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Law firms continue to expand in lower-cost areas with large talent pools, while growth in dominant markets such as New York and Washington, D.C., has plateaued, according to a study released on The American Lawyer. The new report on legal employment and real estate trends found that the U.S. legal sector has continued to grow in emerging markets, where low business costs and talented millennial workers have attracted firms looking to expand, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

The report also identified key markets for potential future growth based on legal industry labor and real estate costs—particularly for large firms looking to establish back offices outside their core markets. According to the article, Phoenix was the national leader in legal service employment growth, which includes lawyers, paralegals and administrative staff, with a 9.6% increase from last year. Following Phoenix was Austin, Texas, at 9.1%; Atlanta at 8.9%; Orlando, Florida, at 7.4%; and Dallas/Fort Worth at 5.1%.

“Law offices, in general, are at the point right now where they are really struggling with a profit vs. expense scenario,” notes Julie Whelan, CBRE’s head of occupier research. “Real estate is becoming even more expensive, especially in gateway markets, making it even more important for firms to be strategic in terms of location and size. In some cases, firms may decide to increase efficiency by going to a much smaller space—where they may be paying more per square foot for a smaller size,” (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Certain Midwest and second-tier markets, in terms of population, have garnered particular interest from large law firms, especially those that serve middle-market clients, reports Lizzy McLellan of The American Lawyer. According to statistics from AmLaw’s latest NLJ 500 survey, the number of lawyers at NLJ 500 firms grew by 100 or more in each of the Washington State, Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan markets.

“There are a lot of firms that started out in the secondary, tertiary markets that now have offices in lots of other secondary, tertiary markets,” notes Mary K. Young of the Zeughauser Group. When those firms make entry to a new market, she adds, they often acquire or take from smaller local firms that would not have made it onto the NLJ 500 on their own, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

David Barnard of Blaqwell Inc. also notes that small firms based in smaller markets are increasingly looking for merger opportunities. “Specialization is continuing. It’s no longer possible to do everything. It’s just too tough,” he said. So small practices have to choose their strengths and double down there. After doing that, he says, “the lawyers in those towns are combining so they can offer full service to local clients and maintain their livelihood,” (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 that there’s plenty to look forward to in 2018, according to partners at two of the largest Am Law 100 firms. DLA Piper co-chair Roger Meltzer, for one, expects a rise in corporate transactional work due to “very robust capital markets” and an increase in M&A, including in the middle market. Ora Fisher, one of two vice chairs at Latham & Watkins and a member of the 2,280-lawyer firm’s executive committee, also expects good times to persist. “Assuming the global economy continues to grow, we see a whole lot of demand for our transactional practices and all the related practices that support them,” Fisher forecasted. In addition to transactional work, Fisher said she expects a rise in demand for complex trial litigation, white-collar criminal defense work, privacy and cybersecurity matters, and financial regulatory work globally (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.