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How Boston Became a Beacon on the Hill to Big Law

Meghan Tribe Law.com

Two hundred years ago, the area now known as the Seaport District in South Boston was a muddy mess. In fact, until the 1800s, most of it was underwater.

The neighborhood has lived many lives in the interim, transitioning over the 20th century from a bustling shipping harbor to a desolate haven for abandoned warehouses. Over the past decade, it’s been reinvented once more, experiencing its own renaissance in line with the changes taking place across industries in Boston.

What was a heavy manufacturing town just 40 years ago is now a destination for entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on the city’s burgeoning health care, biotechnology, life sciences and technology sectors. Boston’s financial sector has also blossomed, and its private equity sector is one of the strongest in the nation. All that growth has, in turn, created a booming market for legal services.

The environment leads to more lateral moves in the city, further stoking competition over rates and creating a welcome cycle for smaller firms. But it’s not all smooth sailing. To a certain degree, smaller firms do have a cost advantage, but to remain competitive they need to be confident in identifying their niche and recognizing their strengths, says Robert Zinn, a Boston-based legal recruiter with Major, Lindsey & Africa. In order to remain viable in the face of a Big Law influx, they need to be nimble and find opportunities where they exist and take advantage of them.

“It’s opened the eyes of these firms, especially the traditional, old-line firms,” he says. “The bar is raised with the entry of these other Am Law firms. There’s more competition in the backyard than there used to be.”

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