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The American Lawyer reports that the legal industry added nearly 5,000 jobs last month, marking the sixth straight month of job gains for the legal sector, according to recent data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though law firms have continued announcing job cuts, the latest data — which includes attorneys, paralegals, legal secretaries and others who make their living in the law — shows total U.S. legal jobs now stands at 1,117,400. While that is still well below the 1,153,700 jobs in place this time last year, the legal industry, like the wider economy, continues to recover from the loss of 64,000 jobs in April due to pandemic-related layoffs and austerity measures, the report notes.

“The steady growth was not immediately apparent several months ago, as preliminary data from August showed no growth over July. But those figures have since been adjusted upward, indicating a clear positive trend line,” notes Dan Packel of Law.com. The legal industry had 1,112,600 jobs in September and 1,110,900 jobs in August, according to numbers revised since last month. Those revised numbers show that the industry gained 1,700 jobs in September and 2,500 jobs in August (up from 1,108,400 jobs in July). “These improvements in the labor market reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it,” notes the department of Bureau of Labor Statistics.

See more highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The ABA Journal reports that the legal services sector gained 4,500 jobs in January, with total employment surpassing the previous 10-year high set in November, according to recent data by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The legal industry, composed of attorneys, paralegals, legal secretaries and others, climbed to 1,160,700 jobs last month. That’s an increase of 16,000 jobs from January 2019, when the legal services sector had 1,144,700 jobs, the report noted.

Additionally, a recent report by Citi Private Bank’s Law Group reported that 2019 was a year of solid growth for the legal industry. The Citi results, based on a sample of 201 firms including members of the Am Law 200 and boutiques, showed thatBig Law net income grew significantly in 2019, driven in part by the strongest billing rate increases since 2008 and stagnation in the number of equity partners. Citi’s quarterly flash report found that over 2019, revenue growth outpaced the increase in expenses at Big Law firms, due in part to a 4.5% increase in billing rates.

Gretta Rusanow, writing for The American Lawyer, adds there were, however, two factors that dampened revenue growth in 2019: a slight drop in realization and a longer collection cycle. We saw continued consolidation and dispersion with the majority of firms (58%) reporting demand growth, but with 42% of firms seeing a demand decline during 2019, it remains a challenging environment for many firms, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

“We believe that 2020 will be another year of growth, albeit more modest than 2019. Demand growth continued to gain momentum in the fourth quarter. Rate growth has been strong. Year-end inventory levels are high, providing a strong basis for first-quarter collections. While we are likely to see continued dispersion driving further market consolidation, we expect average industry revenue growth of 5-6% in 2020, with profits per equity partner growth in the mid-single digits,” Rusanow notes.

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer reports that more than 3,100 lateral partners moved between Am Law 200 firms in 2019, with corporate partners accounting for 25% of those moves, according to recent data released by ALM Intelligence. The total is 14.5% higher than last year’s lateral total of 2,754, largely as a result of an improved methodology used to collect this year’s data, which affects the year-over-year comparison. Over the past two decades, the number of lateral partner moves, tracked by The American Lawyer since 2000, has ranged from just above 2,000 to more than 3,000 a year, the article adds.

The article reported that at least 580 corporate partners joined the ranks of the Am Law 200, while 469 departed, which adds up to a net gain of 111 partners. Litigation partners accounted for another quarter of the past year’s laterals. Banking and Finance partners were the third-most-transient practice, comprising nearly 14% of all laterals. Interestingly enough, given the warnings of a recession, bankruptcy attorneys were the least transient, accounting for just a small fraction of the year’s lateral moves, at 2.4%, ALM Intelligence reports.

According to the report, Philadelphia-based Fox Rothschild saw the greatest percentage growth via lateral moves, as its partnership ranks grew by 60, or roughly 18%, on the back of 102 lateral hires, offsetting 42 departures. The firm has been growing steadily since it first cracked the Am Law 200 in 2015, the article notes. Additionally, the article noted that Winston & Strawn saw the greatest net defections among the Am Law 200, losing 52 partners and adding 17, for a net loss of 35, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

Nearly three-quarters of Am Law 200 firms have had a lateral partner leave within the past five years due to an issue with personality or law firm culture, according to data released by ALM Intelligence. A lawyer’s business is easier fixed than their character, notes Polsinelli’s CEO Chase Simmons. And while there’s no one lateral partner who can affect a law firm’s revenue numbers on their own, a toxic partner could ruin a firm’s culture, he adds. “Culture is more permanent. Everything derives from the culture,” Simmons says. “If you mess with that, the dollars aren’t going to follow.”

“Law firms are constantly on the hunt for top talent, and they have recently began building programs focused on lateral integration. The reasons for doing so are interconnected. For one thing, firms use their programs as a selling point in their recruitment efforts. They also lead to better retention rates. Nearly every law firm The American Lawyer spoke with for this story touted a higher five-year retention rate than the 60% average that ALM Intellection reported last year among Am Law 200 firms,” (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

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The American Lawyer reports that the U.S. law firm industry had another strong year in 2019 and revenues for 2020 are predicted to continue growing at a healthy rate, according to a new report from Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group and Hildebrandt Consulting. The report found that after a slow start to the year, firms progressively improved their financial performance, and are expected to grow revenues between 5.5% and 6.5% over the course of the full year.

As in other post-recession years, the primary driver of revenue growth was an increase in billing rates, rather than demand growth, the report revealed. During the first nine months of 2019, billing rates had the highest growth rate since before the recession, growing by an average of 4.7 percent. By contrast, demand grew far less than in 2018 at a rate of 0.9 percent. The most significant impact on revenue growth was the continued trend of a lengthening of the collection cycle, which was largely driven by clients delaying payment of their bills, the report revealed.

The report also identified an active lateral recruiting market as a key trend in 2019, combined with a majority of firms hoping to grow the size of their equity partnership in the coming years.“The success rate of laterals has improved. In the past, half the laterals weren’t really accretive to the firm,” explains Brad Hildebrandt, Chairman of Hildebrandt Consulting. “But firms have become much more cautious about who they’re hiring.”

The key reason for the better success rate is even greater rigor on the lateral hiring process, Hildebrandt argues. Firms are aligning hiring with their overall strategy, improving their due diligence, and working harder to integrate new partner hires. “This eagerness to add talent at the top of the leverage pyramid will likely continue, with 61% of leaders surveyed saying they aim to add equity partners in the next two years,” Hildebrandt adds.

“Looking ahead, we expect that the most successful firms will continue to expand and innovate—despite ongoing geopolitical and macroeconomic uncertainty and volatility, and a challenging talent market. For those firms, expansion will be closely aligned to the firm’s business strategy—more so than pursuing opportunistic growth,” Gretta Rusanow, Head of Advisory Services at Citi Private Bank concluded. “For many firms, the steps they are taking to do more with existing clients and broaden their client base, focus on growth practices, industries and regions, and introduce further efficiencies in the way they deliver legal services will go a long way to ensuring that 2020 is a successful year.”

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Buoyed by a strong economy and expectations of continued growth in demand, the increasingly dynamic lateral market shows no signs of slowing in 2019, Law360 reports in a recent article. According to a report released by Citi Private Bank Law Firm Group and Hildebrandt Consulting, the lateral market had been the “primary driver of consolidation in the legal industry” in 2017 and 2018. During both of those years, the report found, lateral recruiting outpaced internal promotions, and that trend was unlikely to reverse in the near future.

In the article, Law360 reflects on the most effective hiring and integration strategies for attracting and retaining top talent at the fastest growing law firms in 2018. According to the article, law firm leaders at the most actively hiring firms identified a variety of strategies aimed at improving lateral hiring including seizing on opportunities from potentially flagging firms and building a competitive platform that integrates new talent and retains them for the long haul. Managing Partner of Akerman Scott Meyers weighs in on the success of the firm’s tactical lateral hiring strategies, which attributed to 47 lateral partners last year. According to Meyers, “None of this growth has been in the mold of, ‘If we build it, they will come,’ It’s been going to places where there is existing client demand, both in terms of geography as well as subject matter expertise,” (as quoted in Law360).

Another firm featured in Law360’s article was Kansas City-based Polsinelli, which also brought on 47 lateral partners in 2018. Polsinelli chairman and CEO Chase Simmons attributes its lateral growth to the firm’s 10-year focus on growing its bench in certain core practice areas, namely, real estate, financial services, mid-market corporate work, intellectual property and health care, as well as adjacent litigation and labor and employment matters. “We’re looking for people that fit culturally. If we see an opportunity that’s off-strategy, we’ll consider it,” notes Simmons. “We’re large enough as a firm that we can always be considering a few things that are maybe not right down the middle of what we’ve done in the past, but we know that that’s a different process,” (as quoted in Law360).

See highlights from the full article on Law360.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer reports on several key trends for midsize law firms heading into 2019, according to a recent article featured in Am Law’s latest Mid-Market Report. In the article written by Alan Tarter, he provides his thoughts on industry trends affecting mid-size law firms in the coming year based on his many years of experience as a managing partner and practicing lawyer. These trends include a heightened focus on cybersecurity, continued lateral acquisitions, cost-effective specialization, providing innovative programming to all team members, and greater collaboration between large and small firms.

According to the article, Tarter notes that midsize law firms, like their brethren at large firms, will continue to put an increased focus on mitigation of cyber risk through enhanced security, protocols and more sophisticated risk management. We will see greater use of outside risk management consultants working directly with mid- size firms to address new risks and gaps on coverages. In addition, competition for the best candidates has increased, so midsize firms will need to be even more creative in their offerings. Midsize firms will need to better exploit their value propositions to clients in order to attract laterals from larger firms, Tarter adds. 

Tarter notes that an added value proposition of full-service, midsize firms is that they are able to fill in the gaps in the specialized legal needs of both larger firms and smaller firms. According to Tarter, larger clients will continue to gravitate to midsize firms for certain types of work. “Midsize firms are in a unique position to provide more cost-effective, efficient services in matters not requiring large firm infrastructures. For example, midsize firms may be in a better position to provide more cost- effective services in specialized areas such as construction law, office space leasing or IP prosecution where larger teams and multiple offices are typically not necessary. In-house clients are becoming aware of the advantages of using midsize law firms for legal work like this,” explains Tarter.

Tarter adds that midsize firms have a unique opportunity to lead the industry in developing innovative programming to enhance the professional development of employees. These types of programs will help midsize firms stand out from their competitors, and will aid in attracting and retaining employees. These programs should place a greater emphasis on the longer-term professional development of attorneys and other team members. With the goal of providing the most value-driven services to clients, firms of all sizes are also realizing the benefits of partnering with each other, Tarter notes. You will see greater collaboration between large firms and midsize firms in working on projects together where they can each do what they do best and provide better service to clients, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer released results from its annual Lateral Report, which tracked lateral movement strategies among the nation’s largest and most successful law firms. The report, conducted by ALM Intelligence, reported 2,895 lateral moves among Am Law 200 firms in 2017, decreasing 2.3% from 2016. According to the report, law firm leaders reported a variety of strategies aimed at improving lateral hiring such as geographic expansion, spending top dollar on superstar partners, hiring lateral groups, recruiting experts in other fields, and expanding lower cost-firms in larger markets.

Chicago-based Winston & Strawn hired the most lateral partners of any Am Law 200 firm, the report revealed. The firm brought on 73 partners, representing nearly 22 percent of its partner ranks. DLA Piper hired the second-most partners, 69—a mere 5.7 percent of its partnership. The next three firms to grow their partner ranks by more than 10 percent through lateral hiring included Cozen O’Connor, Fox Rothschild and Hogan Lovells opening new offices in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Seattle, respectively (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

Kansas City, Missouri-based Polsinelli is another firm to see recent growth in the lateral partner market. Much of the firm’s recent growth has been in Chicago, where it has grown from just six lawyers in 2006 to 99 as of last December. The firm has found success recruiting from some of the city’s legacy firms, many of which have pursued a more international, higher-profit model (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

The American Lawyer reports on several key trends from this year and what we can expect for the legal industry in 2018. According to the article, key trends that we can expect to continue into 2018 include increases in law firm mergers, lateral moves within groups, and enhancements in legal technology innovation and the business operations of firms.

2017 is set to be a record year for U.S. mergers. So far this year, there have been 85 mergers and acquisitions involving U.S. law firms in 2017, according to Altman Weil data—just six shy of the all-time record, set in 2015. But while several large-scale tie-ups hit the headlines, the overwhelming majority of deals in 2017 were extremely small: Over 90 percent involved at least one firm of under 100 lawyers, while more than two-thirds were acquisitions of firms with 10 lawyers or fewer (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

Last year also saw a large number of lateral moves that involved practice groups within targeted geographic markets. “I think there’s more and more pressure to grow breadth and depth, and laterals and groups are a big part of that for many or most firms,” notes Kent Zimmermann, a consultant at The Zeughauser Group.

In 2017, law firms continued adopting legal project management techniques to get a better grip on what matters actually cost. Am Law’s article reports more firms will adopt better pricing tools; legal operations staff will gain power inside legal departments; and the traditional competition for Big Law work will be upended. That won’t happen everywhere all at once next year. But better technology will make the change begin to gather speed. “The entire industry is stuck on the billable hour because it doesn’t understand its unit costs,” says Keith Lipman, President of the legal tech company Prosperoware. “If we get to the point of managing unit cost, law firms can actually get away from the billable hour. So, the faster you collect data to understand that is critical” (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Please contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Intellectual property boutique Brinks, Gilson, & Leone lost four litigation partners to Midwest-based Barnes & Thornburg last week, according to The American Lawyer.  This follows the recent trend for IP boutiques, many of which have either been absorbed by larger firms or have also had an unusually large number of partners depart.

John Gabrielides, one of the four partners that moved to Barnes, explained that they felt “limited in the services we could offer to our clients” at Brinks Gilson, and that joining a full-service firm “gives us a lot more flexibility and latitude” (as reported by The American Lawyer).