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The Legal Job Market in Nashville

published September 18, 2008

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left

( 262 votes, average: 4.8 out of 5)

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Although it has plenty to offer, are you going to be able to find attorney jobs in Nashville?

Top Law Firms in Nashville

One of the city's biggest law firms is Bass, Berry & Sims. The firm was founded about 75 years ago and currently employs about 200 attorneys throughout their three Tennessee locations. The Nashville office is the largest but the other two are located in Knoxville and Memphis. One of their claims to fame is that they are one of only a half dozen other firms in the entire country that have been selected for membership to the State Capital Global Law Firm Group, and Lex Mundi. Their practice includes a number of areas, including real estate, corporate bankruptcy, environmental litigation, and more.

Two years ago, the firm made big news by increasing its starting salary for attorneys to six figures in order to keep up with competition from other major firms in Charlotte and Atlanta.

Another of the major law firms in the city is Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis. They have a total of 221 attorneys working at their three branches, including their Nashville location. The firm handles a wide range of cases from many diverse areas of the law, including immigration, health care, entertainment, and environmental.

The city is also home to two other large law firms — Boult Cummings Conners & Berry and Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz. With these four firms increasing salaries paid to employees, adding attorneys, and practicing in a wide range of legal areas, the city seems to have quite a bit to offer for lawyers wanting to land a career with a major firm.

Attorney Outlook for the Future

The outlook for attorneys in Nashville may not be as bright as in other parts of the country. Although many fields in the city are seeing huge growth rates, particularly in the areas of education and health care, legal careers are seeing much smaller growth. The anticipated growth rate between 2007 and 2009 is only 1.1%.

However, the salaries for attorneys in the city are meeting the national average for this profession. The average salary for a Nashville attorney was about $101,000. The range between entry level lawyers and the highest paid attorneys in the city was $58,000 to $123,000. Unfortunately, these numbers are a bit lower than for the rest of the state. Tennessee's average attorney salary is $6,000 above the salary in Nashville. Even worse news is that the average salary seems to be declining. In 2007, the average salary for an attorney in the city was almost $105,000.

On the bright side, the city's number of employed attorneys rose from 2007 to 2008 by more than 250. Today, almost 2,000 lawyers are working in Nashville, which is almost one-third of all the state's lawyers.

The Tennessee Bar Exam

When it comes to the required bar examinations, the requirements and difficulty levels vary from state to state. Tennessee is not one of the harder states to pass, such as California and Delaware. However, the examination is not considered to be “a piece of cake” either. It is more challenging than exams from other states, such as New Jersey and Maryland. The pass rate for first-time takers is between 75 and 85%.

<<The entire examination spans two days. The first grueling day is divided into two three-hour long sections. On the second day, test takers are required to complete 12 essay questions, which take 30 minutes each. Scoring is a bit unique with the 2009 version of the examination. The number of essays that you need to pass is determined by how well you do on the questions answered during the first day of testing. For example, if your score is higher than a 135, you only need 7 of the essays to be correct. If you score between 125 and 129, on the other hand, you'll need to ace 9 of the 12.

In addition to passing the bar exam, you must also pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination with a score of 75, within two years of receiving a passing score on the bar. Furthermore, Tennessee will not accept scores from other states' Bar exams unless both tests are taken concurrently, meaning at approximately the same time, and written permission from the state is also required.

Quality of Living in Nashville

Considered the Athens of the South, Nashville is one of the best places in the country to go if you enjoy the outdoors. The city manages more than 10,000 acres of parks and green spaces. That area includes Centennial Park, which is one of the most amazing parks in the city — it even offers wireless Internet service to visitors. Overall, more than 3% of the city's total area is dedicated to parks, hiking trails, horse trails, and scenic roadways.

The city is also the home of the Tennessee State Fair, and the Nashville Film Festival, which is the largest of its kind in the southern United States, numerous art museums and performance centers, and some of the top private schools in the state. As the largest metropolitan area in Tennessee, it is also the best place to go to experience great dining, concerts, shopping, and everything else you'd want in an urban environment.

Plus, the cost of living in Nashville is much lower than in other cities. Rental costs and housing prices have been lower than in Atlanta, Georgia and Raleigh, North Carolina, other cities in the region. The consumer price index on everything from health insurance to transportation to groceries also shows that Nashville is one of the most affordable cities to call home in the United States.

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Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

More about Harrison

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