- State of the Market
State of the Market
by BCG Attorney Search
West Coast Market UpdateOver the past few weeks, several events of interest have taken place on the West Coast. First, Brobeck Phleger & Harrison recently closed its doors. Second, Skjerven Morrill MacPherson LLP joined them by also shutting down their operations. Firm closings, firm mergers and the transfer of entire practice groups to new firms are becoming quite common on the West Coast and the pace at which entire law firms are experiencing significant structural changes continues to increase.
The effect of Brobeck's dissolution is less profound than it may first appear. For one, many of the attorneys from Brobeck (including numerous associates) are headed directly for Morgan Lewis & Bockius and Paul, Hastings, Janofsky, & Walker. With the exception of corporate transactional attorneys, a high number of Brobeck associates are simply moving to other firms with partners they worked closely with at Brobeck. While many in the recruiting community immediately assumed there would be dozens, if not hundreds, of Brobeck attorneys on the market at one time, this has not necessarily been the case. Brobeck associates who are regarded as among the best by their current firms are landing on their feet quite quickly. They are also landing at firms that were less "tech dependent" during the economic downturn.
Despite the market downturn, we have seen quite a bit of activity in several sectors. As a profession, legal recruiting is quite interesting because our jobs continue in slow economies. This is likely quite surprising to many outsiders because one would assume, of course, that hiring would slow in a soft economy. At the present time, partners in all practice groups (with significant business) are in strong demand. On the associate side, employment attorneys, litigators and bankruptcy attorneys appear to be becoming more in demand. As will be discussed in this article, we are very confused about the conflicting signs we are seeing with intellectual property. Corporate, environmental, real estate, project finance and health care all appear to be slowing and, in fact, are in an ominous state at the present time.
AREAS WHERE INTERVIEWING ACTIVITY IS STRONG AND PICKING UP
Partner And Practice Group Movement-All Practice Areas
Over the past six months, more than 70% of our placement activity on the West Coast has involved moving partners and practice groups. This area is booming and we are seeing more activity than we have ever witnessed:
Employment Law and Employment Litigation
There is a strong demand for employment law attorneys throughout California and much of the West Coast. Indeed, there are some major international law firms with employment law openings that have been unfilled for several months now. In particular, demand at the moment is high for employment law attorneys with 3-5 years of experience and top law school and law firm credentials. We believe it is safe to say that most attorneys with these credentials are capable of getting multiple offers in this market.
Paradoxically, much of the demand in the employment context is due to the fact that the present economy has resulted in many people becoming unemployed for various reasons. With a great deal of downsizing occurring, employers are relying upon attorneys for advice about how to handle the sensitive issues raised in the downsizings. Similarly, many people who have lost their jobs are taking action against their former employers.
While by no means as active a practice area as employment law, litigators remain in demand. One of the best parts of being a litigator (as opposed to being a corporate or bankruptcy attorney, for example) is the fact that lawsuits can take years and during a slow economy they continue to plod along. In addition, lawsuits often pick up in a bad economy because businesses are apt to blame other businesses for the problems they are experiencing (and then sue).
While one would presume that there is a great deal of bankruptcy work due to the slow economy, we believe that the hiring in this field is slower than in the employment and litigation contexts. There are, however, a large number of bankruptcy openings in Los Angeles in particular. In comparison, there are fewer bankruptcy openings in the Bay Area and Seattle.
One of the reasons that hiring is not as brisk as one would expect, we think, is that several firms have simply transitioned many junior corporate attorneys and others over to doing bankruptcy work in the slow economy. In addition, when bankruptcy work picked up over a year ago, a large number of attorneys who were practicing at boutiques were quickly picked up by larger and more highly compensating law firms.
In most areas of the United States, the Bankruptcy Bar is fairly well organized and bankruptcy attorneys know each other quite well (in smaller markets like Seattle and San Francisco, compared to Los Angeles, this is even more evident). As such, a great deal of the recruiting that occurs is more informal and, in a great number of instances, recruiters are not involved at all. Accordingly, some of our opinions regarding the hiring trends that are occurring in bankruptcy at present are influenced by our status as recruiters. Given the worries about war, widespread problems with corporate profits and the general unease in the current economy, we believe that bankruptcy work will be picking up quite a bit in the near future. When this does occur, much of the traditional "network" that has characterized the movement in the bankruptcy field will begin to subside. In recent weeks, it appears as if this has already begun to occur, because we have gotten at least one offer for an out-of-state non-California barred bankruptcy attorney in Los Angeles.
UNCERTAIN AREA: INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
The market for IP attorneys in many respects does not make a lot of sense.
Reflections on Intellectual Property Law - Intellectual property is one of the more important assets of many corporations. Since this is increasingly an information-based economy, the need to protect intellectual property is consistently increasing.
The market for IP attorneys of all types increased dramatically between 1998 and the middle of 2000. At this time, trademark, licensing and other "soft" types of IP attorneys were in strong demand. Much of the work these attorneys were doing was being generated by new companies that were forming and conducting new business at the time. On the patent side, patent attorneys of all flavors were in massive demand at this time. In fact, many leading firms would seemingly hire any competent patent attorney they could get their hands on. The competition among firms for the service of patent attorneys with good credentials was extremely intense.
In the trademark and licensing field, the majority of this work simply went away with the economic slowdown. As upstart companies went away, and new ones were not funded, the demand for soft IP attorneys (trademark and licensing) waned. In the patent field, however, the demand for patent attorneys remained quite strong. At the same time, many attorneys who had not formerly been patent attorneys but had strong science backgrounds were entering the IP field.
From our standpoint, up until approximately six months ago, the feeling was that virtually any patent attorney with an electrical engineering or physics background could be placed. On the biology and chemistry side, there were fewer opportunities. By our estimates, the demand for biotech attorneys peaked in the middle to late part of 1999 and has been on a somewhat slow slide downward since. The demand for patent attorneys would seem to be less influenced by economic downturns compared to trademark and licensing due to the fact that trademark and licensing work was so closely tied to new businesses. Conversely, much of the patent work being done was more closely tied to large-scale existing businesses with a strong history of research and development-related activities.
What We Know
We know that we continue to get patent associates numerous interviews. In fact, we have patent attorneys interviewing virtually every day. We also know that trademark and licensing continues to be in terrible shape and that there are few jobs on the West Coast. We have not had a trademark or licensing attorney interview on the West Coast within the past year.
On a grimmer note, we also know that we are seeing a surprisingly high number of patent attorneys on the market now. We also know that patent attorneys are getting fewer interviews than we have come to expect. We also know that biotech patent attorneys are having a harder time than most other patent attorneys. We also know that many firms are laying these attorneys off. Despite all of this, we do continue to place numerous patent attorneys.
Last year we placed multiple patent attorneys on the West Coast virtually every month. In 2003, this pattern is slowing considerably.
What We Do Not Know
We do not know what the future holds for patent work. In a down economy, the investment of businesses in intellectual property will most likely slow. This does appear to be the current trend, especially with respect to patent prosecution. The number of patent attorneys on the market is increasing and many patent attorneys have been let go recently.
The issue that all of this information raises is whether patent work as a whole is headed for a serious collapse, in much the same way that corporate and other types of work recently experienced a downfall. Our feeling is that, if the economy continues to head down its current negative path, the number of patent attorneys out of work will continue to increase and the market will worsen. Nevertheless, we should point out that we are continually making a significant number of patent placements in this market and although the number of interviews our candidates are receiving is decreasing, most are still getting jobs. This is not what we witnessed when the corporate market began to slow in late 2000.
BAD AND SLOWING AREAS
The corporate market is showing no signs of improvement on the West Coast, and may, in fact, be getting worse. Firms all over the area continue to shed corporate associates at all levels. Partners with little business are being let go by several firms. Corporate associate resumes are flooding the market.
Despite this dire-sounding state of events, we have been successful at BCG Attorney Search in getting interviews for numerous corporate attorneys over the last several months; however, in virtually all of these cases there has been a "catch" to us getting these attorneys interviews. Most of the interviews we have been getting on the West Coast have been in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.
The "Catch" for Corporate Attorneys - We have been getting corporate attorneys interviews every week on the West Coast, but solely in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The market in Los Angeles (which is a less cyclical market than San Francisco) is by far the liveliest, but San Francisco firms are still hiring, unlike the San Diego, Seattle and Palo Alto markets.The interviews we have been getting have been mainly for extremely specialized corporate attorneys and attorneys interviewing with much smaller firms. For example, in the second week of February we had corporate attorneys interview for positions doing (1) investment management work, and (2) corporate work with a small tax component. In addition, we have seen several senior attorneys (7-9 years of experience) interview with smaller firms. Most of these smaller firms did fairly unsophisticated, nonpublic company work, but had a need for corporate attorneys. In one instance, an estate planning firm interviewed a corporate attorney of ours that it was looking to hire in order to help do day-to-day corporate work for its wealthy corporation-owning clients.
All in all, the corporate market has been one of the worst tragedies of the economic downturn. Numerous attorneys, both partners and associates, have left the practice of law completely as a result of being left with an unmarketable skill set in a down economy. We have seen numerous junior associates whom have taken pay cuts from over $140,000 to less that $70,000 to work in insurance defense firms (doing litigation) recently.
The problem with corporate legal work is that firms believe they lost out on so much opportunity during the last economic expansion. As a consequence of this, they have been afraid not to hire new associates and want to keep a stable of associates during this current slowdown so they do not lose money when things pick up. Nevertheless, the economy has persistently failed to turn around and instead continues to slow and take the careers of many young corporate attorneys with it. Accordingly, over the past few years, a new crop of corporate associates has been simply let go and left to fend for themselves in an inhospitable corporate job market.
The environmental market has proven to be a real disappointment. Despite many openings in Los Angeles, in particular, there has been limited interviewing occurring. We are now questioning how serious some firms are about making hires in the environmental context when they are providing us with so many "openings" and yet interviewing so few attorneys. The slowdown in environmental work appears to have affected both partners and associates and the work is drying up throughout most of California. We have also witnessed several environmental partners (with limited business) and associates trying to relocate to the West Coast within the past several months. Accordingly, it is our belief that this slowdown is occurring throughout the United States.
Real Estate, Health Care, Project Finance
Real estate has traditionally been a fairly steady practice area over the past several months. Initially, when the economy slowed, real estate remained one of the more active markets. We have continued to make real estate placements on the West Coast for the past several months. Nevertheless, over the past two to three months, the market has suffered considerably. In San Diego, the market is virtually dead. Similarly, in Los Angeles (traditionally a very strong real estate market), the number of real estate attorneys on the market has continued to increase. Given the slowdown in work in the real estate field, we do not see things improving over the next several months. Hiring in the Bay Area and Seattle for real estate attorneys appears quite flat.
Project finance has also been quite hard hit. At the firms with the historically strongest project finance practices, this work has slowed considerably. While there was a good possibility of a stellar out-of-state project finance attorney getting a job in California approximately one year ago, this is no longer the case.
Health care, a practice area that was doing quite well less than six months ago, is also starting to slow a great deal. In addition, we have seen an influx of talented attorneys who were formerly with HMOs and other health care providers on the job market. We do not see any signs that health care will improve in the near term.
We do not believe the legal market in California shows signs of improving in 2003 to any measurable extent. It appears that the market will continue to contract.
Partners with substantial business are now in massive demand all over the West Coast. As law firms struggle in this economy, they are eager for partners who can assist them in shoring up their economic stability. On the associate side, employment law, litigation and bankruptcy do show signs that they are improving. Nevertheless, these positive signs do not affect the entire spectrum of attorneys and there are many other markets that do not look nearly as good.
Intellectual property opportunities in the trademark and licensing field are now, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent. Conversely, opportunities for patent attorneys remain, despite the fact that the market appears to be slowing. We are unsure whether or not patent law is in for a serious fall or not. Many of the signs of serious difficulties to come for patent attorneys are present; however, signs that the market is in decent shape and will continue at a steady clip are present as well.
The market for corporate, project finance, environmental, real estate and health care is presently not very promising. With the exception of real estate, we have serious concerns for attorneys currently in the corporate, project finance, real estate and health care areas. The hiring in these areas is significantly depressed and likely to continue in a downward spiral in the near future.
An important thing to remember is that the legal economy is cyclical. What goes up must come down and the opposite will likely prove true as well. In the late 1990s, bankruptcy attorneys were having an extraordinarily difficult time, but they are currently in high demand. This weekend one of our recruiters was at a lunch with 90 year old industrialist in Los Angeles. This industrialist stated that he has seen these cycles repeat themselves over and over again at least 10 times during his lifetime. If you are in a good practice group right now, our suggestion is to make the most of the opportunity at the present time. If you are in a poor practice group right now, you should hold on and wait because - as always - there are better things to come.
East Coast Market UpdateThe most common question we receive in this office is if and when the economy will pick up in such a way as to affect hiring in New York and surrounding areas. Unfortunately, without a crystal ball it is impossible to predict with absolute certainty the changes the hiring climate will see in the next several months, but we can provide the following outlook based on the trends we have seen to date.
New York City
Overall hiring in New York is picking up moderately. We have found that several firms who froze hiring at some point in the last several years have begun new searches in the past several months. Typically, these firms are conducting fairly specific searches. By specific, we mean that they tend to be quite targeted in terms of the types of lawyer or lawyers they are looking for to fill a particular position. At times, firms can be quite specific as to class year, and some firms remain quite strict with respect to their grade and school requirements.
The two hottest areas, without question, are bankruptcy and litigation. Bankruptcy associates across the 1997-2001 class levels are in demand, with a particular bent towards junior lawyers who have significant debtor experience and/or clerkship experience with a federal bankruptcy judge. On the litigation side, a slightly broader range of experience may be considered, from high-level corporate litigation to products liability and antitrust litigation.
We believe that it is a particularly good time for lawyers with these qualifications to consider movement. When hiring is slower overall, we find that firms and lawyers are more conservative about hiring decisions. We believe that this is a good thing, since lawyers who take jobs in this economic environment tend to be happier in their position, having gone through this process in a time when firms are careful to only give offers to attorneys they think would be a perfect fit.
Another niche practice that continues to see a good deal of interviewing and hiring is intellectual property patent litigation. Firms with vibrant practices in this area are always looking for quality candidates. The ideal intellectual property litigation candidate has a technical or scientific background and litigation experience at a significant regional or national firm.
In the corporate realm, there continue to be excellent opportunities. We believe that these opportunities are particularly good because the firms with whom we are working have been extraordinarily successful during an otherwise depressed time. Obviously, the long-term prospect of working for a firm that is capable of not just surviving, but thriving is extremely exciting.
We have seen a constant need for tax, real estate, patent prosecution, employment litigation and ERISA/Employee Benefits lawyers. We anticipate that these needs will remain consistent, and that lawyers with these specialties will continue to do well in job searches throughout the calendar year.
We have recently seen needs in areas that had previously been heavily hit by the economy: Trademark, transactional intellectual property, and the like should slowly reinvigorate. Several firms have indicated aggressive searches will open for these attorneys in the near future.
All in all, the New York market, with all of its particulars in terms of academic preferences and standards, shows signs of incrementally increasing activity. We believe that there are exceptional opportunities today in the New York market worth exploring. And, over the next several months, we believe that the New York market will only continue to yield more and more opportunities.
We have recently had significant interest in our New Jersey opportunities. When compared to a market like New York, New Jersey typically has fewer opportunities, but only in terms of the overall number. New Jersey firms have increasingly identified hiring needs, and are becoming more aggressive in finding high-quality attorneys to fill those needs. Litigation attorneys can look for job prospects throughout the state, from Princeton to Newark. Although there are not an overwhelming number of corporate opportunities, we will continue to work with New Jersey firms to staff their transactional attorney needs, both at the partner and associate level.
The Connecticut market is currently most active with respect to partner level searches, including some firms who are interested in finding junior partners who have growing books of business and who are looking to expand them.
Pennsylvania firms are continually on the hunt for qualified lawyers. Litigation and employment positions are becoming increasingly more abundant, and qualified candidates have their choice of several firms who have been doing extremely well throughout a sluggish economy. There are also a few firms, especially in Philadelphia, who are quite keen to expand their practices, and are looking for partners who have portable business that may want to offer a higher profile practice to their clientele. We also have some firms that have been extremely active in trying to fill ERISA associate positions. For a lawyer with the appropriate background in such niche areas, there are several top-tier firms that would be interested in talking about opportunities.
Of the cities on the East Coast, Boston has been the most heavily hit by the economy, with several firms still laying off associates. Additionally, some significant firms have fallen on hard times. However, BCG is happy to work with a sizable group of firms that have busy practices in the litigation and intellectual property/patent areas in particular, and are extremely active in their hiring. It is imperative for Boston lawyers interested in making a move to focus their search quite intently. Openings are often open only a short time, warranting a directed search and constant monitoring of new opportunities. Although it is not likely that associate-level corporate positions will be terribly abundant, with the amount of attrition of late, Boston will yield excellent targeted opportunities, especially for well-credentialed candidates.
The economic slowdown that has affected the entire country has, unfortunately, not stopped at the borders of our nation's capital. The Washington, D.C. market has felt the pains of recession in recent years, but that in no way eliminates the need for highly qualified lawyers in a variety of areas. The DC metro area continues to be one of the hotbeds of legal activity, and despite economic factors, will always attract and employ some of America's finest attorneys.
Among those most in demand are partners with significant books of business. Partners with at least $1,000,000 in portable business, no matter what practice area they focus on, will be able to work at the firm of their choice. In fact, in some practice areas that are currently experiencing difficulty attracting work - such as corporate, M&A, capital markets, project finance, and telecommunications - the required portable business for an incoming partner can tend to be quite modest. The trend in the law firm marketplace is consolidation, so we would suggest that now may be the right time for those partners inclined to move.
The future for lateral associate hiring in the DC metro region has slowed in recent years, but now seems much brighter than it did just a few months ago. The D.C. market is unique in many ways as it services a variety of federal regulatory agencies and government entities, as well as major industries. For example, it is estimated that more than 25% of the spending related to Homeland Security and other national security expenditures will be made in and around this region. This region also is home to many technology companies engaged in research and development work, fueling the demand for patent lawyers. The U.S. government also invests billions of dollars in companies engaged in various kinds of research and development. An excellent example is the National Institute of Health ("NIH"), which has led to the tremendous growth in biotechnology companies in Maryland and other parts of the Washington DC metro region.
With respect to specific practice areas, litigators continue to enjoy a healthy demand for their services. Someone with strong commercial and securities litigation experience will also do well in this market. There is some demand for securities lawyers engaged in Sarbanes-Oxley work. The current market for patent lawyers, particularly someone with electrical engineering background, remains strong. Even with the stock market crash and decrease in technology-related business expenditures in the United States, most technology companies continue to place a significant amount of their resources in research and development. This continued growth in R&D translates into sustained demand for patent lawyers.
With several large companies filing for bankruptcy - including WorldCom, Enron, PG&E and Global Crossings - as well as the failures of numerous Dot Coms, bankruptcy continues to be a hot practice area. There are jobs for energy lawyers with regulatory or litigation experience. In addition, although it is not what was seen a couple of years ago, there are jobs for lawyers engaged in employment law and related litigation work.
Despite the stock market crash and downturn in venture capital financings which wreaked havoc on corporate practices, we have seen a couple of firms begin to look for corporate finance and securities lawyers. It goes without saying that firms that are looking to hire lawyers in any of these practice areas require strong academic credentials and solid work experience at a highly regarded firm.
Midwest Market UpdateChicago
"The intensification of geopolitical risks makes discerning the economic path ahead especially difficult," Alan Greenspan said recently in his testimony to the Senate Banking Committee. As search consultants at BCG, we, too, have had some difficulty forecasting what lies ahead in terms of lateral hiring in the legal industry. We are, however, happy to report that law firms nationwide continue to contact us for lateral attorneys at all levels in a wide variety of practice areas. In particular, the Chicago market appears to be withstanding the test of these very tough market conditions.
We continue to see a need for highly qualified general commercial litigators at the 2-6 year range, and this seems to be the one practice area where the needs have been consistently increasing, despite the current condition of the market. We have also received requests for litigation partners with portables.
In the corporate sector, attorneys with fairly specialized training are highly sought after. Top firms in Chicago are seeking senior associates with secured lending experience and mid-level associates with securities and finance experience. We continue to hope for an upward turn in the need for attorneys with M&A and venture capital backgrounds. However, despite the fact that we hear from many highly qualified attorneys on a daily basis with this experience, economic conditions and the resulting limited capital spending have translated to a lack of positions in this area.
There remains a shortage of attorneys with coveted bankruptcy/insolvency experience. As mentioned in our last report, although much of the demand for bankruptcy attorneys has been alleviated by the overabundance of corporate transactional attorneys who have successfully transitioned to this area, we are still receiving calls from firms looking for solid bankruptcy training at the 2-6 year level. Of course, bankruptcy clerkship experience is always a plus.
As in 2002, intellectual property attorneys with technical degrees in the chemical/biotech areas are continually sought after by general practice and intellectual property boutiques. Patent attorneys at all levels with patent litigation and/or patent prosecution experience and strong electrical engineering and biotech experience are sought by firms throughout the city. We see very little need, however, in the computer science and mechanical engineering technical fields.
As we stated in our last report, the need for trademark, copyright and licensing attorneys has slowed dramatically, if not halted altogether. We reiterate: Attorneys seeking positions doing solely trademark work will be less successful in their job search than those who maintain some flexibility and are willing to look at general litigation opportunities with a trademark, licensing component.
As reported in the last quarter of 2002, we have seen an increase in the number of requests we are receiving for mid-level real estate associates. We have also seen somewhat of an increase in requests for environmental and land and resources attorneys.
We have witnessed a marked increase in requests for attorneys with ERISA/Employee Benefits experience at the 2-6 year range. Attorneys with stellar academics and large law firm experience should definitely apply.
Likewise, at the start of 2003, the need for labor and employment attorneys increased. Generally, we have seen a strong need at the 2-5 year associate range, but we are also receiving calls from firms looking to expand or add labor and employment practices and asking us to find partners with minimum portables of $500,000.
There has been a continued decline in the need for tax attorneys. Similarly, the need for trusts and estates attorneys has somewhat slowed, but since we continue to receive sporadic requests at the 2-7 year level, associates at all levels should seriously consider applying. In the general tax and trusts and estates areas, firms require stellar academics and large law firm experience.
Market conditions in Denver have not changed much since our last report.
Litigation requests continue to flow in for general commercial litigators at the 2-6 year range. Since we often receive requests for litigators with particular expertise in environmental, natural resources, oil and gas and construction matters, attorneys with these backgrounds should definitely contact us.
Denver seems to have been hit hard in the corporate sector. We see very little need in this area, except for senior-level corporate attorneys with over 7 years of experience and partners with business.
Intellectual property candidates at the 1-5 year range with technical degrees in chemical or electrical engineering should continue to contact us.
Generally, Colorado firms are consistently seeking out partners with business, so if you're a partner with significant portables interested in relocating to Colorado, you should contact us regarding opportunities.
Litigation remains strong in Minneapolis and firms continue to ask us for stellar candidates at the 1-6 year range with substantive general commercial litigation experience.
Like other geographic regions, the corporate transactional practices in Minneapolis have not experienced an increase over the past few months.
In contrast to our report last quarter, we are happy to report that we have seen an increase in requests for labor and employment associates at the 2-6 year level.
Patent prosecutors and litigators should definitely get in touch with us. Similar to Chicago, we continue to receive requests for intellectual property attorneys at all levels with technical degrees in the electrical and chemical/biotech fields.
Detroit and Grand Rapids
Detroit firms continue to seek out commercial litigation attorneys at the 1-4 year range and partners with portable business at or above $400,000. We have also seen a marked increase in the number of bankruptcy positions in Detroit. Bankruptcy associates at the 1-4 year level with strong academics interested in opportunities in Detroit should definitely contact us.
We continue to receive requests from firms in Grand Rapids for transactional partners with portable business at or above $300,000.
Cleveland and Cincinnati
If you are pursuing opportunities in Cleveland and/or Cincinnati, we are seeing the strongest needs at the associate level in litigation at the 2-7 year range and in bankruptcy at the 2-5 year range.
Southern Market UpdateOverall, the markets in the southern United States exhibit the same strengths and weaknesses we have seen in other parts of the country. Transactional work is slower than contentious work, and partners in any specialty are particularly sought after by firms with attorneys who are not as busy as they would like to be. Particular weakness continues to prevail in the corporate and securities specialties, although we have had candidates receive interviews and offers in corporate positions in Texas, Arizona and Florida recently. Subspecialties of corporate work, such as intellectual property licensing work, have been strong in pockets as firms are realizing that they are going to continue to see this activity even when clients are slow. Litigation work is strong, and our candidates have received offers in numerous litigation specialties, including general commercial work, products liability, securities litigation, insurance coverage litigation, and labor and employment litigation positions.
Dallas and Houston are both strong markets. Dallas is a market that is continuing to display strength in both litigation and (occasionally) corporate placements. We have approximately ten firms currently asking us for attorneys with various litigation specialties in Dallas, and we have another couple of firms who are looking to add corporate assistance at various levels. Houston is in a similar position. The major change to previous years is that firms are very reluctant to relax their standards in hiring. They seem to want to stick very close to their set standards, and they have raised their standards to the highest reasonable (and sometimes unreasonable) level in terms of grades and experience. We have even experienced one firm that flew an attorney all the way from New York City to Houston for an interview, then rejected the candidate (who was from the class of 1998) on the basis that they would rather look for a class of 1999 associate. Mind you, this attorney had been at the top of his class in law school and was with one of the premier New York firms. This is a strong sign of a true buyer's market for legal talent.
Austin and San Antonio continue to display strength occasionally. We have seen several prominent partners move firms recently in Austin as the legal community there continues to undergo the effects of the upheaval in the technology sector. Some firms in Austin are determined to locate and bring aboard talent that is available as the result of changes in the firms that have been considered strong over the past years. Typically, these firms look for new prospective attorneys to bring with them a book of business strong enough to at least cover their salary and overhead. In San Antonio, the hiring we have seen recently has been driven by firms looking for lawyers to help with some major litigation cases pending there.
Atlanta is a market that has shown some increasing strength over prior months, but the strength is only in litigation, with the exception of some ERISA activity. We have had candidates receive several interviews at top firms who have open litigation positions. Typically, these firms are being very selective about what type of attorney they will interview, and those who receive office interviews have more often than not received offers of employment as well. Atlanta's salaries have not risen to the extent that salaries in some other large markets have, and the city is not as attractive as some others for people who are considering relocation for this reason. Considering that partner profits at top Atlanta firms are among the highest in the country, this is not an altogether good reason for avoiding Atlanta as a relocation goal. Well-credentialed candidates with good experience are not likely to regret a move to Atlanta. They will enjoy a low cost of living while an associate, a better climate than many alternative parts of the country, and a good chance at a very high income later in their careers.
Phoenix is a market that has shown strong periods over the past six months, but primarily only in litigation positions (similar to other markets). We have obtained numerous interviews for candidates in litigation positions, including within commercial litigation, class action litigation, and first party insurance litigation practices. We have seen that several firms have had their needs in these areas met in the past month, but we have found that there has been a simultaneous increase in interest in bankruptcy attorneys. Tucson is obviously a smaller market, but has shown pockets of strength as well. We have recently been working to locate a bankruptcy attorney for a major firm's practice there.