Southeastern Law Firms: State of the Market in Charlotte & Atlanta

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Earlier this year, I was honored to be invited to speak before the Recruiting Association of Charlotte at their monthly meeting held on February 11th.  The Recruiting Directors of almost all the Charlotte law firms (both AmLaw national firms and reputable NC boutique firms) attended this roundtable discussion.   They invited recruiters from four agencies to present on a range of topics regarding the lateral hiring trends from 2019 and what trends to anticipate in 2020.

After the presentation concluded, we enjoyed a lovely lunch and chatted on a more personal level.  The conversation turned to the upcoming NALP* conference in Montreal. . .Plans were made to meet up for Happy Hours, etc.  We all shook hands or gave each other a friendly hug as we said our goodbyes.

Wow, what a difference a few weeks can make!  Little did we know what was coming around the bend with COVID-19.  In-person meetings, shaking hands or (gasp) hugging people goodbye. . .all things of the past!  The first few weeks of the pandemic obviously posed significant challenges for law firms.  Their efforts were focused on transitioning everyone to the new normal of working remotely and hiring took a back seat for a few weeks.  The good news is that this appears to be a temporary halt on hiring.

Southeastern based law firms are poised to weather the current economic climate quite nicely.

Charlotte is home to the corporate HQ of Bank of America, Truist Financial (formed by the 2019 merger between BB&T and SunTrust) and the east coast operations of Wells Fargo, making it the second largest banking center in the United States.   Unlike the recession of 2008/2009, banks are more flush with cash and will sustain the effects of COVID-19.

21 companies on the Fortune 500 List are headquartered in Atlanta.  These companies run the gamut and are not focused on any particular industry; a list that includes Home Depot, Coca-Cola, UPS, NCR and Delta Airlines.

Overall, the general consensus is that law firms in both Charlotte and Atlanta are planning to be bullish in this market.  One Southeastern based firm that fared extremely well in the last recession has plans to hire with a vengeance on both the Associate and Partner fronts as soon as the shelter in place mandates are lifted.   Clients in both Charlotte and Atlanta are continuing to move forward with interviews via WebEx or Zoom.  In fact, firms are extending offers to Associates and successfully onboarding Associates even without a face-to-face meeting.

Openings in Charlotte:

  • Corporate/Capital Markets – 9 openings, all levels
  • Cybersecurity – 1 opening, requiring at least two years’ experience
  • Labor and Employment or Executive Comp and Benefits – multiple openings, particularly for mid-level and senior associates
  • Commercial Real Estate– 3 openings, requiring at least three years’ experience
  • Bankruptcy/Restructuring – 1 opening, requiring three to five years’ experience

Openings in Atlanta:

  • Commercial Litigation – 8 openings, all levels
  • Healthcare – 3 opening, requiring at least two years’ experience
  • Labor and Employment or Executive Comp and Benefits – 5 openings, particularly for mid-level and senior associates
  • Corporate/Finance– 5 openings, requiring at least three years’ experience
  • Bankruptcy/Restructuring – 1 opening, requiring three to five years’ experience

Generally, candidates should have top credentials and BigLaw experience.  Southeastern firms are always interested in bringing on talented Associates from major markets, particularly from New York/DC/CA.  In fact, a few firms in the Southeast almost exclusively hire lateral Associates from other markets.   Please reach out to me at  to discuss any of the opportunities above.

As always, partners with portable business will remain in demand as firms depend on their revenues to carry others during downturns.

*The NALP conference scheduled for April 27-May 1 has been canceled.