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Legal markets: Baltimore v. D.C.

As a Baltimore-based recruiter, I see people all the time who want to make the transition here from Washington. They’re either tired of the commute or want a different quality of life.

And while both cities offer great opportunities for legal professionals, there are definite differences between the two legal markets.

For some people, Baltimore just isn’t going to cut it.  When I was a tour guide at the University of Maryland School of Law, there was more than one prospective student who said that they applied thinking the school was in College Park. These students weren’t sold on the idea of going to school in Baltimore.

Despite my love of Charm City, I do see their point. Washington has more large firms to offer, and D.C. is often viewed as more metropolitan; there’s more to do, you can rely completely on public transportation and the city draws transplants from all over the county.

But the transition from D.C. to Baltimore can be really difficult to make. Washington has thriving practice areas Baltimore really doesn’t have: immigration, intellectual property and defense contracting. There are also more opportunities to work with the government and nonprofits in the D.C. area. Not to mention salaries in Washington can be up to 20 percent higher than in Baltimore, although the cost of living in Baltimore is much lower. Baltimore law firms could be hesitant to hire someone if they think they are really set on D.C.

For new law school graduates, it’s important to think about where you want to live, what you want to practice and how those two things are going to meld together. Law schools offer lots of opportunities to work in different cities and practice areas while in still in school through internships, externships and law clerk positions. This is a great way to figure out what you want to do without the commitment.

One comment

  1. The author is mistaken in claiming that Washington and not Baltimore has a thriving immigration practice. Baltimore has a USCIS District Office, an ICE Field Office and an Immigration Court. None of those are located in Washington; instead, Northern Virginia doubles up for both Virginia and D.C. jurisdictions. The Maryland State Bar Association has an Immigration Law Section, and Baltimore area practitioners are heavily represented in the leadership and membership of the section. The D.C. Bar does not have a specific immigration law section. The American Immigration Lawyers Association has a chapter for Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, and at least five Baltimore area attorneys have served as the chair of the chapter in the past 15 years or are in line to do so. A number of Baltimore area immigration attorneys lecture at national and regional conferences and publish articles in the Maryland Bar Journal and other publications. Baltimore area immigration attorneys advocate before the Maryland General Assembly and Congress on a regular basis. Baltimore’s pro bono groups provide outstanding representation of immigrants in court and otherwise.