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What are the true hubs of the legal profession? And where does Washington fit into that mix? The Greater Washington Initiative, a regional economic-development organization, sought to answer these questions and more through a recent study of six major metropolitan areas. What it found was that Greater Washington (the region consisting of the District of Columbia, suburban Maryland, and Northern Virginia) has more than 1.1 million “knowledge workers” � people whose daily job tasks require them to use, analyze, and develop ideas and information. GWI collected and analyzed data for New York, Los Angeles, Greater Washington, San Francisco/San Jose, Chicago, and Boston. It looked at various aspects of the legal profession by researching labor statistics in each area, including average pay, number of employed workers, and potential growth. New York easily had the most legal professionals (lawyers, paralegals and legal assistants, legal secretaries, law clerks, title examiners, administrative judges, court reporters, and judges and magistrates) employed, with more than 130,000 currently working in New York and its environs. Next in line were Greater Washington and Los Angeles, with 60,000 and 58,000 employed legal professionals, respectively. Chicago (45,580), San Francisco/San Jose (32,010), and Boston (22,020) rounded out the list. Even though New York leads in the total number of legal professionals, Greater Washington actually has more legal professionals per capita, with more than 1,100 legal professionals for every 100,000 residents. Employee-to-population ratio is an important piece to the professional puzzle, as it reduces the sheer numbers advantage enjoyed by the largest metropolitan areas. Per person, New York came in second with more than 770 professionals, and San Francisco/San Jose took third with more than 550, narrowly edging out Boston (516). Attorneys, the highest-profile workers in the legal sector, are most populous in New York, with nearly 70,000 lawyers currently working in the metro area. Greater Washington comes in second, with more than 36,000 employed attorneys, more than three times the national average based on concentration ratios. The demand for Greater Washington’s legal work force will continue to grow. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projections, the region’s legal sector is expected to increase by 15 percent by 2014. Regional labor force projections suggest that the region will need almost 20,000 legal workers to fill new positions and replace those leaving the work force. Sixty-three percent of these openings will be for attorneys. One way to attract these much-needed legal workers is with competitive salaries. The highest-paid legal workers are attorneys, and San Francisco/San Jose pays out the most to its courtroom warriors, an average of more than $136,000 annually. Los Angeles comes in a close second, with the average pay for an attorney at $133,000 annually. Although Greater Washington comes in third ($129,000 annually), it leads both San Francisco/San Jose and Chicago in average pay across the entire legal sector, at $98,381. New York actually comes in last, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. HOT MARKET As any job seeker can explain, compensation is not everything. A hot job market plays a key role for new graduates seeking to put down roots and seasoned veterans looking for a change of place. The market does not get much hotter than Greater Washington, with more knowledge workers per capita than any other major U.S. metro area. Greater Washington has experienced remarkable legal sector growth; over the past five years, the legal services sector has grown 3.1 percent annually, versus 1.9 percent for the United States. “The Washington metro area has become one of the most significant magnets for legal professionals in recent years,” says George Boggs, partner at Dickstein Shapiro and member of the board of trustees of the Greater Washington Initiative. “The boom in federal contractors, technology companies, and federal regulatory activity has led to a need for legal professionals from nearly every field and across many disciplines.” That boom has driven Greater Washington’s average annual job growth to far outpace the national average. From 1999 to 2005, Greater Washington’s legal sector grew at a rate of more than 3 percent per year, compared to less than 2 percent nationwide as demonstrated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ findings. Additionally, the Greater Washington Initiative’s Human Capital study shows that this growth will continue for the foreseeable future.
Angie Lawry is director of marketing and communications for the Greater Washington Initiative.

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