Boston is a growing and dynamic legal market. Lateral hiring—among new offices and the more established Boston offices—is stronger than ever. If you have a background in tech or the life sciences or if you’re a talented corporate lawyer with any background, you will likely find opportunities in Boston you will not find elsewhere: opportunities that combine sophisticated and cutting edge work, market or above-market pay, a collegial culture and clear pathways for advancement.
New players on the Boston scene
In recent years, numerous international firms have opened new offices in Boston, including Kirkland, Sidley, Wilson Sonsini, Morrison & Foerster, Orrick, and White & Case. All of these firms are hoping to carve out a significant share of the market with respect to Boston’s core industries: tech, biotech, health care, and other life sciences-related businesses.
Sophisticated work, top clients
High profile clients offer challenging and cutting edge work. Clients of the Boston offices include Pfizer, Raytheon, Staples, Biogen, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Timberland, Gillette, Dunkin Donuts, General Electric, State Street Bank, New Balance, Liberty Mutual, Bain Capital, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Keurig Green Mountain, HubSpot, and of course the best sports team in the world, the Boston Red Sox.
The new Boston offices and the established Boston firms are all looking to expand their corporate practices. Most in demand are private equity lawyers—PE M&A, PE finance, and fund formation. Emerging companies and venture capital work is also booming, as well as technology transactions. For intellectual property lawyers with a hard sciences background, there are numerous opportunities. Real estate lawyers have been consistently in demand in recent years. Even capital markets, a traditionally NY-based practice, is gaining ground in Boston.
Salaries and cost of living
Most of the top Boston offices pay New York market salaries, i.e. 1st years start at $190,000. Some of these firms have bonus schemes that will put you above market pay when you bill over the hours target. Pair that with a 5.05% state income tax and no city tax (compared to a combined state and city tax rate above 10% for most New York associates). Furthermore, every dollar goes further in Boston. NALP statistics from 2018 show that $116,820 will buy you in Boston what $180,000 will buy you in New York City.
Pathways to Partnership
Making partner at a major law firm is always difficult and never guaranteed. However, joining a new office or an established office at the start of a growth phase can often give you a leg up when it comes time for advancement decisions. No matter how impressive your legal skills, firms won’t promote unless there’s a business case. Where practices and client bases are growing as they are now in Boston, that business case is more certain.
Needing ties to Boston to find a job in Boston or to succeed in that job is a thing of the past. Of course firms will want some assurance that you won’t just leave after your first winter in Beantown. But they also recognize that bringing in associates with training from other major markets, especially New York, only adds to a firm’s ability to handle the most sophisticated work. They encourage the idea that Boston is no longer just a market for associates “moving home”; Boston has become a destination for lawyers looking to advance their careers.
Despite high standards for hiring, Boston firms are often more flexible than New York firms when it comes to more superficial factors. For example, they will often consider associates outside the traditionally coveted 3-5 years’ experience range, and they will be more willing to relocate associates even without the local bar.
This is an exciting time to work in Boston. Whether you join a new firm to the Boston market or an established Boston firm, you’ll have the chance to be part of building the firm’s practice at a time of real growth and innovation.
It’s important to work with a recruiter who is knowledgeable about the specific market. Lateral Link is unique in that each recruiter specializes in one or just a few markets where we have practiced ourselves and/or where we are on the ground to build relationships with the firms’ key players. I work closely with a wide range of Boston firms. I can help you navigate the lateral hiring trends and can help answer questions such as:
- How important is it that I have the Massachusetts before starting my search?
- When in my career and when in the calendar year is the ideal time to move to or within Boston?
- Would a particular lateral move bring me closer to my ultimate career goals?
- Which Boston firms will be most interested in a candidate with a profile and skill set such as mine?
- Which Boston firms will allow me to broaden/focus my practice?
Please reach out to me at to learn more about the best Boston opportunities for your specific skills and experience.