For young lawyers, spring is a time of transitions and new beginnings. Now that you passed the bar, how do you decide where to look for a job?
As with any profession, geographical location is an important factor. Do you want the 24/7 activity of NYC? Maybe laid-back California, with sun and surf, is more your style. History buffs will do well living and working in Washington, D.C. or Boston. Ski junkies who want to hit the slopes after a long day will be happy to hear that Denver – which has a sizeable legal community – welcomes fledgling lawyers.
The award for overall “best place to live,” which includes wages, buying power index, culture, youthful population, culture, and work/life balance, goes to Washington, D.C. Dallas placed 2nd and Boston 3rd. Seattle and Denver took 4th and 5th, respectively.
Below is a list of the top locations based on the specific parameters of highest median starting salary, buying power index, young people, culture, and work/life balance.
Highest Median Starting Salary
Those wanting to make solid six-figure earnings will find opportunity on the East and West coasts. The seven cities below tie for the highest median annual starting salary: $160,000.
- Washington, D.C.
- Boston, MA
- San Francisco, CA
- Los Angeles, CA
- Mountain View, CA
- Newport Beach, CA
- New York, NY
In contrast, you’ll want to steer clear of Little Rock, AR, Charleston, SC and Oklahoma City, OK. With average earnings of roughly $50,000 per year, they have the lowest average median starting salaries.
Buying Power Index
You’ll get your money’s worth in Dallas, TX, which has the highest buying power.
- Dallas, TX
- Atlanta, GA
- Houston, TX
- Chicago, IL
- Boston, MA
Living in NYC or Los Angeles, however, might mean watching your budget.
Statistics show that the 20 and 30-somethings flock to Alexandria, VA. California – especially the cities of Mountain View and San Francisco – is another hotspot for young people.
Here are the cities with the most youthful crowds. They have the highest percentage of people in the 24-34 age bracket within the overall population:
- Alexandria, VA (24.4)
- Mountain View, CA (21.1)
- San Francisco, CA (20.9)
- Salt Lake City, UT (20.9)
- Seattle, WA (20.8)
In contrast, you’ll find the most mature crowds in Florida, Michigan, upstate New York, and the south.
Five-star restaurants on Friday? Broadway shows on Saturday? Museums on Sunday? If you answered “yes” to those questions, here are the places to go. On a scale of 1-10, they have the best cultures.
- Los Angeles, CA (10)
- New York, NY (10)
- Boston, MA (10)
- Seattle (9.5)
- Chicago (9.5)
- San Francisco (9.5)
But if you like constant activity, you might want to pass on a job Charleston, SC, Jackson, MS and Baton Rouge, LA. They rank lowest, with culture scores between 1 and 3.
If you’re looking for an 8-hour workday, head to the West coast. With many firms in California, Washington, and Utah averaging a 40-hour work week, you can get out and explore. Firms in Minneapolis, MN, and Alexandria, VA also have lower target billable hours than many other cities.
- Seattle, WA
- Oakland, CA
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Minneapolis, MN
- Alexandria, VA
Working overtime and long hours is likely in Miami, New York, and Chicago, where firms average around 2,000 billable hours annually.
In addition to the factors above, there are other things to consider when searching for a job.
- Do lawyers who practice in your area live in your chosen location? Finance lawyers, for instance, are less common in smaller cities, but you will find opportunities in real estate law, personal injury, and family law.
- Where do you want to live five, 10, or 20 years from now? Because it is difficult to switch practice areas once you start practicing, now is the time to think about future goals.
There are many things to think about as you embark on the next chapter of your life, but a little bit of planning and forecasting goes a long way.