State of the Market Report: San Francisco

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

State of the Market - Winter 2014

Healthy Practice Areas:


The demand for corporate associates in San Francisco, which has been steadily consistent, came roaring to life in 2014 and was the strongest hiring sector in this market. Junior and mid-level associates are in high demand (especially those with experience in the life sciences and tech sector's) and there has been a steady need for senior associates with 7 years of experience or higher. Attorneys with experience in private equity were the most sought after, and this trend is expected to continue well into 2015. Structured and debt finance positions, usually the domain of the New York market, have begun creeping westward and firms in the Bay Area have begun hiring associates with this experience. Experience in emerging companies/venture capital, M&A, and securities is needed almost unilaterally. Local candidates already employed with a top firm have a clear advantage over their out of state competitors.

Real Estate (Transactions & Finance)

Real Estate hiring in San Francisco remained especially high in 2014 and was the second strongest hiring sector the last half of the year. This trend is expected to continue well into 2015, making Real Estate one of the hottest practice areas in California. Most firms are seeking transactional associates in the junior and mid-level range (3-5 years), although there is an occasional need for finance candidates as well. Transactional candidates need experience in leasing, joint ventures, and purchase & sales. Real Estate Finance candidates need experience in origination of mortgage loans and mezzanine lending. Experience in restructuring and workouts of commercial loans is appreciated. Firms are also seeking partners with at least $1 million in portables.


San Francisco is one of the few legal markets in the state that has continued to experience an increase in litigation hiring for law firms of all sizes, and lateral hiring was particularly strong in 2014. The demand is consistently in the area of complex commercial litigation, although there is the occasional need for general litigators, securities litigators, and products liability attorneys. As has been the case, candidates with stellar credentials dominate hiring in this practice given that hiring remains so competitive. Federal clerkships are always valued, as is admission to the California bar.