By Brian McMahon
Looking forward into 2018, the Minneapolis legal market is ripe for opportunity for law firms, law firm management and lawyers:
Hot Practice Areas in 2018. The two hottest practice areas are corporate and real estate. Mid-level to senior associates and junior partners in these practice areas who have the right background and experience have vast opportunities available to them here, in some cases even if they have little or no portable book of business.
National Firms in the Minneapolis Market. Another national firm came to the Twin Cities on January 1 when Ballard Spahr merged with Lindquist & Vennum. This is the second merger in this market since January 2016 (Fox Rothschild-Oppenheimer was the other), and Ballard Spahr is the third national firm to arrive here in that same period (the other being Jones Day). Ballard Spahr was No. 99 in last year’s AmLaw 100 ranking and its arrival makes it the 20th AmLaw 200 firm to establish a presence in Minneapolis. Minneapolis remains a popular destination for national and regional firms as we know of at least four other national or regional firms that are seriously exploring this market.
National Lawyers in the Minneapolis Market. Young attorneys with family connections to this market who have been practicing elsewhere continue to contact us about opportunities in this market so they can “come home” to practice law. And while these attorneys used to view this market as having only two or three good possibilities in terms of firms where they could practice, they now realize there are several strong relocation options available to them, depending on their practices and numerous other factors. As even stronger proof of the broad appeal of this market, we are starting to hear from young out-of-town attorneys without family or other connections to this market who are interested in moving their practices here. These attorneys see Minneapolis as offering the perfect combination of a vibrant legal community and ideal quality of life.
Associate Salaries. In the summer of 2016, Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York increased its starting associate salaries to $180,000. These salary increases have contributed to profitability pressures at firms that adopted them. These profitability pressures may hit the Minneapolis market this year because more firms city-wide raised associate starting salaries to $140,000 (a few national firms are higher) on January 1. The structure and timing of these salary increases vary from firm to firm, and not every big firm has decided yet whether it will increase associate salaries. These salary increases, coupled with increased pressure at firms to improve profitability generally, will leave firms competing intensely in the lateral market for profitable lawyers and practices. Firms may also continue to support smaller summer associate classes and instead add top associate talent in the lateral market as needs arise.
Brian McMahon is a Managing Director in our Minneapolis office. He represents associate attorneys, individual partners and partner groups in the lateral marketplace and executes focused searches for law firm clients. He helps the attorneys with whom he works find professional happiness by either confirming they are currently at the best place for them or counseling and guiding them into positions that better fit their personal needs and professional goals. He also works with attorneys from other markets who want to explore the entire legal market for opportunities in the Twin Cities. Brian also helps Major, Lindsey & Africa's Midwest In-house Practice Team source clients and candidates for in-house searches in the Twin Cities.