Have questions like “What states need lawyers the most?” or “Where do the best lawyers live?” been running through your mind lately? Your choice of where to establish your legal career will significantly influence your professional trajectory, affecting everything from your living expenses to job prospects.

In this blog, we dive into the essential factors that every attorney should consider before settling down. We will also highlight five standout states that offer exceptional prospects for legal professionals. Whether you’re a fresh graduate or an experienced lawyer looking to relocate, our insights will help guide you to make an informed decision about where to advance your career in law.

What Factors Influence the Best States for Lawyers?

Where you choose to practice law can substantially impact nearly every facet of your life and career. Some of the most significant factors include:

  • Earning Potential: It’s a simple fact: lawyers earn more in some places than in others. Some areas offer more opportunities and higher earning potential, while others may be less lucrative.
  • Cost of Living: Your expenses will vary based on geography. For instance, setting up shop in a high-cost city like San Francisco means you’ll need to aim for the more profitable roles to sustain a comfortable lifestyle. Conversely, less expensive areas might offer more flexibility in job choices without the pressure of exorbitant living costs.
  • Bar Exam Pass Rate: The bar exam pass rate is the percentage of candidates who pass the bar exam in a jurisdiction, with the overall pass rate including all takers and the first-timer pass rate counting only those taking it for the first time. These rates are crucial for aspiring lawyers to consider when choosing where to live, as they reflect both the difficulty of the bar exam and the effectiveness of legal education in that area.
  • CLE Requirements: CLE, or Continuing Legal Education, requirements vary by state and dictate the number of educational hours an attorney must complete to stay licensed. In states with high CLE requirements, attorneys may find themselves dedicating several days a year to courses. Therefore, when choosing where to practice, attorneys might favor states with more manageable CLE demands to ensure they can focus more on their clients and less on fulfilling mandatory educational credits.
  • Market Saturation: Consider if the area is saturated with law firms. For example, New York and Maryland have the highest saturation of lawyers according to the American Bar Association (ABA), which could mean stiffer competition. In contrast, rural areas or smaller towns may offer a larger market share but potentially less complex legal work.
  • Practice Areas in Demand: Some regions may have a higher need for certain legal specialties. For example, a corporate lawyer may find more opportunities in states with a large number of businesses, while areas with a booming real estate market could be lucrative for property law experts.
  • Work-Life Balance: The local culture can affect work hours and expectations. Some cities have a notorious “burnout” culture while others may support a more balanced approach to work, which is crucial for long-term career satisfaction.

By considering these factors in tandem with your career goals and personal preferences, you can make a well-rounded decision on where to establish or continue your legal practice. With all that in mind, let’s take a closer look at five states that offer promising rewards for any attorney. 

What Is the Best State to Work in as a Lawyer?

Consider these five states as some of the best places in the country to practice law.

1. New York

New York offers a compelling mix of professional and lifestyle advantages for lawyers. It’s not only a bustling, diverse metropolis but also a leading financial center, rivaling London and drawing a myriad of international firms and talent. The state’s reputation as a commercial hub enhances its standing as one of the best states to practice international law, where lawyers can engage with global markets and navigate cross-border legal complexities.

Lawyers enjoy one of the highest national salary averages in the Empire State. However, the generally high cost of living makes this number seem a bit smaller in context. The state’s legal landscape is diverse, offering paths for specialization and career advancement that can be hard to find elsewhere. And because New York serves as a central stage for high-profile legal issues, it can provide attorneys with a challenging yet rewarding career.

  • Base Salary: $104,676 on average, $187,432 on the high end
  • Cost of Living Index: 125.10
  • Bar Exam Pass Rate: 66% overall pass rate, 76% first-timer pass rate
  • CLE Requirements: 24 CLE credits every two years
  • Market Saturation: 9.3 per 1,000 population
  • Practice Areas in Demand: Labor and employment, medical malpractice, small business law, landlord-tenant, real estate, personal injury, family law, traffic violations, litigation, bankruptcy, libel-slander-defamation
  • Work-Life Balance: Ranked 6th for health and wellbeing

2. Maryland

Maryland shines as a hub for legal talent thanks to its booming sectors like biotech and government contracting. Its economy fuels a steady demand for legal expertise, offering lawyers diverse and lucrative career paths. With easy access to the political and legal pulse in Washington D.C., Maryland provides a strategic advantage for attorneys looking to make a significant impact.

Beyond work, Maryland’s rich history and coastal beauty offer a quality of life that’s hard to match. Lawyers can enjoy the state’s affordable living, cultural events, and seafood cuisine. Those that go to Maryland for their legal practice can easily find a balance between a fulfilling career and a satisfying personal life.

  • Base Salary: $93,611 on average, $152,109 on the high end
  • Cost of Living Index: 119.50
  • Bar Exam Pass Rate: 59% overall pass rate, 71% first-timer pass rate
  • CLE Requirements: No mandatory CLE
  • Market Saturation: 6.6 per 1,000 population
  • Practice Areas in Demand: Litigation, wills and probate, Homeowners Association law, libel-slander-defamation, labor and employment, family law, traffic violations, landlord-tenant law, real estate, criminal law
  • Work-Life Balance: Ranked 1st for health and wellbeing 

3. Georgia

The Peach State has been one of the legal industry’s most sensational success stories in recent years. It places third among the top states where people are searching for lawyers, indicating it’s one of the states with a shortage of lawyers.

Atlanta, Georgia, stands out as a prime location for attorneys seeking career growth. It boasts a top ranking for career advancement and a plethora of legal job openings due to its status as a hub for major corporate headquarters. The city offers an appealing balance for lawyers with its affordable housing market, allowing for a comfortable lifestyle without the financial pressures found in other metropolitan areas. With its vibrant entertainment scene and diverse cultural offerings, Atlanta provides lawyers with ample opportunities to unwind and enjoy a variety of leisure activities right at their doorstep.

  • Base Salary: $99,908 on average, $176,194 on the high end
  • Cost of Living Index: 91.00
  • Bar Exam Pass Rate: 70% overall pass rate, 79% first-timer pass rate
  • CLE Requirements: 12 CLE credits every year
  • Market Saturation: 3.1 per 1,000 population
  • Practice Areas in Demand: Labor and employment, family law, small business law, personal injury, litigation, libel-slander-defamation, bankruptcy, wills and probate, real estate
  • Work-Life Balance: Ranked 14th for health and wellbeing

4. Illinois

Illinois offers a diverse legal market not just in Chicago—its cultural and economic powerhouse—but across the state in cities like Springfield and Peoria. Here, legal professionals can tap into various sectors, from real estate to civil litigation. The state’s central location and robust transportation network also make it a strategic choice for lawyers looking to build a regional or national practice.

Living in Illinois, attorneys can enjoy a rich mix of urban sophistication and Midwestern charm. From the architectural wonders and jazz clubs of Chicago to the historic landmarks of Springfield and the natural beauty of Starved Rock State Park, there’s a slice of life for every preference. Seasonal festivals, diverse culinary delights, and a strong sports culture offer plentiful downtime activities, contributing to a well-rounded lifestyle beyond the courtroom or office.

  • Base Salary: $98,146 on average, $177,760 on the high end
  • Cost of Living Index: 90.80
  • Bar Exam Pass Rate: 70% overall pass rate, 79% first-timer pass rate
  • CLE Requirements: 30 CLE credits every two years
  • Market Saturation: 4.9 per 1,000 population
  • Practice Areas in Demand: Labor and employment, real estate, property tax, landlord-tenant, litigation, wills and probate, traffic violations, consumer fraud, family law, medical malpractice
  • Work-Life Balance: Ranked 11th for health and wellbeing

5. Connecticut

With its strategic New England location, Connecticut offers attorneys a thriving legal scene influenced by both regional and international law. Its proximity to New York and Boston means lawyers here can engage with complex legal matters that span state and national borders, providing a dynamic platform for legal practice.

For leisure and relaxation, Connecticut’s landscapes offer picturesque New England fall foliage, waterfronts, and parks. The state’s cultural offerings are robust, with world-class theaters like the Yale Repertory Theatre, art museums, and a rich array of historical sites. This balance of a fulfilling career with ample amenities for an enjoyable lifestyle makes Connecticut an attractive state for lawyers to practice and live.

  • Base Salary: $103,780 on average, $152,970 on the high end
  • Cost of Living Index: 113.10
  • Bar Exam Pass Rate:  56% overall pass rate, 67% first-timer pass rate
  • CLE Requirements: 12 CLE credits every year
  • Market Saturation: 5.8 per 1,000 population
  • Practice Areas in Demand: Labor and employment, family law, landlord-tenant, real estate, estate planning, bankruptcy, discrimination, medical malpractice 
  • Work-Life Balance: Ranked 9th for health and wellbeing

Wherever You Settle Down, Consider PracticePanther for your Practice

As you weigh the benefits of states like New York, Maryland, Georgia, Illinois, and Connecticut, don’t forget to shop around for practice management software like PracticePanther. PracticePanther can support your career in any location, helping you manage your practice with ease and allowing you to focus on what you do best—practicing law. If you’d like to see how it works, schedule a demo today.

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