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Amazon’s Second Headquarters: Effects on Legal Employment and Retention

Amazon’s decision to build a second worldwide headquarters created a wave of frenzy across North America. Exactly 238 cities, states, and regions spent hundreds of hours crafting unique proposals in the hopes of enticing the worldwide retail giant to call their city its new home.1 Several cities went to great lengths creating their proposals – Newark, New Jersey offered $7 billion in tax breaks.2 Stonecrest, Georgia even offered to change the name of the city to “Amazon.”3

It comes as no surprise that so many cities and states are vying for the headquarters. Amazon has boasted that the second headquarters will likely bring over $5 billion in economic effects to the chosen region.4 Additionally, the influx of new workers – an estimated 50,000 – will include young and highly educated individuals who will likely remain in the region for an extended period of time.5 To add credence to Amazon’s claims of the benefits the second headquarters will bring, Amazon estimates that the company has added $38 billion into Seattle’s economy since 2010.6

While the economic benefits will be immense, what effects will Amazon’s second headquarters have on the legal market it eventually takes up shop in? Will the company significantly add to its sizable legal department, or will legal jobs remain focused in Seattle? Additionally, will the location of the second headquarters bring an influx of legal work to the region, and the retention of local outside counsel? Many of the answers to these questions are currently unanswerable. However, given the size of Amazon’s proposed expansion, one might assume that the new headquarters and enhanced operations of the company will require additional legal counsel, whether in-house or not.

In total, Amazon’s legal department currently employs about 800 employees, 400 of which are 400 attorneys.7 The company currently has fifty-six open legal jobs in the United States, of which forty-six are located in Seattle.8 The city is clearly the epicenter of the company’s legal department. However, Amazon legal work is not exclusive to the Pacific Northwest. One of the largest areas of growth for the legal department in recent years has been the aviation team, with an emphasis on the use of drones, as well as the entertainment law team in Santa Monica, California. The California operation is important in that it shows Amazon’s willingness to locate (or develop) legal services in geographic areas where certain operations are located. If there is a particular focus of operations that occur within the second headquarters, one could expect a dedicated team of Amazon counsel to work there.

Insight into the outside corporate counsel Amazon has previously retained exemplifies the likely scenario that the company will continue to rely on prominent, national firms. The highly publicized Whole Foods acquisition made headlines across the globe and was worth $13.7 billion.9 Over one hundred law firms provided some form of work on the deal, but the Amazon team was led by partners at the firm Sullivan & Cromwell.10 Other firms that have previously represented Amazon include Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher (in the acquisition of Zappos and Kiva Systems), Debevoise & Plimpton (in the acquisition of Quidsi), and Cleary, Gottleib, Steen & Hamilton (in the acquisition of The Washington Post).11 A company of Amazon’s size will likely look into further acquisitions in the coming years, especially considering the company’s recent growth, but one should not expect local counsel to benefit from the new headquarters. Any outside counsel will remain the larger and more prominent law firms in the United States, rather than local counsel provided by regional firms.

Amazon’s retention of outside counsel for litigation matters paints a different story, but one that does not equate to Amazon hiring local counsel. In a random sample of eight Federal Court cases involving Amazon stemming from 2001, seven of the cases involved Amazon’s representation by a firm located in the actual area of the matter.12 For instance, in the case Almeida v. Amazon.com, Inc. an Eleventh Circuit case, Amazon was represented by Ruden, McClosky, Smith, Schuster & Russell, a Florida firm.13 Thus, one can expect that no matter where the second headquarters is located, Amazon will continue to hire outside counsel in the area where the litigation is located, and not where Amazon’s main operations are actually located.

Amazon’s second headquarters will undoubtedly lead to tremendous economic benefits. However, the effects of the headquarters on the region’s legal market is less clear.


  1. Natalie Wong, Amazon Receives 238 Proposals for HQ2 Across North America, Bloomberg Technology (Oct. 23, 2017), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-23/amazon-receives-238-proposals-for-hq2-across-north-america

  2. Id. 

  3. Jason Del Rey, Amazon Received More than 200 Proposals from Places that Want to Host its New Headquarters, Recode (Oct. 23, 2017), https://www.recode.net/2017/10/23/16521500/amazon-hq2-new-second-headquarters-rfp-proposals-bids

  4. Amazonhq2, Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=17044620011 (last visited Oct. 26, 2017). 

  5. See id

  6. Id

  7. Jennifer Williams-Alvarez, Inside Amazon’s Legal Department with GC David Zapolsky, Corporate Counsel (Aug. 2, 2017), http://www.law.com/insidecounsel/2017/08/02/inside-amazons-legal-department-with-gc-david-zapo/

  8. Legal, Amazon Jobs, https://www.amazon.jobs/en/job_categories/legal?base_query=&loc_query=&job_count=122&result_limit=10&sort=relevant&category%5B%5D=legal&cache (last visited Oct. 26, 2017). 

  9. Meghan Tribe, Deal Watch: Five Firms Advise on Amazon’s Bid to Buy Whole Foods, The American Lawyer (June 18, 2017), http://www.law.com/americanlawyer/almID/1202790405681/

  10. Id

  11. Id

  12. See Nicosia v. Amazon.com, Inc., 834 F.3d 220 (2d Cir. 2016); Multi Time Machine, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc., 804 F.3d 930 (9th Cir. 2015); Wax v. Amazon Technologies, Inc., 500 Fed. Appx. 944 (Fed. Cir. 2013); Alemida v. Amazon.com, Inc., 456 F.3d 1316 (11th Cir. 2006); Amazon, Inc. v. Dirt Camp, Inc., 273 F.3d 1271 (10th Cir. 2001); Amazon.com, Inc. v. Barnesandnoble.com, Inc., 239 F.3d 1343 (Fed. Cir. 2001); Appistry, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc., No. 4:13CV2547 HEA. 2015 WL 881507 (E.D. Mo. 2015); Ekin v. Amazon Services, LLC, 84 F. Supp. 3d 1172 (W.D. Wash. 2014). 

  13. 456 F.3d 1316 (11th Cir. 2006). 

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Charles Sorge

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