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Is D.C. Leading the Law Firm Recovery?

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By Andrew Lu on October 01, 2012 6:58 AM

In two separate instances, Washington D.C. law firms leased millions of square feet of additional real estate in the nation's capitol and partners at these firms are earning 14 percent more than they did in 2010. Are these signs the Washington D.C. legal market is booming?

Some say the health of an industry can be measured by how much office space they lease. In Washington D.C., there has been an ongoing pull-back in office leasing by federal agencies and government contractors, reports The Washington Post.

Yet, Washington D.C. law firms have been busy signing some of the biggest leasing deals in the region.

Nearly two million square feet of office space in the Washington market has been leased by law firms in 12 months, reports the Post. And some of the biggest firms are moving into bigger spaces. While a slight bump can be explained away, the addition of two million square feet is quite significant. Imagine how many lawyers can sit in two million square feet of office space.

Meanwhile, partners at Washington D.C. law firms are earning 14 percent more this year compared with 2010, reports the Post. The average partner compensation in D.C. and Northern Virginia rose from $702,000 in 2010 to $798,000 in 2012. D.C. ranks third behind Silicon Valley ($1.2 million) and New York ($1 million) in average partner pay.

In step with the increased pay, D.C. partners are also billing more with an average of 1,743 hours in 2012, as compared with 1,700 hours in 2010 (seems low, doesn't it?).

So is the real estate activity and higher partner compensation in the nation's capitol indicative of a broader recovery in the legal market? It may be too early to guess. But with Georgetown being the most popular school for law school applicants, future lawyers are obviously already buying the hype.

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