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Large law firms seeing growth in corporate, real estate and tax practice areas

There could be better times ahead for larger law firms in the United States during the post-recession period.

Large law firms in the United States are experiencing more growth in certain practice areas during the latest quarter.

Following the decline experienced in the recession, large law firms now are seeing increases in corporate, real estate and tax practice areas.

The data was tabulated by Peer Monitor in a Thomson Reuters report that follows 150 large law firms.

During Q1 of 2014, corporate work increased 5 percent, compared to Q1 of 2013. Tax work jumped 6.7 percent, and real estate edged up 3.7 percent.

On the other hand, litigation dropped 1 percent in Q1 of 2014 compared to Q1 of 2013, and bankruptcy fell 5.9 percent.

Patent litigation fell 1.1 percent, and labor and employment dropped 1.4 percent compared to the same time period last year.

Looking at the big picture, the Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor Economic Index increased 4 points to 56 during Q1. It was reported that large law firms saw increased demand of 0.9 percent during the recent quarter, too.

“Overall, 2014 has gotten off to a fair start, with steady, if unspectacular growth, improving rates and productivity, and a more optimistic outlook for the overall economy,” according to the PMI report. “2014 has the potential to be a year of modest acceleration.”

It was also predicted that law firms may see additional improvements “especially if the economy manages to hit a slightly higher gear after several years of sluggishness.”

Reported, too, was that “standard rates were up 3.3 percent, indicating that firms are perhaps feeling enough confidence to increase their billing rates,” the report said.

In addition, headcount during Q1 increased 1.1 percent at large law firms, which is “slightly ahead of last year’s levels.”

“While firms continue to add new attorneys at a faster rate than attrition, the ratio has been inching downwards for the past two-and-a-half years,” the report said. “Firms continue to add billable talent in hopes of gaining share if demand picks up.”

It was also reported by Citi Private Bank that global law firms saw a 2.4 percent increase in the recent quarter compared to 2013—while national and regional firms saw .5 percent increase in their demand and billable hours.

It is also noteworthy that data from Citi Private Bank showed demand dropped for the 50 highest-grossing law firms. The Wall Street Journal explained that the trend “underscores the growing gulf between the richest law firms and everybody else.”

 

Further Reading:

 

Demand for patent work increases due to new first-to-file system

Law firms see increase in labor and employment work

Strategic planning and innovation in the legal industry

 
 
 

Contributing Author

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Ed Silverstein

Ed Silverstein (emsilverstein@gmail.com) is a veteran freelance writer and and editor for magazines, websites and newspapers. He writes frequently for ALM Media's

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