May 20, 2015 Articles

A Tale of Two Cities: Honolulu and San Francisco

Why are "Big Law" lawyers so young compared with top firms in smaller markets?

by Nick Kacprowski

For the first nine years of my career in private practice, I was a litigation associate and then a partner in the San Francisco office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Last year, I made a large change and moved to Hawaii for family reasons. I'm now a litigator at Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing, one of Hawaii's top law firms. One of the most fascinating aspects of this change was seeing the radically different legal markets in a huge versus midsized U.S. metropolitan area.

One difference that immediately struck me was the level of experience and age of my colleagues at the top firms in Hawaii. I graduated law school in 2004, and when I left Kirkland I considered myself one of the more senior attorneys both in San Francisco and the firm generally. I did not have the impression that this was unique to Kirkland. Among the top "Big Law" firms in the United States, it seemed like an attorney with 10 years of experience would be at least in the top half of the firm's attorneys in the number of years out of law school. Practicing in Hawaii, however, I learned that among the top firms an attorney with 11 years of experience is still considered young.

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