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Finding that cultural fit when practising law in the US

​While domestic and international relocation has always been a popular option for lawyers seeking a change of lifestyle, career development or a new specialist sector to target, the pandemic has boosted these moves to a new level.

With stark differences between states, both technically and culturally, moving to another state or coming to work in the US as a foreign-trained lawyer thus becomes more than a simple equation, with things like requalification (we’re covering in an upcoming article) coming into the picture. Ensuring that you choose a location that matches your lifestyle is also important, so we’ve highlighted some of the key destinations below to help you determine where to go.

New York City

NYC houses some of the oldest and most well-known white-shoe law firms, servicing major clients in the Wall Street financial services sector. These prestigious firms have stringent selection criteria, but if you secure a move here, you will be paid one of the highest salaries in the industry along with the associated status of being a New York attorney.

If you’re looking for that NYC buzz and want to enjoy all that the Big Apple offers, then living in the city would be an obvious choice. Its strategic location also allows you to do quick getaways to other East Coast locations like Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, DC. Alternatively, if you’re looking to enjoy a quieter life, there’s always the option to live in the more family-oriented areas like New Jersey or upstate and commute into the city like many of our candidates do.

California

California’s laid-back, outdoor vibe has stereotypically been associated with innovative industries, such as technology and entertainment. It’s often a magnet for younger attorneys who might prefer to align themselves with fast-paced, smaller companies and startups that have more risk. Spread over a large area, the north includes San Francisco’s Bay area and Silicon Valley, while SoCal is all about Los Angeles and all that the city offers.

San Francisco:

As the second busiest market after NYC, legal salaries in San Francisco match the Cravath scale, with the Bay area becoming one of the most competitive, sophisticated legal markets around, hosting local, national, and international firms. As a unique, picturesque city, San Francisco provides the best of both worlds – city living with easy access to miles of outdoor pursuits, from trails to wine country. It is also a popular destination for many Asian Americans, thanks to its renowned Asian food influences.

Silicon Valley:

More than just the tech capital of the world, Silicon Valley is a great option for those who prefer being in a more family-friendly laid-back area, while still having excellent transport links into the city. Due to the size of some of the tech giants, there are generally more in-house opportunities here compared to on the East Coast, which results in California firms having more incentive to provide a first-class corporate culture to retain attorneys.

Los Angeles:

Aside from the glitz of Hollywood, Los Angeles also provides a good balance of beach and city lifestyle for those looking for life in the sun, with a Latin American vibe. It is also fast becoming another tech and startup hub, on top of its traditional entertainment focus, with Tech giants like Google, Amazon, Tesla, and Apple all expanding their LA operations and providing a wide range of opportunities for lawyers. However, the transportation system has considerably more limitations than its California neighbours, which is worth considering.

Texas

Texas is popular for relocation, most notably to Houston, Dallas, and Austin, due to its outdoor way of life and consistently good weather. Home to some of the major players in energy and infrastructure, Texas has also welcomed some hip, young businesses to Austin’s growing tech scene. And with the lower house prices and lack of individual income tax, salaries that match the Cravath scale tend to go further in Texas, plus there is a strong family focus, both in the culture and several established businesses.

Washington, DC

Steeped in monuments and significant, picturesque locations, DC offers the option of modern, suburban living or a more rural base plus a convenient commute. The inevitable links with the political scene not only add to its multicultural identity but also present opportunities for lawyers moving to the area. DC is a hub of IP law due to the presence of several federal and governmental bodies and has a burgeoning tech sector as everchanging regulation sees the tech giants from California need more presence in the capital.

Florida

Traditionally a destination for those wanting a lifestyle change and a move to a warmer, tropical climate, Florida has been evolving as an option for attorneys over the last couple of years since the pandemic kicked in. While multicultural Miami has always been a strong draw thanks to the beaches and vacation vibes, the state has seen an increasing number of Wall Street partners working remotely from their South Beach and Boca Raton second homes since the beginning of the pandemic. The knock-on effect is that one major firm has now relocated 37 attorneys permanently to Miami, with other names now considering office space in South Florida. Legal salaries are generally below the Cravath scale, but this could change if more East Coast players arrive. Florida also provides an excellent location for those looking to focus on LatAm work and we certainly see this as a hub for international arbitration in the region.

The US has a plethora of cultures across its states & regions, so it’s important to also consider the lifestyle of the location when you plan the move, just like how you’d normally assess whether the culture of a potential employer is a fit. If you’re a lawyer and would like to learn more about a move to the US or need more help deciding where in the US suits you best, don’t hesitate to get in touch by filling in the form below or reaching out to one of our specialists:
Thomas Hartwell - thomashartwell@hydrogengroup.com / +1 (310) 256 4492 or +44 (0) 207 002 0217
Adam Smith – adamsmith@hydrogengroup.com / +1 (619) 344 8173 or +44 (0) 207 002 0048 
Kai Fogarty – kaifogarty@hydrogengroup.com / +1 (619) 831 8184 or  +44 (0) 799 071 8887
Posted about 2 months ago
About the author:
Thomas Hartwell, Adam Smith & Kai Fogarty

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