State of the Market Report: San Francisco

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

Healthy Practice Areas:


Law firm corporate needs continue to dominate the San Francisco lateral hiring market. Firms are seeking candidates at all levels of experience in a variety of subspecialties. What is interesting (and unusual) is the number of finance (and in some cases regulatory) subspecialties that are now in demand in San Francisco. Firms are currently seeking associates with experience in the areas of commercial finance, leveraged finance, banking & finance, corporate finance, and bank regulatory. M&A, emerging growth, and private equity hiring remains strong but it will be interesting to see how these previously New York-based subspecialties will continue to expand on the West Coast.

Real Estate (Transactions & Finance)

Real estate hiring in San Francisco has remained steady in all of 2015 and this trend is expected to continue into 2016. 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.

Labor and Employment

L&E hiring in San Francisco shot up during the second and third quarters of 2015. Firms are seeking mid-level and senior associates with solid litigation and client counseling skills. Associates with trial and pre-trial experience are in high demand, as are candidates who can run and manage their own cases. Subspecialties include wage & hour, discrimination, wrongful termination and EEO. There has been an increased need for candidates with traditional labor experience.