Pallavi Mehta Wahi, managing partner of K&L Gates' Seattle office, tells us why the combination of a tech-savvy business community, the entrepreneurial vibe of the Puget Sound and the region's natural beauty make a winning formula for a legal career in Seattle.
Chambers Associate: What are the current key industry sectors for lawyers in Seattle?
Pallavi Mehta Wahi: The key industries for lawyers in Seattle include technology, energy (especially renewables), manufacturing, agribusiness, retail and food services, health care/life sciences and aerospace. All organizations are facing challenges during the ongoing global pandemic and each sector is addressing its emerging legal issues in real time.
CA: Which practice areas are currently thriving in the Seattle legal market?
PW: The practice areas thriving in Seattle are practices such as IP, technology transactions, corporate, litigation, real estate, employment, litigation, environmental, tax, restructuring and insolvency, energy and investment management. These all continue to grow as the Seattle client base is supported and continues to expand. Through the unpredictability of COVID-19, the legal market has had to adjust to different demands. We have partnered with our clients to support them with unprecedented challenges raised by the global health crisis. More important than any traditional area of practice is how legal services have been and continue to be provided to our clients throughout the recovery. The best practitioners are able to align with their clients to issue spot, co-create solutions, and provide informed, specific, practical counsel.
"The practice areas thriving in Seattle are practices such as IP, technology transactions, corporate, litigation, real estate, employment, litigation, environmental, tax, restructuring and insolvency, energy and investment management."
CA: How has the Seattle legal market evolved over the past five years?
PW: With the Puget Sound area’s healthy entrepreneurial culture and recent economic growth, law firms have needed to adapt to their clients’ increasingly specialized local and global legal needs. The companies in the region have become increasingly international in scope with a worldwide footprint. The legal market reflects the growth, dynamism and the strength of the region. The market is diverse and robust. Firms that have demonstrated the ability to provide specialized, experienced counsel when and where clients need it throughout the world and have raised expectations of seamless integrated service have benefited during the past five years.
CA: How would you describe the competition between firms in the Seattle legal market?
PW: Top firms in Seattle compete in the legal market for business and for lateral talent every day. To do so, we are looking for lawyers at all experience levels who have the skills to solve a client’s most challenging issues and anticipate the ones that have not yet emerged. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided us an opportunity to prove our ability to provide a flexible work environment that will outlast the pandemic and allow us to recruit talent who may not wish to sit inside our four walls, but is able to provide top-level legal service for our clients. As our firm is at once local and global and fully integrated, we particularly seek candidates who want to work as a team across borders and practice areas for the benefit of the client.
"With the Puget Sound area’s healthy entrepreneurial culture and recent economic growth, law firms have needed to adapt to their clients’ increasingly specialized local and global legal needs."
CA: What do you think the Seattle legal market will look like in five years’ time?
PW: We will continue to see more focus on full service geographic and expert offerings that can respond to client needs in a coordinated and combined manner in the middle of a very dynamic and growing market.
CA: What effects do you think Covid-19 will have on the Seattle legal marketplace in both the short and long term?
PW: We have seen incredible collaboration, creativity, and generosity from firms and individuals during this unprecedented time. Similar to any business, the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will have short and long term impacts on how legal services are provided and how we work as law firms for our clients. The market, like the Puget Sound region, will continue to grow, diversify and be energetic and energizing in its focus. The power of technology, flexibility and creativity will be key takeaways for the future.
CA: What distinguishes the Seattle market in comparison to other US legal markets?
PW: The opportunities created by rapid economic growth, coupled with our region’s natural beauty has created a thriving, diverse community, expanding to greet new entrants. Firms and in-house teams are hungry for talent, welcoming diverse voices and experiences to the profession. The legal community plays an important role in Seattle’s business community and frequently finds connection through robust bar organizations and other justice-focused initiatives.
"Seattle’s tech-savvy business community, dynamic local leaders, and world-class academic institutions make the region an ideal setting for launching and building a career."
CA: What do you think are the main pull factors to the Seattle market for law students and lateral talent?
PW: Seattle’s tech-savvy business community, dynamic local leaders, and world-class academic institutions make the region an ideal setting for launching and building a career. Seattle is an ideal location for students to join a real community with access to unlimited opportunity. For students and professionals alike, Seattle has the buzz of a city on the forefront of technological innovation, with unlimited recreational activities within the city or nearby to provide the lifestyle balance that many professionals seek.