For years, Big Law has been booming in Texas.


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Lawyers in Houston, Dallas, and nearby cities can earn the same salaries as their counterparts in New York and California while enjoying a far lower cost of living. Their firms can make a lot of money off of them, too: Kirkland & Ellis made $1.85 million in revenue from each of its Texas lawyers last year, according to The Texas Lawbook, compared to $1.77 million across the firm reported by The American Lawyer.

"Dallas is probably the strongest legal market in Texas right now," said Lee Allbritton, a recruiter for Amicus Search who said the city accounts for about 40% of his placements. "It is a much more diversified economy."

Houston has long been a global capital of the energy industry. But in recent years, the tech industry has been a major source of work. One judge has turned Waco into a mecca for patent lawsuits, and Elon Musk said Tesla would move its headquarters to Texas, following Oracle and HP Enterprise, which made similar moves in recent years.

Since 2018, at least 11 law firms have opened offices in Austin, and others are reportedly willing to hire lawyers to work remotely anywhere. Lindsay Stengle, a recruiter with Wegman Partners, said the city has a reputation among lawyers as a "lifestyle center," on par with Denver, Seattle, or Portland.

For some lawyers at big firms, the ability to work with sophisticated clients while making a high-six-figure income and paying no state income tax has been attractive. Texans pay an average of 8% of their income on state and local taxes, compared to over 14% in New York, according to a 2019 analysis by the Tax Foundation.

For others, it's not worth it. Allbritton said politics is the most common reason candidates aren't interested in moving to Texas. The state's de facto abortion ban, which is facing legal challenges, has drawn widespread opposition, even as law firms - whose lawyers skew Democratic - have stayed silent on it

Insider recently spoke with several lawyers about their decisions to move to Texas, including recent law-school grads, people coming out of government service, and law-firm partners. Notes from four of the conversations follow, condensed and edited for flow and clarity.

Christian Rice, an associate at O'Melveny & Myers

Christian Rice. O'Melveny & Myers © Provided by Business Insider Christian Rice. O'Melveny & Myers Rice is from San Diego but grew attracted to Austin while working for a Texas congressman. He went to the University of Virginia, where he set his sights on a legal career in Texas and graduated in 2020.

Social life is different

I just really love Austin. People joke, when you run into a Texan at a happy hour, it's like, "oh you're not from California." It really does feel like half the city is Californians at this point.

There's just so many benefits, from the low cost of living, to no income tax, which is a big deal. In Austin, in particular, it's so outdoorsy. It kind of reminds me of San Diego in that there's a big water focus. Instead of the beach, you have waterfalls and swimming holes and lakes. It's really pretty. It's almost tropical. If you Google Hamilton Pool, you'll see what I'm talking about.

I started at another firm. The partners I worked with and some other associates left to join O'Melveny and be part of their first Texas offices. We go to happy hours and get to know each other, not just at work. We go to the Four Seasons in Austin. Last night, at happy hour, one of the partners referred to themselves as our work parents, and I felt that was really cute.

Winter storms weren't a worry

The winter storms happened after I made my decision to practice here. Generally, our electric grid is very stable. I'm not an expert on the Texas electric grid yet, but I don't feel like people are concerned about it happening here again.

Elisha Kobre, a partner at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings

Elisha Kobre. Bradley © Provided by Business Insider Elisha Kobre. Bradley Kobre is a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. He moved to Dallas after leaving the government and joined Bradley in July.

Texas life beats the NYC suburbs

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