Austin is known for many things: it’s “weirdness”(though some would argue it’s not nearly as weird as it used to be), internationally attended festivals (SXSW, Austin City Limits), the University of Texas, live music and the technology industry.
Oh, and El Arroyo’s restaurant signs (and food). They are legendary around these parts.
Tech is driving Austin’s growth, though it’s not new to Austin. Dell has called the Austin area home for many a decade and tech companies have been incubating in Austin for years. However, something new IS happening in Austin, a major tech boom that some say is evocative of Silicon Valley’s early years.
Over the past few years, hundreds (if not thousands) of tech-focused companies have relocated their headquarters, expanded, or established major operating centers in Austin. These include massive tech companies like Apple, who have announced their plans to expand their presence in Austin with a $1 billion new campus. Apple’s not alone – Google, Facebook and Oracle all have large offices in the Austin area.
Along with the giants, hundreds of start-up and emerging growth companies have relocated to Austin in the last year. In September 2018 alone, eleven companies relocated or expanded their footprint in Austin. 2019 is showing no signs of slowing down — Residio, for example, has announced the relocation of their headquarters to Austin in 2019. The companies are rolling in.
Tallying up all the tech activity in Austin is beyond the scope of this article, but Austin is undergoing a massive tech boom. It’s a cycle that is continuing to perpetuate itself and it looks something like this:
Tech Companies = Jobs = Skilled workers move to Austin = Massive talent pool = Attracts even more tech companies
Rinse and repeat
So what does this mean for law firms and lawyers in Austin? Growth, of course!
Austin is home to several offices of AmLaw 200 firms in addition to boutiques and midsized firms that cater to tech and emerging growth companies. Several AmLaw 200 firms have opened offices in Austin in the past three years, and the ones that are already in Austin have been increasing their headcount over the past few years.
Our law firm clients are telling us the same thing we are seeing in the statistics: The Austin legal market is growing by leaps and bounds. Here is what I see for Austin in 2019 and beyond:
1) More opportunities for lateral attorneys in Austin. Austin is an attractive proposition for companies, but it’s also an attractive proposition for attorneys that provide legal services to these companies.
Many of the firms we work with have told us most of the attorneys they are interviewing for their Austin roles are from out of state. There are a finite number of attorneys in Texas, and Austin has always recruited lateral candidates from other geographies. Texas has a MUCH lower cost of living than many other major cities on either coast, particularly when it comes to the cost to rent or buy real estate. It also offers the “cool” factor mentioned above – great personality, culture, food etc. Attorneys can get all of that AND still get paid at Cravath levels at major law firms. Also, there’s a chance to build a client base in Austin because the clients are there. It’s a good combo – same compensation, access to the excellent client base, and your dollars stretch much further in Austin. And margaritas. Don’t forget the margaritas.
2) Growth in a multitude of practice areas. Sure, with the influx of tech companies comes the more obvious practices (emerging growth, start-up), but there’s a “trickle down” effect of all the practices related to tech. Venture funds are pouring money into Austin-based companies (hello fund attorneys!). Intellectual property protection and litigation follow the innovations these companies bring. Data Security and Privacy is always in demand across a multitude of industries, but particularly those in the tech and financial services space. FCPA and White Collar come into play. I expect all of these practices to deepen in Austin, creating opportunities for attorneys in a variety of practices.
3) A bigger AmLaw 100 presence in Austin. Yep, the AmLaw 100 has been moving into Texas, with dozens of firms opening offices in recent years. Prior to now, those have primarily been in Dallas and Houston. As Shearman & Sterling and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe (and others) have demonstrated, Austin is a solid destination for a Texas-based office of an AmLaw100. We will see more AmLaw 100 firms seeking out Austin as their Texas footprint, along with the continued expansion of the existing AmLaw 100 Austin offices.
I’ve been working with firms and placing partner and associate level talent in Austin (and other markets) for over ten years, and I’m excited to see what the next ten years bring to this dynamic city. If you have any questions on the Texas market, feel free to reach out to me or our recruiting team at Lateral Link.