One of the benefits to earning a law degree is that — as long as you can pass the bar exam — you can practice in any state you’d like after graduating from law school. With the whole country open to you, how do you choose a place to establish your practice?
The National Jurist, a magazine/website that bills itself as the “leading voice in legal education since 1991,” set out to determine the Best Cities for Young Attorneys. In a comprehensive study, it analyzed the standard of living, based on salaries and cost of living; the social scene for people ages 25-34; and the percentage of people living in the city who worked in a legal occupation.
The resulting list of the top 10 shows cities in all areas of the country, from the Northwest to Southwest, Northeast to Southeast and in between. For salary figures, the study used numbers from the National Association for Law Placement’s report on the Class of 2020.
Number of law firms: 1,226
For a young lawyer, Washington, D.C., is the place to be, according to The National Jurist analysis. The city has a large percentage of young people — 23.3% — and 7.32% of the entire population is in legal occupations. The mean salary also tops this list, at more than $176,000. A number of prominent members of the legal community started in Washington, D.C., including Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, per the report.
Number of law firms: 932
For many young people just out of school, Boston gets an A+ in cool. It’s steeped in American history, and it offers cultural diversity, world-class educational and medical facilities, plenty of recreational opportunities, quick access to the beach and mountains to hike not too far away. And don’t forget the experience of watching the Red Sox play at Fenway Park, the beloved 1912 relic that is the oldest ballpark in the major leagues.
Number of law firms: 1,296
Young professionals with big paychecks in San Francisco — the mean attorney’s salary is nearly $171,000 — choose to overlook the city’s high cost of housing in favor of the perks it offers. The number of law firms is plentiful, and the city’s tech industry also can provide an outside-the-box experience for attorneys. But the drawing cards for San Francisco are diversity, a progressive population, the area’s natural beauty, recreation and food. U.S. News & World Report ranks in the No. 1 city for foodies in the nation.
Number of law firms: 1,035
The Georgia state capital comes in third on The National Jurist list where the number of residents in legal occupations is concerned: 3.26%. Atlanta’s housing costs are less expensive than those of Washington, Boston and San Francisco, too. Given the city’s bustling arts and entertainment scene, there’s plenty for young professionals to do.
Number of law firms: 160
Just less than 10 miles separate Washington, D.C., and Alexandria. While its number of law firms is small compared to others on The National Jurist’s list, it was second only to the nation’s capital in terms of percentage of residents in the legal profession: 5.54% to 7.32%.
Number of law firms: 1,100
The city that gave birth to Jimi Hendrix and grunge remains at the top of the cultural scene, between the vast volume of museums and galleries to showcase the visual arts, the Seattle Symphony, dance and the stage through more than 80 theater companies. Join other young professionals in exploring Pioneer Square, known as the city’s first neighborhood, which showcases the arts but also some of Seattle’s great night life. Seattle has the highest percentage of young people (25.5%) on this list.
Number of law firms: 3,081
With nearly 3,100, Chicago is behind only New York and Los Angeles in number of law firms on The National Jurist’s list. Slightly more than 2% of the population of Chicago — the third-largest city in the nation — works in the legal profession. The city has a strong network of young professionals to help with development and networking on the job, and the members probably get together off hours to have some Chicago deep dish pie and take in a Cubs or Bears game.
Number of law firms: 2,619
The fourth-largest city in the United States, Houston is emerging as a food hub, with barbecue taking center stage and Asian, Hispanic and Southern dishes also on the menu. U.S. News & World Report named it one of the 10 best cities for foodies in the nation. Houston also has the lowest cost-of-living index (62.9) on the list. To escape the oppressive summer heat, attorneys can venture through the city’s underground system of tunnels on their lunch breaks to have a meal, get their hair cut or run other errands. The system runs six miles and connects 95 city blocks.
Number of Law Firms: 1,199
Denver’s population popped from 600,000 in the 2010 Census to more than 715,000 in 2020, with millennials leading the Mile High City rush. A December 2021 study from Rent.com ranked Denver the fourth-best city for young professionals, based on the abundance of outdoor activities — including skiing, hiking and climbing — afforded by the Rocky Mountains, as well as everything from the craft breweries to the night life.
Number of Law Firms: 1,719
The home of “America’s Team” — the Dallas Cowboys — is also the home of one of the 10 best places to start a law career, according to The National Jurist study. Many young professionals in Dallas flock to Uptown Dallas to live, taking advantage of its walkability to night life, theaters and parks — plus its relatively low cost of living. With more than 1,700 law firms, the job opportunities undoubtedly exist for lawyers just starting out.
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