Make the Move: Working as a Lawyer in Texas
Naika Quiñones, US Specialist Consultant
On first thought, Texas may not be the most obvious destination for an aspiring lawyer or law firm. However, several economic factors have formed the state into an attractive prospect for the legal sector.
A substantial number of firms have established a presence in the state in recent years. For example, in 2014, Kirkland & Ellis opened their first office in Houston and then their second and third Austin and Dallas in 2021. Vinson & Elkin, Akin Gump, Fullbright & Jaworski, and Baker Botts L.L.P are also amongst the top firms with offices in Texas.
In 2021, firms continued to invest in the state. In June, Los Angeles-founded O’Melveny & Myers and Seattle-based Perkins Coie set up satellite locations. Silicon Valley tech firm Gunderson Dettmer also followed suit in April – an exciting development for a firm that plans to invest continually in Texas and will be very up-and-coming in 2022. Latham & Watkins also invested with a Houston satellite location in August, while in Dallas O’Melveny and Quinn Emmanuel established office spaces.
Whats driving demand?
There has been an increase in corporate relocations over the last few years — more than 300, in fact. This has,in turn, created an abundance of clients for Texas-based law firms. Currently, 95 Fortune 1000 corporations are headquartered in the state, with 41% focused on the energy industry.
Legal market growth can also be attributed to Texas’ lower taxes, business-friendly regulations, diverse economy, and state-offered financial incentives and tax breaks. Although covid-19 has impacted the legal landscape in Texas (like most jurisdictions), it has not tainted its appeal.
Lower operating costs and lower-than-average billing rates, especially compared to New York, offer a distinct competitive advantage for out-of-state firms that set up offices in Texas. This, alongside a low attorney saturation rate, makes AmLaw 200 and NLJ 500 firms well-positioned to grow their presence.
As a result, law firms across Texas’s major markets are actively looking for top talent and are ready and willing to relocate well-qualified lawyers.
Make the move checklist for U.S. Lawyers
Lawyers with U.S. citizenship and are qualified to practice within different states, i.e. New York or California, and will be able to practice within Texas.
Requirement’s state that lawyers will need to:
- Hold a J.D. from an ABA-approved U.S. law school or satisfy each element of a Rule 13 exemption from the law study requirement
- Have a license to practice law in another state
- Be actively and substantially engaged in the lawful practice of law as your principal business or occupation for at least 5 of the 7 years immediately preceding your application
If you have the above, also make sure you:
- Have your transcripts ready! U.S. partners will always ask for academics when assessing a candidate
- Update your CV and send it to a legal recruiter for review
- Do your research on firms you are interested in and get prepared early for the interview stages
Make the move checklist for Foreign Lawyers
Foreign-trained lawyers must pass the bar examination and be admitted to the state they intend to practice. Traditionally, the two most easily accessible bar exams for foreign lawyers have been California and New York. However, the Texas Board of Legal Examiners changed its qualifying rules in 2014 and established itself as one of the three most easily accessible bars for foreign lawyers. Therefore, the Texas Bar Examination now has similar rules to the New York Bar; making it accessible for foreign lawyers who are licensed to practice in their own country or have a first professional degree in law from a Common Law system.
Contact the Texas Board of Law Examiners for more information and:
- Have your transcripts ready! U.S. partners will always ask for academics when assessing a candidate. You will also need all of your transcripts when applying to sit the Texas Bar and completing your foreign evaluation form.
- As above, foreign lawyers need to complete a foreign evaluation form to get their qualifications assessed. Even if you have yet to secure an interview, get this out of the way quickly, as when you do eventually secure an interview, you can let the partners know you have started the process and are committed.
- Do your research on places to live and speak to friends/relatives or even friends of friends to gather information. You will then be able to use this information to demonstrate to partners that you are serious about a move.
Information on bar eligibility requirements and an overview of the bar admission process is available at:
Practice Areas in Demand
- Corporate M&A
- Capital Markets
- Banking & Finance
Lawyers with any experience/specialisms in oil & gas and renewable energy or energy focused transactions will also be looked on favourably by firms.
Cost of Living
Compared to the rest of the country, Texas’s cost of living is 6.1% lower than the U.S. average. The median home cost in Texas is Real Estate: $243,600. Home appreciation for the last ten years has been 6.7%. Although you’ll pay more to live in urban areas, the cost of living in major cities like Austin and Houston is still 2-3% lower than the U.S. average.
Texas is one of eight states without an income tax. There’s no estate tax either. Texas doesn’t have a state-level property tax, but you will have to pay taxes to your local government. According to The Balance, Texans pay one of the highest property tax rates in the country at 1.81%. Taxes are assessed based on your home’s value. So if you own a $200,000 house, you’d owe $3,620 per year, (upnest.com).
Working in Texas
Home of Beyoncé, Matthew McConaughey and old Willie Nelson, Texas is a well-renowned American state. For most, however, when you think of Texas, giant BBQ’s, live country music, rodeo, guns and cowboys come to mind. However, being the second largest state in the United States (after Alaska), this sizeable state features a surprisingly diverse economy that is appealing to both law firm partners and their clients. Lawyers in Texas have the opportunity to engage in everything from start-up work to sophisticated collaborations with Fortune 500 companies and beyond. In addition, all of the large firms pay national scale, so you can make as much in Houston as you did in New York City.
Due to the vast expanse of the state, Texas has diverse climate types that range from arid and semi-arid in the west to humid and subtropical in the east. In general, the summers are hot and humid; the winters are short, cold, dry, and windy; and it is partly cloudy year-round. Over the year, the temperature typically varies from 36°F to 96°F and is rarely below 24°F or above 102°F.
Location & Travel
Texas shares borders with New Mexico in the west, Oklahoma in the north, Louisiana in the east, the Gulf of Mexico in the southeast, and the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Nuevo Leon in the southwest. Therefore, there are opportunities for travel and exploration abound. The Gulf of Mexico is one of the top-rated places to visit near Texas, alongside the Hot Springs of Arkansas and White Sands, New Mexico.
Driving is by far the most common method of travel in Texas. You’d be hard-pressed to get around any of the major cities without a car. However, as the state is so large, in-state domestic flights can make travelling within Texas much easier. American Airlines has its primary hub at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, while Southwest Airlines’ primary hub can be found at Dallas Love Field. Houston International Airport is a hub for United Airlines.
Southwest Airlines and American Airlines (and their American Eagle subsidiary) dominate the skies in Texas, and as a result, you’ll most likely find the best deals with these two airlines.
Train travel isn’t so popular, but it can take away the stress of driving and offer up-close scenic views that you wouldn’t otherwise get by flying. Train travel is slightly slower than driving, but not much so. For instance, you could drive 3.5 hours between Dallas to Houston or take a train ride that’s 4 hours long.
Five facts about Texas
- Texas is popularly known as The Lone Star State
- Texas is the only state to have the flags of 6 different nations fly over it. They are: Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, Confederate States, and the United States
- Dr Pepper was invented in Texas in 1885
- Texas uses its own power grid, separate from the rest of the United States
- Texas is larger than any country in Europe
There are highly compelling reasons to consider Texas as your next destination to further your legal career. From diverse, sophisticated work to its ultra-affordable lifestyle, Texas has a lot to offer those willing to take the leap. So do your research, talk to those who live in the area and get in touch with our specialist U.S. Consultant Naika Quiñones for career advice.