While all new attorneys must embark on establishing their careers and securing employment after attaining their licenses, this recessionary economy has made such a rite of passage very challenging. The fact that San Diego's small legal market is comprised of niche practices adds another wrinkle to such a quest. In response, many new attorneys have expanded the markets in which they seek new opportunities. Some San Diego law schools report that at least a quarter of their graduates move out of state. To gain a better understanding of what other legal markets share, in terms of this trend, as well as provide, in terms of incentives, please consider the following article.
Northern California is home to the Golden Gate Bridge, Boudin Sourdough Bread, San Francisco Giants, and “the coldest summer” – Mark Twain. San Francisco has long had a reputation as a free spirited community, surrounded by environmentalists and hippies.
Life is simple in San Francisco, but there are significant issues that most people overlook: expensive housing, privacy issues due to a compact community, expensive parking and restaurants. Furthermore, you would be astonished to discover a simple 2 bedroom, 1 bath - house in the city rents for upwards of $2800. And don’t forget there is typically about 3-inches of free space between the houses.
There are many positive aspects that San Francisco offers: public transportation, weather that is cool – around 60 degrees – all year, a close-knit community, and good schools. These positive and negative aspects offer a great environment, and an interesting legal community.
The San Francisco legal job market is focused around the traditional legal disciplines, rather than Environmental Law. Why you might ask? Simply put, it’s all about the billable hours. This market is far from liberal; in fact it is quite conservative. You can expect to wear a high dollar suit and tie every day – there are no “casual Fridays.”
The Bay Area is home to six ABA law schools: Stanford, UC Berkeley, USF, Golden Gate University, and Santa Clara University. Each law school pushes out around 150-200 students per year – resulting in about 900-1200 law students per year. This huge influx, not all ending up in the Bay Area, results in a highly competitive market. Whereas San Diego is home to three ABA law schools: University of San Diego, California Western, and Thomas Jefferson.
According to the ABA Journal in March 20111, the mean legal salary in San Francisco was $167,130.002. In comparison the San Diego mean legal salary was $143,300.003. One might ask what the significant difference is that yields higher salaries – the apparent difference is the cost of living. And according to salary.com the difference in cost of living is approximately 13.5%4.
San Francisco is a wonderful city to live in if one is willing to give up driving, privacy, and an increased cost of living. But when considering a new legal market to move to, San Francisco has a lot to offer in its highly completive market.
1 March 2011, ABA Journal, What America’s Lawyers Earn, Rachel M. Zahorsky
2 Mean Salary Calculated from approximately 9,790 lawyers
3 Mean Salary Calculated from approximately 5,670 lawyers
4 Using a salary of $100,000.