The next few State of the Market posts by Lateral Link, as compiled by Director Gary Cohen, will focus on one of the country’s largest states — Texas.

In general, lateral hiring activity in Texas has increased substantially in the past 12 months, with even greater momentum as we head into 2012. Corporate/securities and IP are the busiest major practice areas across the state; however, there are differences between the Dallas, Houston and Austin markets. Overall, the Houston market is the strongest, followed by Dallas, with Austin a distant third. In all markets, partners with solid books of portable business are viable and firms are always on the hunt for new partner-level talent….

Houston

As always, the energy industry permeates the entire Houston market, affecting most practice areas. When the energy industry is healthy, as it is now, Houston law firms are busy. In addition, new firms are entering the Houston market to try grab a piece of the legal energy pie. Latham & Watkins and Simpson Thacher are just two examples of firms that have opened Houston offices in the last two years, with more rumored to be on the way. The entry of nationally prominent firms into Houston has caused quite a bit of partner and associate dislocation, particularly in transactional practice areas, and we expect this trend to continue.

Consequently, the hottest practice areas in Houston are in the energy transactional areas. Strong candidates with corporate, capital markets, or finance experience have an excellent chance of attracting interest, especially if they have handled energy matters in the past. Patent litigation and patent prosecution are also hot areas, although firms are fairly picky about the technical backgrounds required. Chemical or mechanical engineering experience is important, although candidates with other technical backgrounds might be considered if they have worked on energy-related IP matters.

Commercial litigation remains spotty, with some firms busier than others. We have seen needs appear here and there, but overall there is less demand for litigators (IP excepted) than transactional lawyers. Again, energy-related litigation experience is helpful for litigation candidates looking to make a move.

Other major practice areas are less robust. Tax is very much hit and miss, although a strong transactional tax candidate with energy structuring experience could attract interest at certain firms. Bankruptcy and real estate are slow, although real estate is showing a little bit of a pulse. Real estate will be an area to watch in 2012 if the economy continues to recover, in which event strong, mid-level real estate associates, to the extent they exist, might become coveted.

Feel free to contact any of the recruiting professionals at Lateral Link about law firm and in-house job opportunities. For additional career tips, check out the Career Center, powered by Lateral Link.