For years, Big Law has been booming in Texas.
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
© 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
© 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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We had been living in New York City and contemplating escaping the city for a while. Moving to the suburbs seemed like it'd be kind of unlivable. The commute would be long. We'd have to leave the kids pretty early and come back pretty late.
The kids love it here. They have more room to run around. Just yesterday, we were out at a nature preserve not far from where we are, the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano. I use a wheelchair, and it has a great paved path, which is kind of long and goes through some real nice areas.
One of my biggest surprises is not such a big surprise, but there actually is congestion in the morning. In Texas, I think there's a different mindset in terms of driving. In New York, if you have to drive for an hour, an hour and a half, it's crazy. I talked to an attorney in court. She said "I live in Austin." That's three hours away, and she drove down that morning. That's no big deal.
White-collar defense lawyers are in demand
Bradley's having aggressive growth. Particularly the Dallas office, we're hiring like crazy. Our white-collar practice is very strong, but it's also not this humongous, mammoth New York practice, so there's a lot of room for growth.
I'm a little bit of a rare breed here, in terms of being an SDNY lawyer who has the securities experience and white-collar experience that I have. It's just a great selling point. There's a fair amount of white-collar stuff going on here - healthcare fraud, securities work, government-contracting fraud - and there is a demand for people who do that work.
New York vs. Texas people and politics
New Yorkers are actually nice deep down, but sometimes it doesn't bubble to the surface. Here, you're walking around the neighborhood, people say hello. It's almost like it's too much! The first week we were here, we had a dozen plates of cookies from the neighbors. In court, lawyers will come over, see an unfamiliar face, and say, "What's going on? What firm are you with? Let's connect on LinkedIn. Let's have lunch."
Politics wasn't really a factor. At work, politics doesn't really come up. One interesting thing is, you see a lot of people carrying guns. My kids are totally not used to that. It's something very different. If you'd seen someone walking around in a synagogue with a handgun sticking out of their pants? It's just very, very different. But in other areas, we haven't really noticed it much. Maybe over time we will.
Sean Moran, a partner at Vinson & Elkins
© Provided by Business Insider Sean Moran. Vinson & Elkins Moran is a clean-energy finance partner at Vinson & Elkins. He and five other lawyers joined the firm in February from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and Moran moved from Los Angeles to V&E's Austin office.
Moving from California to Texas
If I didn't move, I was going to be down here in Texas a lot. There's never anything like meeting people in person. My wife grew up in San Antonio, so she knew Houston and she knew Austin. So we defaulted to Austin - I'm close to Houston, I'm close to Dallas. But there's an innovation side of me that's important. Boston and Silicon Valley, you're going to see that here. It's a focus not on software; it's more on energy innovation. I'm going to be teaching a class at the University of Texas called Financing the Energy Transition.
Surfing has been a bit of a challenge. But I've also played golf, from the time I was little, so if I wasn't surfing, I'd try to squeeze in nine holes. Austin has a great golf community - Barton Springs, Austin Country Club, University of Texas. Austin, the way I describe it to my kids, is a chill type of city. It's far less hectic.
Texas investors are pushing for clean energy
I'm the senior guy in my group. When I moved to Vinson & Elkins, it became obvious to me that I have to be, as the "elder statesman," available, and in offices with clients, and high executives of clients, helping them segue into this space. A lot of this is a learning process. We've met with dozens and dozens of private-equity firms who are either historical clients of Vinson & Elkins or prospective clients, and we've sat in the room with them and asked them where they're going and where their mind is at.
We were in Dallas last week with a bunch of private-equity shops that are basically trying to slide some of the renewable-energy type transactions that are out there into some of their existing funds. Then they want to raise just a green type of fund. It's very much because of demand from their limited partners. The investors are accustomed to a very high rate of return in a very short tenure. In the power space, that just does not translate. The returns are lower, they're more reliable, and they're longer. But despite all that, the investment community is insisting that this transition occur.
Corporate associate at an Am Law 100 firm
The associate recently moved from a big New York law firm to another large firm in Texas. They didn't want their name being used because they didn't seek their firm's permission to speak to a reporter.
On moving during the pandemic
It'd been my dream since college to put roots in New York. Then the pandemic hit. But having my entire professional experience be work from home was, on a personal level, miserable.
One of the pluses to Texas is no income tax, but also housing is fairly cheap. It's not fairly cheap right now - everything is overpriced. But feasibly, I could afford buying property.
People are surprisingly open about you wearing a mask or whatever you're comfortable with, despite what's in the news. Most everyone is very respectful. At the same time, part of me says, "I have to go everywhere with my vaccine card in New York. Shouldn't we be that safe here?"
Football is huge here. I think in every conversation I've had, at work or personally, football has gotten in some way.
Working late in Texas vs. New York
Lifestyle-wise, there's this certain underlying respect for your time, especially with COVID, and the flexibility of when you can work and where you can work. People will say, "sorry this is a late call" to me at 4 or 5 p.m. here. In New York, it'd be closer to 8 or 9 for someone to say, "sorry I'm calling so late."
Everybody still here works after 9 p.m. People sign off to pick up their kids, but everyone's still working anyway. It's not like we're working any less down here, but the way people talk about your time is different. We have the same billable-hour requirements as the New York office.
Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/finance/personalfinance/no-calls-after-5-and-football-is-king-what-life-is-like-for-4-big-law-attorneys-who-recently-moved-to-texas/ar-AAPRLCt2596