State of the Market Report: San Francisco

by Harrison Barnes, Managing Director, BCG Attorney Search

San Francisco is a bustling city, often leading in hiring trends that will reverberate throughout the country. It is also a stronghold for a variety of practice areas, including corporate, IP/technology, and patent law.

HOT Practice Areas


The most active area in San Francisco is corporate. Associates at all levels (though primarily 3-6 years) are in demand in this hot market! While the need for M&A remains strong, there is also a particular demand for those with emerging companies, venture capital, securities, and finance. It should be noted that the positions that are specific to finance related corporate work (secured and unsecured transactions, lending, and banking) have seen a specific uptick. Since firms seem to be no longer holding this area to their East Coast (namely New York) offices due to clients’ demands, this trend will likely continue well into 2016. Corporate is so popular that firms are willing to accommodate relocations with decent credentials, even if the candidate does not yet have the California Bar.

Real Estate

Real estate continues to be in tremendous demand in the Bay Area. Firms are primarily searching for attorneys with at least three years of law firm experience, though there is also a desire for senior attorneys (7+ years) in this market, demonstrating the popularity of this area. Those with a background in sophisticated financial transactions have an advantage here (real estate secured loans, acquisitions and dispositions, and leases). This is another area where firms will likely consider relocations, even if the candidate does not yet have the California Bar.


The market witnessed an increase in labor/employment positions in the Bay Area in the last quarter of 2015. Top law firms (AM LAW 100) as well as regional and California firms are seeking employment attorneys with at least two years of experience. There is a more prominent need for more senior associates, however (4-6 years seems to be the sweet spot). Firms are prioritizing a wage and hour class action background as well as deposition experience. We are also seeing an increase in firms seeking experience in employment compliance and counseling.