What is the best city for lawyers to move to?

Some might quip, “the farthest one away from here.” Bad lawyer jokes aside, attorneys protect rights and seek justice for their clients from coast to coast. The financial burden that attorneys take on to become defenders of the law is huge–the average law school graduate has $84,000 in debt if they go to a public school and more than $122,000 if they go to a private one.

That means lawyers need to carefully consider which market they will choose to launch their career. So, where can a legal professional get the most bang for their buck?

SpareFoot teamed up with Indeed, the world’s largest job site by users, to find the ten metro areas with the most job listings for lawyers. Indeed also provided us with the average salary data for lawyers in those markets.

We then ranked those cities by the following factors: job availability, average annual salary, median home price and median annual rent. Finally, we combined the rankings (giving double weight to job availability) to determine an overall ranking.

(Median home prices and annual rent sourced from Zillow.)

Below are the results:

10. Los Angeles, CA

la

Lawyers in the City of Angeles enjoy year-round sunshine, kale smoothies and occasionally getting B-listers out of a DUI. While LA may rank towards the bottom of our list in terms of average salary and housing affordability, the California lifestyle is a major perk–if you’re into movie premieres, yoga and celebrity chefs.

Percent share of top ten (rounded): 7% (Ranked 5th)
Average annual salary: $85,000 (Ranked 8th)
Median home price: $554,100
Salary as a percentage of home price: 15.3% (Ranked 9th)
Median annual rent: $31,560
Rent as a percentage of income: 37.1% (Ranked 9th)
Largest law firms by personnel: Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Sheppard Mullin (source)

If you’re considering a move to Los Angeles, check out our Los Angeles Moving Guide.

9. Seattle, WA

seattle

Seattle had the lowest share of jobs among the ten cities with the most attorney job listings on Indeed. While it might be more competitive to find a job here, it is more affordable than LA or San Francisco–just don’t forget to pack your umbrella.

Percent share of top ten (rounded): 5.2% (Ranked 10th)
Average annual salary: $86,000 (Ranked 7th)
Median home price: $521,400
Salary as a percentage of home price: 16.5% (Ranked 7th)
Median annual rent: $28,752
Rent as a percentage of income: 33.4% (Ranked 8th)
Largest law firms by personnel: Perkins Coie, Davis Wright Tremaine, K&L Gates (source)

If you’re considering a move to Seattle, check out our Seattle Moving Guide

8. San Francisco, CA

sanfran

Lawyers in San Francisco are the highest paid according to job listings on Indeed, with an average salary of $107,000. The downside is that housing costs will absorb a big chunk of that pay bump, with the city coming in last place on for both measures of housing affordability.

Percent share of top ten (rounded): 7.8% (Ranked 4th)
Average annual salary: $107,000 (Ranked 1st)
Median home price: $806,300
Salary as a percentage of home price: 13.3% (Ranked 10th)
Median annual rent: $52,248
Rent as a percentage of income: 48.8% (Ranked 10th)
Largest law firms by personnel: Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Fenwick & West, Morrison & Foerster (source)

7. Dallas, TX

dallas

Dallas attorneys might not take home as much as most of the other cities on the list, but at least it doesn’t cost much to rent or buy a home. The average salary of $81,000 covers 61.5 percent of the median home price. Meanwhile rental rates only take up less than 20 percent of a lawyer’s annual salary. Not to mention the BBQ is delicious.

Percent share of top ten (rounded): 5.8% (Ranked 9th)
Average annual salary: $81,000 (Ranked 9th)
Median home price: $131,800
Salary as a percentage of home price: 61.5% (Ranked 2nd)
Median annual rent: $15,444
Rent as a percentage of income: 19.1% (Ranked 3rd)
Largest law firms by personnel: Haynes and Boone, Thompson & Knight, Locke Lord (source)

If you’re considering a move to Dallas, check out our Dallas Moving Guide

6. New York, NY

nyc

The Big Apple dominates when it comes to the percent share of openings for lawyers–positions at New York law firms took up more than 29 percent of the total job listings in cities on our list. The pay is pretty good too, coming in 4th place at $96,000 a year on average. Rents are also more affordable than half the cities on our list. You might have to cross the tunnel into New Jersey for the cheapest rent, which might lead some to say “fuggedaboutit.”

Percent share of top ten (rounded): 29.4% (Ranked 1st)
Average annual salary: $96,000 (Ranked 4th)
Median home price: $599,900
Salary as a percentage of home price: 16% (Ranked 8th)
Median annual rent: $27,540
Rent as a percentage of income: 28.7% (Ranked 5th)
Major law firms: DLA Piper, Jones Day, Dentons

5. Washington, DC

kstreet

The nation’s capital ranked high on our list for job availability, which should come as no surprise if you have any idea how our government works. D.C. lawyers make good money too, tying for third place with the number one city on our list. However, housing is a bit pricier in the metro area compared to others, especially if you plan to rent.

Percent share of top ten (rounded): 12.8% (Ranked 2nd)
Average annual salary: $99,000 (Ranked 3rd *tie*)
Median home price: $500,300
Salary as a percentage of home price: 19.8% (Ranked 6th)
Median annual rent: $30,300
Rent as a percentage of income: 30.6% (Ranked 7th)
Largest law firms by personnel: Covington & Burling, Hogan Lovells U.S., Arnold & Porter (source)

4. Boston, MA

boston

Bean Town lawyers make an average annual salary of $100,000, according to job listings on Indeed. That’s the second best among other cities on the list, which is wicked good. A median priced home in this market will only take up a fifth of the average income, which is another plus.

Percent share of top ten (rounded): 6.9% (Ranked 6th)
Average annual salary: $100,000 (Ranked 2nd)
Median home price: $468,000
Salary as a percentage of home price: 19.8% (Ranked 5th)
Median annual rent: $30,036
Rent as a percentage of income: 30% (Ranked 6th)
Largest law firms by personnel: Ropes & Gray, Goodwin Procter, WilmerHale (source)

3. Chicago, IL

chicago

Chicago does quite well, ranking in the top five on all factors. The Windy City accounted for 12.5 percent of job openings among the cities on our list. Chicago came in fourth place for both home affordability and rental affordability. That makes Chicago a good choice for budget-conscious lawyers, whether you plan on busting unions or defending them.

Percent share of top ten (rounded): 12.5% (Ranked 3rd)
Average annual salary: $95,000 (Ranked 5th)
Median home price: $200,200
Salary as a percentage of home price: 47.5% (Ranked 4th)
Median annual rent: $19,920
Rent as a percentage of income: 21% (Ranked 4th)
Largest law firms by personnel: Kirkland & Ellis, Sidley Austin, Mayer Brown (source)

2. Houston, TX

houston

Similar to Dallas, Houston’s big draw is affordability. Houston ranks higher on our list than its Texas neighbor thanks to its higher average pay and job availability. Yet another shot fired in the longstanding rivalry between these two metropolises.

Percent share of top ten (rounded): 6.1% (Ranked 8th)
Average annual salary: $90,000 (Ranked 6th)
Median home price: $141,300
Salary as a percentage of home price: 63.7% (Ranked 3rd)
Median annual rent: $16,932
Rent as a percentage of income: 18.8% (Ranked 2nd)
Largest law firms by personnel: Vinson & Elkins, Norton Rose Fulbright, Andrews Kurth (source)

If you’re considering a move to Houston, check out our Houston Moving Guide

1. Atlanta, GA

atl

I hope you like your waffles with fried chicken and your tea with heaping spoonfuls of sugar. Atlanta topped our list thanks to having a strong average salary for lawyers coupled with the most affordable rental rates relative to the others on our list.

Percent share of top ten (rounded): 6.6% (Ranked 5th)
Average annual salary: $99,000 (Ranked 3rd *tie*)
Median home price: $179,000
Salary as a percentage of home price: 55.3% (Ranked 3rd)
Median annual rent: $16,728
Rent as a percentage of income: 16.9% (Ranked 1st)
Largest law firms by personnel: King & Spalding, Alston & Bird, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton (source)

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Alexander Harris