Atlanta isn’t the most obvious destination for attorneys looking to relocate or establish their professional practice. When aspiring lawyers think of where they begin their careers, they tend to imagine themselves in Manhattan or Washington DC—the respective homes of Wall Street and the nation’s capital. Often glorified by television and media such as Suits or House of Cards, the allure of the Capital or Empire State tends to overshadow the Empire State South. That allure is often shattered by the pressure of billable hours, costs of living, and weight of growing a career along with the requirements of life. Atlanta becomes a more attractive choice once those realities kick in.
But why Atlanta? Here are a few reasons why lawyers should seriously consider relocating to Atlanta:
- Atlanta has a growing legal market.
The biggest law firms in Atlanta have been expanding nationally and globally to remain competitive, creating a healthy legal market. Five Atlanta-based law firms are among the country’s 100 highest-grossing law firms (King & Spalding; Alston & Bird; Troutman Sanders; Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart; Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton). There are 23 other Am Law 100 firms with offices in Atlanta with an average increase in revenue of 4.3%, with some of the firms even outperforming the national average.
The average annual starting salary for an entry-level Big Law associate ranges between $145,000 – 150,000; and the median annual salary for attorneys in Atlanta is $90,918, with a range between $78,975-$104,427.
- Lawyers in Atlanta earn comparable salaries to lawyers from other markets.
Atlanta lawyers earn salaries that are comparable to lawyers from other markets. Data from the top 30 legal markets place Atlanta attorneys above the median, ranking at 12.
|San Francisco/Bay Area||2||167,130|
|Orange County/Irvine (CA)||4||157,950|
|San Diego (CA)||17||143,300|
|W. Palm Beach (FL)||30||128,810|
Atlanta’s economy is thriving, which supports a growing legal market.
The state of Georgia has invested a lot to ensure that Atlanta continues to be a leading place to do business. As a result, Atlanta has a lot of career opportunities to offer for all stages of life. The city boasts a young, diverse workforce and companies know they can come to find the employees they need. Atlanta has a 4.9% unemployment rate and is projected to add 1.5 million jobs by 2040. Over 90,000 people—mostly young professionals settling down into their careers—moved to Atlanta in 2016 alone.
Atlanta is also home to the third-most Fortune 500 companies in America. Sixteen of the 18 Fortune 500 company headquarters based in Georgia can be found in metro Atlanta, including Mercedes-Benz, Home Depot, UPS, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines and Aflac. Young professionals flock to Atlanta to join its major industries: agribusiness, energy, film, aerospace and more.
- Atlanta living is easy.
In Atlanta, housing prices are 125.08% cheaper than NYC and 51.9% cheaper than Los Angeles. Atlanta nightlife is composed of a bustling bar scene and a thriving music community, dance clubs, comedy clubs, and much more. The city is also home to its own professional sports teams: the Braves (baseball), the Falcons (football), the Hawks (basketball), and Atlanta United (Soccer). BB&T also hosts the Atlanta Open tennis competition every summer.
Atlanta boasts a very reasonable cost of living, particularly in comparison to other major cities like LA and NYC. Homes can be found on fairly large lots and the cost of building isn’t as high. Renting is also a popular housing choice for residents, with apartment rentals averaging $1,500 per month. The affordable housing cost coupled with the promising career growth has people flocking to the metro area by the thousands.
This is a city known for its southern charm and as a mecca of civil rights and social justice. In 2016, there were 463,878 residents of the city of Atlanta and 5,710,795 residents of the Atlanta metro area. The Atlanta metro area has been declared the fastest-growing metro area in the nation. Over 70 languages are spoken by residents of Atlanta with English as the most commonly spoken language, followed by Spanish, French, Gujarati, Mandarin, and Vietnamese. It also has the third highest LGBT populations per city behind San Francisco and Seattle.
- As a lawyer, you get more bang for your buck in Atlanta.
The relative buying power of the dollar in any two cities is very important when comparing the nominal dollar amounts of the salaries in those two cities. Those interested in this topic might, for example, ask about the “buying power” of a salary of $160,000 in Boston compared to a similar nominal salary in San Francisco. The question becomes, “Which location offers the most buying power?” The answer, and the dollars that accompany it, often translates into discretionary income and lifestyle options for new attorneys.
The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) produced an extremely useful chart for people trying to figure out where to start their Biglaw careers. The NALP data, evaluated over 76 cities, revealing that attorneys in Atlanta have 41% greater buying power than New York attorneys due to the lower cost of living in Atlanta.
Atlanta attorneys have 41% greater buying power than their NYC counterparts, and also beat out San Francisco, Chicago, and Tampa lawyers. The top three cities that give attorneys the most bang for their buck are: Dallas, TX; Wilmington, DE; and Charlotte, NC. Attorneys practicing in cities like Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale on the other hand, have less buying power than attorneys in NYC.
- Warm weather and a great atmosphere to raise a family.
Atlanta’s weather is generally pleasant throughout the year and has a higher percentage of tree coverage than the national average. It’s home to dozens of parks, trails and nature preserves, and the weather makes it easy to explore any day of the year. This makes the city a great place to raise a family. Between restaurants, shopping districts, nature trails and historic sites, it’s tough to run out of things to do. For kids, the area offers zoos, aquariums, gardens, concerts, parks and endless attractions. Many of the suburban public schools are also excellent.
Atlanta is known as HOTlanta for a reason though. Temperatures can get hot over the summer, hitting the mid-nineties with humidity that can make you sweat as soon as you step out the door. On the bright side—winters are mild. Snowstorms can be amusing to transplants because many southern residents do not quite know how to handle the snow.
- The traffic…is a sign of growth.
Okay, so Atlanta traffic is undisputedly on the “con” list. Much of Atlanta is very spread out and intersected by several interstates. On the whole, the city is not very walkable (with an exception of a few neighborhoods and area such as downtown Atlanta, Midtown, Buckhead). Most people own cars and rely on the interstate system, which jams easily from all the traffic, which requires residents to account for additional commute time because of this.
That being said, the world’s most prosperous cities all have bad traffic: Los Angeles, NYC, Beijing, London, etc. The increased traffic flow is a sign of growth. The city has also been investing in public transportation and urbanization projects that should improve the flow of traffic in the coming years.
One of these projects is the “Beltline,” which has been dubbed one of the largest urbanization projects in the nation. The Beltline is a former railway corridor around the core of Atlanta that will be developed into a multi-use trail projected to increase walking, jogging, and bike paths throughout the entire city.
The city is connected by a network of trains and buses (MARTA), and a trip only costs $2.50. Most residents rely on a car, and can keep their state license if they are relocating. Foreign licenses are valid for up to 12 months. Car sharing such options such as Zipcar, Uber, and Lyft are also popular.
Transportation by air is easy and better than many other cities because Atlanta’s Hartsfield–Jackson Airport is the world’s busiest airport by passenger numbers.
A one-way flight from Atlanta to NYC can be as cheap as $75; to Los Angeles for $96; to Vancouver for $136; to London for $259; or to Hong Kong for $562.
Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/atlanta-georgia-skyline-city-70847/