State of the Market Report: San Francisco
by Claudia Barnes, Manager of BCG Attorney Search
Healthy Practice Areas:
Corporate associates in San Francisco with solid academic and professional credentials continue to be in high demand in San Francisco, and the Bay Area in general. Candidates with experience at all levels are getting interviews. Firms tend to like candidates coming from the New York market. Those with experience in any of the following will likely get interviews: private equity, structured and debt finance, corporate finance, emerging company/venture capital, M&A, and securities. Candidates with hard science or life science degrees continue to get interviews. Firms generally do not require the CA Bar for corporate candidates.
The need for environmental attorneys has turned around and many firms are actively seeking candidates with land use litigation, CEQA and NEPA experience. This pick up is likely the result of the real estate market boom.
Labor and Employment
Labor and employment hiring in San Francisco has remained busy throughout 2016. We continue to place employment attorneys at all levels (junior, mid and senior level) in a variety of law firms (small, mid-sized and large). In particular, firms seek associates with wage and hour, discrimination, and client counseling experience. Class action, deposition, and trial experience are highly valued. Firms typically require California experience and admission to CA bar.
Litigation hiring in San Francisco has slowed down a little since the first of of the year, but remains strong and steady. The greatest need is at the mid-level (3-5 years), but we are seeing a need at all levels. Complex commercial, general and securities/white collar litigators are consistently in demand - particularly attorneys with securities litigation and/or white collar experience. Firms continue to have very high standards for litigation candidates. Those who have strong academic and professional credentials as well as clerkship experience will get interviews. Admission to the CA Bar is not always necessary, but most firms expect it. We expect the need for litigators to pick up in 2017.
Steady Practice Areas:
For the last year we have a seen a consistent need for attorneys with privacy and data security experience - particularly at the junior and mid-levels. Ideal candidates will have experience working with technology clients on all matters of privacy and data security compliance. Counseling on foreign data privacy laws, especially laws of the European Union. Should you have an interest in this area and would like to transition from another transactional practice area (such as technology transactions or corporate), it would be possible since so few people have hands on experience in this area.
The need for healthcare transactional attorneys - particularly at the senior level (6-15 years, Partners with portable business) - has continued to stay strong throughout 2016. Candidates at all levels with a solid work history will be marketable in San Francisco.
Real Estate (Transactions & Finance)
Real estate hiring in San Francisco continues to be strong and steady throughout 2016. Real estate candidates at all levels with solid transactional experience are highly sought after. Transactional candidates need experience in at least one of the following: purchase & sales, leasing, joint ventures, and finance (including CMBS).
Firms are still hiring technology transactions attorneys despite the slowdown in patent prosecution and litigation (see below). Specifically, firms seek candidates with licensing, corporate/technology transactions experience, and/or IP support. Candidates with life sciences or hard science background will be snapped up!
Immigration continues to be a strong and steady practice area. Experienced business immigration attorneys with 7-10 years of experience should get several interviews.
Patent Agent/Technical Specialist
As noted below, the need for patent prosecutors has slowed; however, the need for patent agents is strong. For these positions, typically a firm would like to see candidates with Ph.D.'s. The need is fairly even between life sciences and hard sciences backgrounds. One of the reasons we believe the need for patent agents is strong is because they can do the same work as a junior or mid-level prosecutor for a fraction of the cost.
Slow Practice Areas:
This practice area started to pick up toward the end of 2015 and kept going through the first half of 2016. The need has now slowed down dramatically. That being said, firms will always hire opportunistically. Candidates with experience in renewable energy, project finance, project development, M&A involving electric utilities or independent power producers will surely get interviews.
ERISA/Employee Benefits/Executive Compensation
As we reported in our last State of the Market report, hiring picked up in ERISA/Employee Benefits/Executive Compensation in 2014 and 2015. The need for experienced attorneys in this field remained solid in the first half of 2016. However, the need for such candidates has calmed down a bit. That being said, firms will seriously consider candidates at all levels that have experience in employee benefits, executive compensation, and to a lesser extent ERISA (and ERISA litigation).
As noted in our last market report, the need for patent litigators has declined. The decline continues throughout 2016. The most noticeable difference in patent hiring is that positions are evenly split between hard science and life science candidates. However, firms continue to hire opportunistically for very strong patent litigators.
Patent Prosecution is still not a hot practice area in San Francisco, but some firms remain quite busy. The split is fairly even between openings requiring hard science or life science backgrounds. USPTO registration is always a necessity and firms strongly prefer candidates who have the CA Bar already.
Tax hiring is still on the slower side. There are firms actively hiring, however, and they have very specific requirements. Candidates should have an LLM in Tax and ideally work (or have worked) in a law firm setting. On occasion, firms will hire attorneys from a Big 4 accounting firm, but normally if the candidate has outstanding academic professional credentials and is no more than 5 years out of law school they will be considered.
The need for trademark attorneys has slowed. The work is there, but most firms hired earlier this year. We anticipate the need will pick up again in early 2017. Firms will always hire opportunistically in the meantime if a solid candidates does decide to look now.
Dead Practice Areas:
The following practices have shown little to no activity: bankruptcy, construction, project finance, and trusts & estates.
by Claudia Barnes, Manager of BCG Attorney Search
Hot Practice Areas:
Corporate and Corporate Finance
As noted in the Winter Market Report, the need for corporate and/or corporate finance attorneys in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area in general continues, and it has not slowed down a bit. Candidates with 2-15 years of experience will get a number of interviews. Partners with books of business are highly sought out. The ideal candidate will have experience in one of the following: M&A, securities, venture capital, emerging companies, private equity, or corporate finance. Life sciences hiring continues to be strong. Associates who have experience with tech companies are highly sought after.
Labor & Employment
Firms in California continue to hire employment attorneys at all levels, and this need has not slowed down in Silicon Valley. Firms continue to seek attorneys at all levels, particularly the mid and senior levels, which also have strong academic or professional credentials and experience in employment counseling, discrimination, and wage and hour experience.
Patent prosecution seems to be slowing down in other areas of the country, but this practice area is vibrant in Silicon Valley. Firms are seeking patent agents and attorneys in both life sciences and hard sciences disciplines (slightly more of a need in the hard sciences, but we anticipate this to even out in 2017). Candidates with strong academic and/or professional credentials who have backgrounds in electrical engineering, computer science, physics, chemistry, biology, and to a lesser extent mechanical engineering will get interviews. Most firms are seeking candidates with 2-8 years of experience. Registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office is a must, but candidates need not be admitted to the California bar.
Unlike San Francisco, the need for patent litigators has not declined as much in Silicon Valley. There are a number of firms looking to hire. That being said, firms are picky and willing to wait for the right candidate. Attorneys must have strong academic and/or professional credentials to get interviews. The ideal candidate will also have a scientific background, such as computer science, electrical engineering, physics, chemistry or biology. Firms have a strong preference for in-state attorneys admitted to the USPTO and who have experience in Hatch Waxman. The focus is on partners with business and junior and mid-level associates.
There is a tremendous and ever-growing need for attorneys with true technology transactional backgrounds. The candidate pool for this practice (particularly in-state) is especially small, so candidates with any corporate transactional experience have been considered (more so if they possess technology or life sciences degrees/experience). Firms will consider candidates coming from in-house backgrounds at the junior to mid-levels.
The need for data privacy attorneys is steadily growing. For the last year we have seen a consistent need for attorneys with privacy and data security experience - particularly at the junior and mid-levels. Ideal candidates will have experience working with technology clients on all matters of privacy and data security compliance. They will also have experience counseling on foreign data privacy laws, especially laws of the European Union. Should you have an interest in this area and would like to transition from another transactional practice area (such technology transactions or corporate), it would be possible since so few people have hands on experience in this area. Firms are happy to consider candidates who are coming from in house backgrounds.
Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation / ERISA
The need for experienced executive compensation/employee benefits/ERISA attorneys remains steady in Silicon Valley. Firms will seriously consider candidates at all levels (with a focus on those with 7-10 years of experience). Firms will definitely consider out-of-state candidates with solid experience from a major market.
The need for healthcare attorneys remains steady in Silicon Valley. Candidates with at least 5 years of health care transactional experience are getting interviews and offers. Membership to the CA bar is certainly the preference, but not an absolute requirement. Firms will seriously consider candidates coming from the government and in-house.
Litigation (General, Complex Commercial, Securities)
Unlike the first half of the year, litigation has certainly slowed down - although it is not "slow." Litigation is the most competitive practice, so firms are very selective. Candidates with exceptional academic and professional credentials will get multiple interviews. The greatest need is for commercial, securities, antitrust and white collar litigators.
Real Estate (Transactions & Finance)
The need for real estate attorneys is steady in Silicon Valley. Candidates at all levels with experience in acquisitions, leasing, joint ventures, and sales are getting interviews. Firms prefer candidates who have California experience.
Slow Practice Areas:
This practice area has picked up a bit and firms are seeking partners, junior and mid-level associates with true trademark prosecution experience.
Tax is not quite as busy as executive compensation, but there are certainly openings in Silicon Valley. Ideal candidates will have an LL.M. in Taxation and excellent academic and professional credentials.
Trusts & Estates
Like tax, there are a few firms seeking experienced trusts and estates attorneys experienced in all aspects of estate planning and wealth transfer planning for high and ultra-high net worth individuals. Most firms like to hire candidates with an LL.M. in Taxation.
Dead Practice Areas:
There is currently no activity in bankruptcy, energy, and environmental. However, firms will always also consider partners in any area who have at least $1 million in portable business.
by Nadeen Weybrecht, Esq., Recruiter, BCG Attorney Search
Demand in the D.C. area is strongest for the following three practice areas: corporate; litigation; and, patent prosecution.
Most Active Practice Areas:
Corporate associates are in very high demand in DC with the majority of the demand being for associates in the 2-5 year range. Firms are seeking candidates with traditional corporate experience in the areas of M&A, private equity, securities and / or capital markets experience. There is also high demand for associates who specialize in the areas of investment management; fund formation; and banking. We also continue to receive requests for traditionally "New York practices" such as structured finance, leveraged finance, and acquisition finance. The highest demand is for junior-to-mid-level associates. However, since the demand for corporate associates is so high, some firms are willing to be somewhat flexible when it comes to seniority if an attorney has strong academic and firm credentials.
There is a fairly healthy demand for litigation associates in the 2-5 year range. While about half of the positions are for commercial litigators, half are for those with specializations in the following areas: white collar and government investigations; international arbitration (typically, at least one foreign language is required here); financial services; health care; and, in the growing hot area of privacy and data protection. Firms are interested in top tier law firm experience and stellar academics, and they place a high priority on candidates with federal clerkship and/or law review experience.
Intellectual Property - Patent Prosecution
We have noticed a seemingly renewed interest in patent prosecution and counseling associates (particularly those at the junior to mid-level range), with technical backgrounds in electrical engineering, computer science, physics, and mechanical engineering.
The demand for patent litigators in DC continues to be less than their prosecuting counterparts. When openings come up, they are usually for mid-level associates with life sciences backgrounds, particularly in the areas of biotechnology/biology and chemistry, and preference for advanced degrees - usually at the PhD level - remains.
Less Busy Practice Areas
Though they are not as busy as the above practice areas, we are continuing to see regular demand for mid-level associates in health care, ERISA/employee benefits, tax (an LLM almost always being required), anti-trust, government contracts, energy, international trade, trusts and estate (with tax LLM), and real estate. We are also seeing very low hiring demand in the area of labor and employment.
The DC market is strong in several practice areas such as corporate law, litigation, and patent prosecution. We do expect to see some increase in demand in transactional support practices like tax and ERISA as deal work remains strong, in addition to increases in areas that have been traditionally strong in DC such as project finance, energy and international trade.
by Paul Danielson, Recruiter, BCG Attorney Search
It would be wrong to call San Diego a sleepy beach town, yet there is no denying it is not nearly as large of a legal market as Los Angeles to the north. Consequently, competition for jobs in San Diego is intense, and would-be lateral attorneys should bring extremely solid credentials and/or a significant book of portable business if they expect to make any headway into the San Diego market. Those who find success in landing a job with a firm will also find an excellent quality of life thanks to the perpetual sunshine, perfect beaches, and cultural amenities San Diego has to offer.
Hot Practice Areas:
Similar to our summer report, litigation openings continue to come online at a record pace for the past 5 years. Firms are still being very selective, however, so even though openings are frequent, the hiring process can still take some time, and applicants will need to cast their net wide in the hopes of finding the right position. San Diego firms will not consider litigators who are not already licensed in California, and given that the market is extremely competitive, firms will have a strong preference for candidates with top credentials and solid litigation experience. Sub-practice experience that is particularly in demand includes insurance coverage, products liability, and construction litigation experience.
Just like the rest of the West Coast (and pretty much the entire country), corporate hiring in San Diego remains very strong, although not quite as strong as the earlier half of the year. Most in demand are mid-level associates with top law firm and large deal experience, particularly in M&A, securities, corporate finance, public & private company and venture capital, with less demand for capital markets experience. Firms prefer candidates who already have the California Bar, but this is less important in corporate than in other practice areas.
The demand for candidates who practice labor & employment (as well as ERISA, executive compensation and employee benefits work), remains strong in California generally and definitely in San Diego. Firms have a continuing need for labor & employment litigation experience, especially class action and wage & hour experience. There is less of a need for employment advisory and traditional labor experience.
While we have seen a dramatic drop-off in demand for patent prosecutors on the West Coast in the second half of 2016 (and patent litigation is essentially a dead lateral market at the moment), San Diego remains a bright spot for patent prosecutors seeking to lateral. In adding to this good news, there have been openings in both hard and life sciences, although life sciences candidates should have a Ph.D. and at least 2-3 years of solid prosecution experience if they hope to be considered by the major firms who have work in this practice area.