Make the Move: Working as a Lawyer in Los Angeles

Written By:
Cecilya Amorim
Marketing Executive
Are you ready to embark on a legal journey that blends career excellence with a sought-after lifestyle? Look no further than the vibrant city of Los Angeles. Renowned for its iconic Hollywood allure, stunning coastline, and dynamic culture, LA offers lawyers a unique blend of professional growth, an inviting climate, and an unmatched quality of life.  

But what’s driving the legal market and how can you advance your career (and life) in this state?  

Legal Market Intel

Los Angeles boasts a legal landscape as diverse as its population. From entertainment law to corporate litigation, the city is a hub of legal activity across various sectors. With prestigious law firms and a thriving entrepreneurial scene, lawyers in LA can engage in groundbreaking cases and collaborate with some of the finest legal minds in the industry.

California firms have relatively small classes of associates compared to New York ( 5-7 summer associates in a class), with relatively smaller teams as a whole. This structure makes them more resilient to big market swings.  

Legal Hiring Trends

During the pandemic, large and midsize law firms embarked on a robust hiring spree. However, this trend has notably decelerated in recent times, leading to layoffs in some firms. Lateral movements within the Los Angeles market have also decreased due to economic uncertainties and potential overhiring in 2022. Despite these challenges, select firms are embracing the opportunity to expand, with Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP planning a 25% attorney workforce growth over the next five years.

Resilience in California

In contrast to the biglaw layoffs witnessed this year, Californian firms that maintained a cautious hiring approach have experienced a resurgence in 2023. The layoffs have spurred midsize firms in the region to proactively build their teams with exceptional talent while emphasizing personal development, a positive work culture, and a balanced lifestyle.

L.A. Legal Lateral Movement

Among major legal markets, Los Angeles stands as the third most active in terms of partner and associate lateral movements, following only New York and Washington, D.C. Overall, there has been a noticeable slowdown when compared to the bustling hiring activity observed in 2021 and 2022, when firms navigated the challenges posed by the pandemic.

List of top 10 largest law firms in L.A

Latham & Watkins - Latham ranks among the biggest law firms globally and holds a prominent position in areas such as corporate transactions, environmental law, financial issues, legal disputes and court proceedings, as well as tax-related services.

Gibson Dunn - Gibson Dunn is renowned among the leading firms in the country, particularly recognized for its robust Appellate Litigation and Securities Litigation divisions. Additionally, the firm excels in areas such as antitrust, mergers and acquisitions, white-collar matters, international matters, private equity, and real estate, among various other practice areas.

O'Melveny & Myers - Having its origins firmly established in California, O'Melveny & Myers has extended its presence across multiple regions, boasting offices in eight countries spanning three continents. This expansion notably includes a recent addition in Texas. The firm has earned a reputation for its expertise in various areas such as antitrust, appellate litigation, entertainment law, labor and employment, patent litigation, products liability, project finance, securities litigation, venture capital, and many other practice areas.

Kirkland & Ellis - Kirkland & Ellis, a prestigious global law firm, has earned a reputation for its excellence in corporate, intellectual property, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, and restructuring practices. With a substantial team of over 3,500 lawyers, the firm consistently garners acclaim as one of the most accomplished in the international legal arena.

Skadden - Skadden stands as one of the globe's most lucrative and renowned law firms, achieving the milestone of being the first to disclose an annual revenue exceeding $1 billion, which has since become a coveted benchmark within the industry. While the firm is prominently recognized for its expertise in mergers and acquisitions, it excels across a wide spectrum of practice areas, backed by a formidable team of nearly 1,700 lawyers worldwide.

Munger, Tolles & Olson - Munger, Tolles & Olson is a prestigious law firm located in Southern California, with offices situated in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. The firm has gained widespread recognition for its exceptional expertise in litigation and employs a rigorous, selective recruitment approach, attracting a significant number of clerks to join its ranks.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan - Quinn Emanuel is a law firm known for its extensive trial experience and a remarkable track record of success, boasting an impressive 86 percent win rate. Their penchant for achieving substantial outcomes is evident in their four verdicts exceeding ten figures, seven exceeding nine figures, as well as 51 nine-figure settlements and 20 ten-figure settlements. It's no surprise that the firm consistently ranks among those with the highest profits per partner.

Paul Hastings - In recent decades, Paul Hastings has transformed from a U.S.-centered mid-sized firm into a global powerhouse, showcasing its prowess in areas such as employment, tax, and business law. Serving prominent clients in over 80 countries, the firm has expanded its footprint with offices in key Asian cities including Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, and Tokyo, solidifying its position as a dominant player in Asian market transactions and legal services.

Sidley Austin - Sidley is a worldwide leader, housing a team of over 2,300 lawyers spread across 21 offices. The firm proudly represents a prestigious clientele spanning various sectors, including energy, financial services, healthcare, insurance, life sciences, sports, media, and technology.

Morrison & Foerster - In 1973, the individuals in San Francisco officially embraced "MoFo" as the nickname for Morrison Foerster, highlighting the firm's unorthodox approach to doing business. However, MoFo is recognized for more than just its unconventional moniker. The firm combines its proficiency in intellectual property, finance, life sciences, technology, and litigation with a substantial presence across the Pacific Rim and, more recently, expanding into Europe.

Other notable firms:

More notable firms in California.  

Hot Practice Areas:

When looking at the current market and recent open roles, the top hot practice areas in the Californian legal market have been:  

  • Intellectual Property (IP): From safeguarding the creative works of Hollywood's entertainment industry to protecting the groundbreaking innovations of Silicon Beach's tech startups, LA's IP practice areas offer an exciting and dynamic environment.  
  • Real Estate: Los Angeles' real estate practice areas offer an exciting blend of high-stakes transactions, diverse property types, and dynamic market dynamics, making it an ideal locale for legal professionals seeking a rewarding and varied real estate law career.  
    Energy and Renewables: In Los Angeles, the Energy and Renewables practice areas are at the forefront of sustainable innovation, providing legal professionals with the opportunity to shape a greener future through advising on clean energy projects, regulatory compliance, and the advancement of renewable technologies.  
  • Environmental Law: Environmental law practice in LA encompasses a wide range of complex issues, offering legal professionals the chance to advocate for environmental sustainability, navigate intricate regulations, and address environmental challenges, making it an intellectually stimulating and impactful field.  
  • Media and Entertainment: Los Angeles' Media and Entertainment practice areas are a vibrant hub where legal professionals could work at the intersection of creativity and commerce, providing counsel to entertainment moguls, artists, and content creators in a dynamic and ever-evolving industry.  
  • Privacy and Data Security: In Los Angeles, the Privacy and Data Security practice areas offer legal professionals a dynamic and critical role in safeguarding sensitive information and navigating the intricate web of privacy laws, ensuring businesses remain resilient in the digital age.

Embracing the LA Lifestyle

Living as a lawyer in Los Angeles is about embracing a dynamic lifestyle and seamlessly combining work and play. From world-class dining to cultural festivals that celebrate diversity, LA offers a multitude of experiences that cater to every interest. Whether you're exploring the trendy boutiques of West Hollywood, enjoying the artistic vibes of Downtown LA, or taking in the ocean breeze in Santa Monica, there's a neighbourhood that resonates with your lifestyle.

Explore the renowned Getty Center for a dose of art and inspiration, catch a Lakers game to immerse yourself in the city's sports culture, or simply unwind in one of the countless parks that the city has to offer.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Los Angeles is relatively high compared to many other cities in the United States. However, as a lawyer you will be able to enjoy all that Los Angeles has to offer.  

Compared to New York City, housing costs in Los Angeles can be more manageable, with more spacious living options for your money. The cost of living in Los Angeles is 19% less expensive than in New York.  

Locations & Transportation

One of the greatest perks of being a lawyer in Los Angeles is the year-round Mediterranean climate. With over 280 sunny days per year, you'll relish a constant dose of Vitamin D. Imagine starting your day with a morning hike in Griffith Park or unwinding after work on the stunning beaches along the Pacific Coast Highway. Los Angeles truly blurs the line between work and leisure.

The most efficient mode of transportation in Los Angeles is by using a car. Los Angeles covers approximately 500 square miles, and even though there is a public transit system available, it has more restricted routes compared to public transit systems in other major cities.

For specific open roles in the practice areas above, head over to our Job Search section top explore your options!

Ready to make your mark in the legal world while basking in the California sun? Contacts us today, for a no-obligation phone call to discuss your journey to professional and personal fulfilment in Los Angeles.