Lawyer Pay

Some Texas law firms are offering signing bonuses as high as $500K to lateral associates

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The demand for legal talent in Texas is so strong that some law firms are paying signing bonuses as high as $500,000 to hire the most experienced associates from other firms.

The Texas Lawbook has coverage in an article published by the Houston Chronicle.

The Texas Lawbook interviewed leaders at more than two dozen law firms, who said they are looking to hire more lawyers, sometimes as many as a couple dozen. The firms report a need for attorneys in areas that include mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, real estate and complex commercial disputes.

The demand is due to a combination of more work and moves into Texas by several major law firms, which tend to poach lawyers from other firms in the state, rather than hire them from elsewhere.

Travis Wofford, vice chair of the global corporate legal practice at Baker Botts, told the Texas Lawbook that his law firm had a 24% increase in new clients between January and the end of July.

“There is an economic transition taking place in Texas, and law firms are front and center and are going to have to meet the demand,” Wofford said. “It has been insane. We are doing deals at a near record pace.”

Kevin Lewis, co-managing partner of Sidley Austin’s Houston office, said his law firm is also seeing a big increase in work.

“We have hired a dozen lawyers the past few months, and we have a dozen new lawyers starting this next week, and we need several more right away,” he told the Texas Lawbook. “Between 1998 and 2000, tech was going crazy keeping us all busy. Now, it is every practice group. I have never seen anything like this.”

In a story published in June, reported on signing bonuses—as well as retention bonuses and referral fees paid to lawyers who bring new associates on board. The money was being paid in an effort to snag midlevel associates in mergers and acquisitions, private equity and capital markets.

Legal recruiters told that typical signing bonuses range from $10,000 to $50,000, which are paid in addition to make-whole payments for special bonuses and year-end bonuses. Some of the signing bonuses were contingent on an associate staying with the new firm for six months to a year, however.

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