While the Dallas-Fort Worth area has traditionally been a booming economic market in general and a growing legal market more specifically, the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have somewhat shifted the city’s traditional legal efforts. Financial services, commercial real estate, and litigation have suffered somewhat, but they’ve begun to recover from the worst effects of the pandemic.
In recent years, January 1 saw attorneys starting the New Year without their traditional bonuses. However, in 2021, firms began to aggressively raise rates, leading to intense competition and marketplace reorganization in cities across the country, Dallas included. Following you will find a snapshot of the state of the Dallas legal market.
Where Lawyer Hiring is Taking Place
An advantage of the nation beginning to exit the economic doldrums caused by the novel coronavirus is that multiple legal specialties have rebounded. Firms of multiple sizes, specializations, and position types have begun looking for qualified candidates to fill vacancies. Reviewing Dallas/Fort Worth job postings on Indeed and Texas State Bar website showed positions in fields such as insurance defense, family law, litigation, estate, and more across firms of every size. Positions included assistant and paralegal positions, as well as associate attorney and vice-presidential openings.
Demand for talent has put employees in the proverbial driver’s seat. Those satisfied with their positions can likely enjoy the benefits of increased hourly billing rates, while legal talent wanting to make a move will discover ample opportunities. Given significant turnover in the previous year — up one-quarter according to the Thompson Reuters Institute’s 2022 Report on the State of the Legal Market — job changers may enjoy significant leeway in both selecting salaries and determining the way in which they work.
However, despite the advantages that legal job seekers have in the current environment, some firms in the Dallas legal market enjoy increased stability and talent retention. Contrary to popular wisdom, the firms with the least turnover seem to be those with lower hourly rate growth and higher billable hours worked. The reasons why legal talent is sticking with firms that tend to have slower earnings growth and more work aren’t entirely clear. (Theories range from intangible benefits to a sense of loyalty shown by employees.) One thing is sure, though: Additional funds alone won’t always convince attorneys to make a switch.
How Dallas is Faring Compared to Other Cities
Despite the challenges of exiting the pandemic, Dallas remains one of the fastest growing legal markets in the country, as well as one of the best cities in which to live. Georgetown Law notes that “there are multiple distinct legal markets [in Texas], and the largest are Houston and Dallas.” While Houston is larger according to every metric, Dallas offers benefits all its own, especially for attorneys. “Dallas is the 9th largest city in the US, with the second largest legal market in Texas. Dallas also has a diverse legal market and is not as energy-dependent as Houston. The Dallas legal market is also relatively open to newcomers who do not have strong ties to Texas.”
Texas as a whole also offers many opportunities for new and established attorneys alike. One of the Lone Star State’s great benefits is that it isn’t saturated with legal talent. Legal consultancy firm ALM Intelligence found that “Texas’ relatively low lawyer per capita [rate] provides an opportunity for firms to establish and expand their presence within the state.” The number of attorneys per 10,000 residents in Texas averages around 31.5, which is distinctly below that of states such as New York (93.71), Illinois (49.50), Louisiana (44.24), and California (43.05). Indeed, it’s also below the national average of 41.22.
Dallas itself seems poised to continue to develop and grow, making it one of the country’s best legal markets. WalletHub discovered that it was the fourth most diverse city in America, bringing with it the economic and cultural advantages of a multi-faceted community. The Milken Institute has placed Dallas in the top five of its Best-Performing Cities index, an index that “measures the economic vitality of 200 large metros and 201 small cities. Metrics include growth in jobs, wages and salaries, and technology output. The rankings help policymakers, investors, and companies understand where local economies are thriving.” Similarly, Forbes placed Dallas right behind Seattle and right ahead of Raleigh on its “The Best Places For Business And Careers” list, awarding it the number-two spot.
D-Town (as Dallas is sometimes colloquially called) offers more than mere economic growth. People in general and professionals in particular frequently want to move there for cultural reasons as well as economic. U.S. News & World Report placed it at number 32 on its “Best Places to Live” list, saying, “Offering both big-city excitement and quiet, suburban living, the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area has an interesting mix of Texas pride and cosmopolitan offerings. … Those who live in Dallas and Fort Worth tend to be young professionals, while the surrounding suburbs are largely filled with young families who want both a close-knit community and easy access to the cities. People from both demographics are flooding the area, and the population has swelled from about 5.8 million people in 2005 to more than 7 million people today. New developments have drawn in both families looking for their dream home and professionals looking to advance their careers.”
Population Changes that could Impact Attorneys in Dallas
That growth and the concomitant changes it brings with it means that Dallas remains one of the best legal markets for attorneys. In fact, the city’s population increase is more dramatic than many realize. Nonprofit USAFacts notes, “The population of Dallas County, Texas in 2021 was 2.6 million, 8.9% up from the 2.4 million who lived there in 2010. For comparison, the US population grew 7.3% and Texas’s population grew 17% during that period. … Dallas County’s population increased 9 out of the 11 years between year 2010 and year 2021.”
Those numbers have a direct impact on the area’s economic output. Statista reports that the GDP of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area was $477.02 billion in 2020. Compare that to the entire state’s GDP, which was $1.9 trillion in 2021, and you begin to see the importance of Dallas: It’s contributing roughly a quarter of Texas’ economic output — and that’s no easy feat.
Because we’re Texas-based legal recruiters who prioritize long-term legal relationships, we understand how the Dallas legal market works and how you can join it. Our experienced legal recruiters have placed hundreds of legal professionals over the course of their careers as legal recruiters, and if you’re interested in a Dallas legal career, we can help. Contact us today!