Facts & Figures: Corporate counsel report increased litigation, regulatory investigations

From law firm profits to part-time lawyers, an inside look at the numbers that count

Looming Litigation

In-house counsel dealt with more litigation and regulation headaches in 2012, and most corporate attorneys expect that trend to continue in the coming year, according to Fulbright & Jaworski’s 9th Annual Litigation Trends Survey. After declining in 2011, litigation rose for both U.S. and U.K. companies last year, with labor and employment lawsuits and contract litigation leading the way domestically.

The number of regulatory investigations also climbed to a five-year high in 2012, the survey reported, and only 3 percent of respondents expect a decrease in whistleblower allegations over the next 12 months.

60% Respondents that acted as plaintiffs in the last year

92% Respondents that expect the number of legal disputes facing their companies to stay the same or increase in the coming year

60% U.S. companies that retained outside counsel for assistance in a regulatory investigation in 2012, up from 55 percent in 2011

72% U.K. companies that retained outside counsel to help with regulatory investigations last year, up from a mere 27 percent in 2011

Rising Revenues

Early indicators show that 2012 was a profitable year for top U.S. law firms, according to numbers collected by The American Lawyer. Last month, 45 of 200 firms had responded to the publication’s survey, and the results showed average growth in profits per partner (PPP) and revenue last year.

Houston-based Bracewell & Giuliani enjoyed the biggest increase in PPP in 2012, thanks in part to its acquisition of 14 partners from Vinson & Elkins. Kansas City-based Shook Hardy & Barcon was less fortunate, however, owing largely to the loss of its client, tobacco company Lorillard.

6% Average revenue increase for U.S. law firms in 2012, up from 4.4 percent in 2011

7.4% Average increase in profits per partner in 2012, up from 5.1 percent the previous year

42.2% Percent increase in profits per partner at Bracewell & Giuliani, the law firm with the most growth

-16% Decrease in profits per partner at Shook Hardy & Bacon, which saw the largest decline in growth

Part-Time Positions

Women lawyers lag behind their male counterparts when it comes to reaching the upper echelons of law firms and legal departments. But they’re surpassing men when it comes to working part-time, according to a new study from the National Association of Legal Career Professionals.

 According to the study, the number of women working part-time in the legal field far outstrips the percentage working part-time in other industries. Of architects and engineers who work part-time, for instance, only 29 percent are female. 

6.2% Lawyers who work part-time

70% Part-time lawyers who are women

13.5% Female law firm lawyers who work part-time

2.7% Male law firm attorneys who work part-time

Supporting Suits

A fear of meritless private antitrust suits has driven some courts to raise the procedural barriers for bringing such cases before a jury. But antitrust suits aren’t wholly without defenders, if an academic paper from two law school professors is any indication.

The paper’s authors examined 60 large private antitrust class actions, and found that the vast majority had at least one indicator that the plaintiffs’ case had merit. More than half the cases, for example, resulted in settlements of more than $100 million, indicating that those plaintiffs were likely to succeed in litigation.

88% Percentage of cases that had at least one indicator of merit

28% Cases involving defendants or employees who were subject to criminal penalties

25% Cases in which plaintiffs survived or prevailed on motions for summary judgment or similar motions

Editing Expectations

U.K. law firms saw modest growth last year, but a slow quarter ending Jan. 31 has caused the country’s top 100 firms to lower their 2013 earnings expectations, according to Deloitte’s Quarterly Legal Sector Survey. Jeremy Black, a partner at Deloitte’s professional services practice, partially attributed the revised expectations to domestic competition and a challenging economic climate.

3.5% Income growth among U.K. law firms for the quarter ending Jan. 31

3.3% Revised growth projections for the 2013 fiscal year for the surveyed firms

5.7% Initial 2013 growth projections for the 100 firms surveyed

 

Alanna Byrne

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