Many Big Law firms have been focusing on expansion in recent years, and in 2022 four cities — Miami, Chicago, Houston, and D.C. — in particular saw more than their fair share of new office openings.
For the most part, these firms were following the business generated by emerging companies and industries expanding into new terrain, but each city had its own unique reasons for attracting the biggest firms:
Miami has been increasingly viewed as a leading legal market following population shifts prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily due to “geographic desirability and an expansion of emerging legal practices that have flourished,” said Joseph E. Ankus, President of Ankus Consulting Inc. “Today, Miami is well-known in some of the technology, data privacy, and crypto spaces as well as . . . in international finance, construction, and private equity.”
According to Ankus, the core practice areas in Miami consist of commercial real estate, complex litigation and arbitration, and corporate transactional work.
"When firms seek to open here, they try to start with one, two, or all three of these areas and expand to include trusts and estates, finance, bankruptcy, data privacy, and cryptocurrency," Ankus said.
Armstrong Teasdale LLP and King & Spalding LLP opened offices in Miami in January of this year, Taylor English Duma LLP and Winston & Strawn LLP opened offices in May, and Kirkland & Ellis announced the lease of a massive 115,000 square foot space in the brand new 830 Brickell building in December.
Chicago is a major financial center, it’s the home of numerous large corporations, and it’s the third-largest city in the country by population.
"Law firms are attracted to the city's robust client roster and the ability to charge premium billing rates," said Zain Atassi, a Chicago-based principal at Lateral Link, a legal recruiting firm. "The cost of living and real estate is also significantly less than in its coastal counterparts like California and New York, which makes it easy for firms to attract talented lawyers from across the country."
Freeman Mathis & Gary LLP and Smith Gambrell & Russell LLP both opened offices in Chicago in March, while Norton Rose Fulbright opened one in April and Phillips Lytle LLP in August.
Texas has long fostered a climate of tax breaks, sparse regulation, and financial incentives for businesses, and companies have increasingly been looking to take advantage of these benefits by relocating to the second-largest state in the country by both area and population, according to Jodi Clausman of Clausman Legal Recruiters, which is based in Houston.
Houston is also a major hub for the U.S. energy industry, and Clausman said companies in the industry inevitably wind up creating a lot of business in finance, M&A, and complex commercial litigation matters for law firms.
Dykema Gossett PLLC opened an office in Houston in February, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP and Kennedys opened offices in July, and FordHarrison LLP opened one in November.
The most common reasons for firms to set up shop in D.C. all involve the federal government. According to Dan Binstock, a partner at D.C. legal recruiting firm Garrison & Sisson Inc., firms are often looking to establish a presence for their regulatory practices and for other practices that involve the federal government, such as investigations and enforcement.
Antitrust, energy, government contracts and relations, health care, international trade, intellectual property, national security, and other government-related practice areas tend to draw firms to D.C. as well.
In March, Armstrong Teasdale, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, and Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP all opened offices in D.C., while Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP and Edelson PC opened in June and Hoffmann & Baron LLP in July.