associates with experience in the clean tech and life sciences sectors are consistently in demand.Candidates who already reside in the Bay Area and work for a well-regarded firm seem to have an edge over their out of state competitors and are bound to get interviews.

Litigation (Complex Commercial)

Compared to previous years, litigation hiring in San Francisco skyrocketed in 2013 and into 2014, demonstrating the largest growth in this sector in four years. As in previous months, the demand is almost exclusively for complex commercial litigators. Interestingly, where candidates with superior credentials have normally dominated this practice, more and more firms (specifically larger and mid-sized) are looking to hire junior and mid-level litigators with solid trial experience. Superstar associates with stellar credentials will always get their pick of employers. But even candidates with tier two law schools who have solid litigation skills are beginning to get interviews in San Francisco. Associates currently residing and practicing with an Am Law firm in the Bay Area are given a clear preference.Associates with clerkship experience are valued. Of course, admittance to the California Bar is a must, although some firms may interview a candidate with superior credentials who is sitting for the next California bar exam.