California Counties Represent Growing Markets for Law Firms

Despite some highly publicized news about the decline of California, it continues to have by far the largest number of residents in the country, and along with Texas and Florida accounts for over a quarter of the total U.S. population. Los Angeles maintained a real GDP of approximately $726 billion in 2019, with Orange County and San Diego, the second and third most populous counties in the state, accumulating $233 billion and $222 billion, respectively.

Data from last year’s census show growth toward the south and west, with Texas, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon gaining seats in Congress. But despite slower growth in California, the state still represents a huge portion of the American economy. If it were its own country, the state would be ranked the fifth largest in the world, beating out the United Kingdom, India, and France. Los Angeles alone has a larger GDP than countries like Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. Orange County and San Diego each land ahead of Bangladesh, Iraq, and New Zealand, with Orange County comparable to the entire economy of Greece.

The Inland Empire, including San Bernadino and Riverside counties, also has about 4.5 million residents, almost half the population of L.A. County. These numbers signal emerging markets to which law firms, especially those already practicing in the surrounding counties, should pay close attention. Larger law firms are increasingly recognizing that Southern California counties represent major opportunities for growth, not to mention the possibilities of expanding into Northern California.

For those firms that treat West L.A. and Pasadena like they’re worlds apart, or L.A. and Orange County as if they’re in different galaxies, the risk of losing out on clients and handicapping yourself in the competition for talent is only increasing. Too many law firms impose psychological barriers on their expansion. Please stop thinking about serving a location outside of your neighborhood as if the only way to get to a second or third office is to walk there on your hands.