The strongest market in Texas is Houston, with some of the strongest candidates being those with corporate, capital markets, or finance experience. A close second is Dallas, which is also the focus of this post….
The Dallas economy is more diversified than the energy-dependent Houston economy, and as a result, hiring needs tend to differ quite a bit from firm to firm. Overall, there has been no one practice area that has been predominant in the same manner as the energy transactional areas in Houston. But the Dallas economy is strong, and candidates with excellent credentials and experience have a chance to make a move in most major practice areas.
The two busiest practice areas have been corporate/securities and IP litigation. Midlevel corporate lawyers with M&A and securities experience are in demand, although firms can be picky with respect to the exact experience they need. On the IP side, there is a need for patent litigators of all levels, with technical degrees and experience in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and/or computer science required in many cases. There is a smaller need for patent prosecutors with these same technical backgrounds.
Similar to Houston, commercial litigation is spotty. To the extent that there are commercial litigation needs around the city, junior and midlevel candidates have a better chance than senior associate candidates.
There is little urgency to find tax associates, although very well qualified transactional tax candidates might attract some interest. Bankruptcy and real estate are the slowest major practice areas. However, several firms have told us that their real estate sections are much busier, and that they are thinking about hiring. Thanks to the recession, few experienced real estate associates exist in the classes of 2006-08, so to the extent they need associate laterals in 2012, firms will likely need to either hire more senior or more junior associates or look at midlevel candidates who have been doing contract work or working at small firms.
We will be watching to see if new firms enter the Dallas market in 2012. As mentioned previously, several firms have recently established a presence in Houston, and it will be interesting to see if these same firms or others decide to move into Dallas. If so, Dallas could see similar upheaval as Houston as these new firms woo local partners and associates.
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