Forget New York, London and Tokyo. Austin, Texas, has now emerged as the hot spot for the professional services to thrive, says Bryan Birkeland of Globalaw.
Austin, the capital of Texas, is the 11th largest city in the United States and sits near the heart of a strategic location known as the 'Texas Triangle.' It is bordered by three major interstate highways and includes the massive metropolitan areas of Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio. Taken together, the Texas Triangle includes 60,000 square miles and about 17 million people, or nearly 75 percent of Texas' total population. The Texas Triangle is also home to 15,200 manufacturing firms with total employment over 604,000. The growth witnessed in Austin has created a steady flow of business opportunities for the legal sector. There are a number of factors to consider about the market which has strong evidence to substantiate the prospects offered for law firms to capitalise on.
Ranked as fastest growing city
In 2014, Forbes ranked Austin as America’s fastest growing city for the fourth year in a row. The city is rapidly emerging as a growth spot for entrepreneurial drive and is home to an area that includes targeted industries in the tech, pharmaceuticals, life sciences, and clean technologies sectors. In fact, Austin was ranked as the Hottest Startup Scene in a 2014 ranking by GoodApril that appeared in Entrepreneur magazine. Austin was also ranked as the No. 1 Best-Performing City in annual assessment by the Milken Institute of Where America’s Jobs are Created and Sustained.
In addition to its strategic location within Texas, Austin enjoys close proximity to Mexico and has enjoyed the benefits of a growing on-shoring trend. Mexico is currently one of the world’s fastest growing economies and is the No. 1 trading partner with Texas. Indicative of this emerging partnership, in March of this year, the city’s Economic Development Department hosted a delegation from Mexico for a half-day summit to examine Mexico’s burgeoning tech and investment opportunities. A 2011 article in The Austin-American Statesman revealed that Austin is also becoming an attractive destination for wealthy business owners and entrepreneurs from Mexico looking to either relocate or expand their business operations.
Emergence as a business hub
Austin’s emergence as a business hub is closely tied to the larger success of the state as a whole, whose business-friendly culture has led to both home-grown successes and significant corporate relocations. Texas boasts a pro-growth tax policy offering zero state income tax, a low tax burden for businesses, and sensible regulations. This is drawing increasing numbers of American firms seeking to relocate. For example, in the past six months alone, California-based company relocation inquiries have doubled in Central Texas.
Austin’s stellar business growth has created new opportunities within the professional services sector, and in particular, for law firms that serve the needs of business clients. Texas is already home to several of America’s best law firms, and the attractiveness of the region has created significant growth opportunities for the legal industry. Illustrating this growth, employment in Texas’ legal services market is predicted to increase 15 percent, or by 11,710 jobs, between 2010 and 2020, according to labor market predictions by Tracer.
In 2014 alone, several law firms have opened new Austin offices, while others have expanded their Austin practices. Amid the new entries to the market, Austin’s largest law firm, Jackson Walker has a long and proud history in Texas. Founded in 1887, the firm is one of the oldest and largest in Texas, and has chosen to remain true to its Texas roots while expanding to serve clients around the globe. The firm is also one of the founding members of Globalaw, a worldwide network of 110 law firms with over 4,500 lawyers in 165 cities.
Through partnerships like Globalaw, Austin-based law firms are adapting to meet the needs of the sophisticated and rapidly changing business landscape. The flourishing legal sector is helping to contribute to its emergence as one of the US’s hottest new scenes for entrepreneurship and innovation.
Bryan Birkeland is a partner at Jackson Walker LLP