March Madness 2010

ATL March Madness: The Four Best Cities for Lawyers Face Off

After two weeks of urban analysis, voting, and ample trash-talking, we have finally arrived at the ATL March Madness Final Four. Giants have fallen along the way.

New York was cut down by Washington, D.C. Dallas did away with two Southern belles. San Francisco proved its supremacy over the other cities of the West Coast. Chicago had the easiest path to the finals — the Midwest is the weakest conference.

Here is how these four cities made it to the Big Dance:

Chicago, D.C., Dallas and San Francisco duke it out, and we provide commentary, after the jump.


Kash here. When it comes to commentating on D.C., I’m like Dick Vitale talking about Duke. (Translation for non-sports fans: I’m biased.)

I lived in D.C. for five years and have not ever blown through the Windy City. So I decided to check in with a lawyer friend who has lived in both places. Here are ten of his arguments in favor of the Second City:

1. Cost of living – Associates can eat anywhere and buy a home anywhere in Chicago. D.C. associates with a hankering for home ownership: enjoy Silver Spring.

If you’re content with a condo though, Logan Circle and U Street are the hot spots for young, hip, legal types.

2. Size of city – There are more than 3 places to live and 2 neighborhoods to go out. And unlike DC, Chicagoans actually enjoy socializing more than working!
3. People leave their work at work… nobody wants to talk about whether you closed a big deal or shepherded the “Fixes” bill through the Senate.
4. Related: it is not awesome that you caught a glimpse of Nancy Pelosi going to lunch at Union Station. I don’t care that your girlfriend’s cousin’s old professor is counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Unless you know Mayor Daley and can have him clear all the trash out of the alley behind my house, let’s just drink these beers and stop talking about who we know.
5. Fewer lawyers per capita = more cachet at the bar (“Hi, I’m an attorney…”)
6. Midwestern nice. You can freely cut people off and be assured that the worst response will be (maybe) a narrowing of the eyes.
7. More dumb people (relatively) – so if you’re smart (or even smart-ish), you can really clean up in your professional and personal life!

Really — hanging out with dumb people is an upside?

8. Chicago’s just… laid back. And that’s a good thing.
9. Too many Duke and UVA grads in DC, i.e., too much pastel, which correlates strongly to douchebaggery.

For the record, as a Duke grad, I’m offended, and attribute all douchery to the UVA grads who abound in D.C. Duke kids do not reminisce about horse races.

10. Obama is from here

Okay, this commentator has played for the other team too. Here’s what he has to say about the advantages of life in DC (besides the weather):

1. Variety of law jobs in DC. Private practice, fed gov’t, in-house, lobbying, major non-profits. No variety in Chicago. You can defend the Fortune 500 of the midwest, be a PD or work for corrupt Cook County. And the in-house jobs are all in depressing office parks in Chicago’s suburban wasteland.
2. You know more lawyers therefore you know more people who could get your sorry ass off the unemployment line.
3. Chicago has too many Big 10 grads, i.e., too many male (and female) beer guts and too many college sweatshirts
4. Being a lawyer in Chicago means having to watch all of the city’s non-lawyers leave every day at 5:01 p.m. In DC, EVERYONE works until 9 p.m.
6. People in DC recognize that lawyers are (or at least can be) powerful – therefore being a lawyer actually has more cachet in DC.
7. Being on the eastern seaboard is way better… let’s see, quick train trip to NYC or quick train trip to St. Louis?
8.The EL may be the worse public transportation in any major U.S. city. By contrast, the Metro rocks.
9. DC’s a power center. Chicago… not so much.
10. Obama lives here.

Who do you want to send to the Finals on Monday?


Elie here. It’s almost impossible to compare these two cities. They might as well be two different countries. Do you want to live in Mexico, or France? Who knows, probably depends on what language you speak.

But, this isn’t just a contest of which city you’d most like to live in — it’s a contest of which city you’d most like to practice in. What are the firms like in these cities?

When you think of San Francisco, you could think of firms like O’Melveny, Orrick, MoFo, Latham. Sure, those are firms that have had massive layoffs. But that’s the upside of the San Francisco market.

The downside are firms like Brobeck, Heller, Thelen. You know, firms that no longer exist. The terrifying thing about San Francisco isn’t the earthquakes, it’s the possibility that one day your actual job will break up and slide into the ocean.

Dallas firms have been more stable during the recession. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been milk and honey at the Baker Botts and Locke Lords of the world. But at least they’re here.

But is there any national prestige for those working in Dallas? I know Texans tend to think of their state as a country unto itself — but assuming you ever want to go north of Oklahoma, do Dallas credentials travel?

Where would you rather stake your career? The slow, steady pace of Dallas, or the comet-like existence of a Bay-area firm? I’d risk blowing up for the chance to set the sky on fire, but I’m more risk-loving than your average lawyer.

Earlier: ATL March Madness 2010

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