Move over New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. It’s time for places like Great Falls, Montana to claim the spotlight. The best cities for budding lawyers to get started are not necessarily where you would think.
A list of rankings by personal finance website GoodCall.com shows that many smaller cities are taking the top spots. Sure, there may not be as many entertainment options, but in these smaller, quirky towns, quality of life can be higher, legal jobs are plentiful, and your salary will go much further.
If you’re thinking about where to put down roots and make the most of a legal career, here are some suggestions you might want to put on your list.
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Established as a vacation getaway spot in the 1800s, owing to the natural springs, it remains a charming community, surrounded by rolling hills and bluffs and natural beauty. With only about 100,000 people, it’s not the most happening city for nightlife, but it has an upscale feel (it was a destination for famous mobsters and bootleggers in the 1930s), and plenty of outdoor activities.
Home prices won’t break the bank, even if you’re still buried under student loans. The median home price is about $134,000, only about $9,000 more than the average lawyer salary in the area, according to GoodCall. If you’re wondering, yes, there are still some traditional bathing spas where you can immerse yourself in the healing waters, just like travelers in the early 1900s. The city also offers several fountains of hot and cold drinking water from the famous springs.
First and foremost, you could visit Disney World on a weekly basis. But Orlando also has affordable home prices, at a median of $262,000, and big-city lawyer salaries, with pay averaging at over $163,000. Famous theme parks attract more than 60 million visitors each year, but there’s also plenty of nightlife and amenities geared toward the metro area’s 2 million full-time residents.
Unlike other parts of Florida, the population also skews more towards working-age rather than retirees. Oh, and there’s no state income tax, so you can keep more of what you earn.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Golf. Miles of beautiful beaches. Affordable real estate. What’s not to like? As a rapidly growing community, Myrtle Beach has a strong demand for lawyers, with pay averaging around $119,000, according to GoodCall.
The South Carolina tourist destination is an excellent place for young families, with an abundance of activities that children can enjoy. At night, it’s more of an adult playground, with ample restaurants, pubs, and other attractions. And, as mentioned, it is a world-class destination for golfers, with almost 80 public, private and semi-private courses. Median home prices are around $169,000.
Great Falls, Montana
It does get cold in Montana, but it’s also breathtakingly beautiful. Great Falls, named after a series of spectacular waterfalls on the Missouri River, was carefully designed by its founder in the 1880s with orderly streets and ample space for parks. While only the third-largest city in the state, with a population of about 60,000 people, it has an international airport and is located within a comfortable driving distance to the state’s gorgeous national parks.
It’s also home to Malmstrom Air Force Base, which houses a portion of the Air Force Global Strike Command, and is an active, combat-ready military post. The city has an abundance of legal jobs, especially in activities affiliated with or related to the base. This pushes average lawyer salaries up to about $145,000, which makes the median home listing of about $219,000 highly affordable.
Long having played second fiddle to the state’s largest city Philadelphia, this old-school industrial town is having a moment and becoming downright trendy. Nestled in rugged hills, at the nexus of two rivers, the city was the headquarters of Andrew Carnegie’s steel empire and the H.J. Heinz food processing company, along with playing host to other 19th Century tycoons. The robber barons of old left part of their legacy in Pittsburgh, which as a result boasts world-class art collections and lavish Gilded Age architecture.
You will find exquisite restaurants and cultural amenities here, as well as surprisingly reasonable home prices, with the median listing priced at about $225,000. Although the steel industry declined in the 1970s and 1980s, Pittsburgh is still an outpost for big business and big law firms. The average lawyer salary is about $140,000.
In smaller, quirky towns, quality of life can be higher, legal jobs are plentiful, and your salary will go much further.
This place was founded amidst an oil and gas boom, and the industry is still going strong. That, along with aerospace, manufacturing, and logistics are major sources of local employment, and also spawn plenty of legal work. Described as an “underrated gem,” Tulsa boasts a collection of art deco buildings, a plethora of craft beer establishments, cultural institutions, and green space.
There’s also a robust local art culture and music scene, and it’s a dog lover’s paradise. Pooches are welcome in numerous business establishments and it’s also one of the country’s most affordable cities. The median real estate listing is about $172,000, and lawyers make about $152,000 a year on average.
Speaking of music, it doesn’t get much better than Nashville. The city attracts tourists from all over the world to country music cultural attractions such as the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. There’s no shortage of live music venues. Visitors can stroll down Broadway and pop in “Honky Tonks” and local bars to hear up-and-coming music acts.
With so many tourists coming to town, it’s also a serious foodie city. But Nashville has more to offer than just music and tourism. Vanderbilt and Belmont University help contribute to a vibrant, highly diversified, and a rapidly growing economy. You will find no shortage of legal jobs here. Average salaries are about $125,000. Home prices are going up here, too, unfortunately, but still within reach. The median home price hit about $315,000 in July.