Lawyer Buys Into a Hot Market
By David Segal
Three months ago, lawyer Grady White moved to Washington and immediately noticed that something was missing: roadside billboards.
What a relief, he thought. A 35-year-old recent transplant from Los Angeles, he and his wife were tired of that town's cluttered highways, haphazard layout and lack of trees.
"There's no organization to L.A.," White said. "It's just visual blight."
But the move to Washington wasn't simply about aesthetics. White, an associate at Covington & Burling, came to town in January so that he could live a relatively quick plane ride away from his family in Memphis, and a train ride from his wife's family in New York. He also liked the public schools in Maryland and he figured out that he could get a lot more house for the money in a Washington suburb than anywhere he would want to live in Los Angeles.
"We had nothing keeping us in L.A. but our jobs and we figured that wasn't a good enough reason to stay," White said.
There was also a fertile job market beckoning. White is an intellectual property lawyer, and the arrival of high-tech firms in Northern Virginia has created a torrent of patent-related billable hours. Washington law firms have lately been struggling to find enough qualified lawyers some experience and impressive baubles on the resume help as corporations including America Online Inc. and PathNet Inc. of Georgetown, flush with stock market gains, spend lavishly for legal assistance.
"The job market is pretty hot and I had some choices," White said.
When he decided to leave Los Angeles, he called Covington and asked if they might be interested. They were, and after swallowing a slight pay cut L.A. salaries are slightly richer than Washington's he started packing.
With the move, White joined about 47,000 other lawyers in this area, where statistically at least he fit right in. The region's legal community is overwhelmingly male (73 percent) with a median age of 38. The average Washington lawyer makes $127,000.
He and his wife, now a lawyer at the Washington office of Los Angeles' Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, found a rental home in Silver Spring. But after a few weeks of looking, they lucked into something more permanent when a friend in Chevy Chase told them about a nearby house that would soon be up for sale. The Whites approached the sellers and a deal was struck before the house went on the market, allowing both sides to sidestep the bidding wars that have become common courtesy of the region's hot real estate market.
To get to work, he'll drive five minutes to the Silver Spring Metro, then take the 18-minute subway ride into town. He has timed the whole thing and considers it hassle-free, compared with his morning and evening commute in California.
"We have two cars," he said, "but they're mostly parked all day."
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