State of the Market Report: San Francisco

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

Healthy Practice Areas:


The need for corporate associates in San Francisco has been stronger than for any other practice in 2015. Firms are seeking candidates at all levels of experience in a variety of sub specialties. The greatest need in third quarter hiring seems to be for capital markets attorneys and associates with securities experience. Debt finance and structured finance positions have been on the increase for the past two years as well as the positions requesting private equity experience. There will always been a need for candidates with venture capital and M&A experience. Life Sciences hiring also remains strong across several sectors, including corporate.


Litigation hiring trends in San Francisco can be somewhat deceiving. There are currently several lateral litigation associate vacancies in the city but many of them have been open for several months. This follows a national trend in hiring overall which shows that employers are taking longer and longer to fill positions. There are needs at all levels, although the majority of Big Law vacancies are at the junior and mid-level tiers. Mid-size and regional firms tend to dominate the market for more senior (non-partner) attorneys. Firms give a clear preference to candidates with stellar academic credentials who also have solid deposition and court room experience. Local candidates possessing the California bar tend to have the upper hand.

Real Estate (Transactions & Finance)

San Francisco Real Estate hiring was very strong early on in 2015. Finance candidates are occasionally needed, but mid-level transactional candidates are highly sought after. Transactional candidates need experience in joint ventures, leasing, and purchase & sales. Firms are also looking for partners that have at least $1 million in portable business.

Steady Practice Areas:

Patent Prosecution

Patent Prosecution will always be strong in San Francisco, even though it has declined somewhat in 2015. Life sciences degrees and hard science (Computer Science, Electrical Engineering) candidates remain in the driver's seat. Firms generally seek junior to mid-level associates with USPTO registration. Silicon Valley is always a very strong market for patent prosecutors and those interested in relocating to the Bay Area should consider areas such as Menlo Park, Mountain View, and Palo Alto.

Patent Litigation

Patent Litigation used to dominate Bay Area hiring but has slowed down in the past year. That said, there will always be a need for good candidates. Life Sciences attorneys are now almost in as much demand as Computer Science and Electrical Engineering associates. Firms have become more selective in hiring and are no longer willing to consider out of state candidates as readily. More and more firms appreciate admittance to the patent bar, even for patent litigators. ITC experience is always valued.

Labor and Employment

The San Francisco L&E market has been traditionally steady and this has remained true for most of 2015. Wage & hour experience is always valued in the junior and mid-level ranges, as is experience in discrimination and client counseling. More and more mid-level candidates are expected to have solid pre trial experience.

Slow Practice Areas:

Technology Transactions

Technology Transaction hiring in San Francisco was strong in much of 2014 into early 2015 but has leveled off. When there are vacancies, they are in the junior and mid-level ranges for candidates with life sciences and hard sciences degrees. Some firms will consider technology transactions candidates who have solid corporate transactions experience.

Dead Practice Areas

During most of the year, these practice areas have shown little to no activity: antitrust, bankruptcy, construction, energy, ERISA, healthcare, insurance defense, project finance, tax, trademark, trusts & estates, and white collar crime.
State of the Market Report: Silicon Valley
by Evan P. Anderson, Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search

Silicon Valley currently has one of the strongest job markets in the country. Positions here tend to be plentiful and far less competitive than those in San Francisco. Candidates with Corporate or Patent/IP experience are usually in the driver's seat, but law firm needs cut across all sectors in the Valley. The quality of life here is outstanding and the region is adjacent to wine country and the Russian River.

Hot Practice Areas:


Following on very heavy hiring trends in the first two quarters of 2015, Corporate vacancies continue to dominate the hiring market in Silicon Valley. As with the previous two quarters, Corporate candidates are in stronger demand than are Patent and IP Litigation attorneys, until recently, something completely unheard of in Silicon Valley. Firms are seeking associates at all levels with experience in venture capital/emerging companies, M&A, capital markets, and securities. Private equity hiring remains strong. Corporate associates with either a Life Sciences degree or experience with Life Sciences companies are in steady demand. Attorneys with tech backgrounds working in transactions will always secure interviews.

Patent Prosecution

Hard Science and Life Science patent prosecution jobs remain plentiful in Silicon Valley. Firms will always need candidates with Computer Science or Electrical Engineering degrees but Life Sciences hiring, especially in the areas of Biology, Chemistry, and Biotechnology, is very, very strong all over California. USPTO registration is a must, but candidates need not be admitted to the California bar.