By Susan Gosselin
Did you know that Louisville is one of the top 40 legal markets in the nation?
According to the Louisville Bar Association, the area boasts a total of 3,200 practicing members of the bar, a thriving community poised to benefit from the latest advances in the city’s economy.
While experts at the firms interviewed for this story all said more large companies are hiring in-house counsel, they all agree opportunities are ripe for nimble firms that understand their client’s business to work in tandem with in-house counsel.
“Clients are requiring much more from their outside counsel,” said Robert Connolly, firm chair in the Louisville office of Stites & Harbison PLLC. “The firms who succeed in this evolving legal market will be those who understand how to satisfy their clients and surpass expectations. … We’re very bullish on the volume of new matters in 2018.”
Many of those new matters will have to do with the development of Louisville’s downtown. With the expanded Kentucky International Convention Center set to open in August after a $200 million-plus upgrade, and the building of the 612-room Omni Hotel, new businesses have been opening up shop in downtown Louisville at increased speed.
“We’re seeing a lot of real estate development work in this office,” said Dan Fisher, partner at the Louisville office of Bingham Greenbaum & Doll. “Lots of businesses and restaurants have opened to service the new hotel traffic downtown. More office buildings are being built. And all those businesses need legal help, zoning help, general construction contracts, as well as straight real estate legal work.”
Robert Watson, member and partner in charge at the Louisville office of McBrayer McGinnis Leslie & Kirkland, agreed.
“The new building boom downtown has been great for us,” Watson said. “We have so many distilleries that are being built right now, and they need help with protecting their names and trademarks. Of course, that dovetails right into the hospitality industry. We’ve been helping new restaurants downtown with their tenant contracts and getting liquor licenses.”
Connolly also noted the real estate uptick.
“Our corporate and real estate lawyers have seen a substantial increase in the number of transactions they have handled over the last 12 months” he reflected, “and that trend has continued in 2018. Our construction lawyers, both on the transactional and litigation fronts, are as busy as they have been in recent memory.”
Transitioning to new leadership
The new business coming in isn’t just in startups and new construction. Experts say there is a generational shift that is occurring as baby boomers who own businesses retire.
“There’s been a lot of robust activity around succession planning for our clients, especially closely held and family-owned businesses,” Fisher said. “As the owners age, they are wondering, ‘Do I sell? If I hand it down to my children, what’s the safest way to do that?’ And of course, with a strong business climate comes strong merger and acquisition activity.”
There’s a generational shift in the nature of the agreements workers have with their companies, as well.
“In the future, I foresee a rise in employment cases,” Watson said. “As more people join the workforce, workers don’t have the luxury of having one workplace contract their whole careers. People job hop now more than ever, and companies will need strong protection and non-compete contracts.”
Healthcare driving legal scene
As healthcare practice chair for his firm, Fisher said the uncertainty of healthcare legislation has slowed the activity in this sector a bit. But competitive concerns have created new opportunities as well.
“Companies in healthcare are under considerable pressure,” he said. “But they are going into joint ventures, consolidations, collaborations and clinical integrations like never before. Rural hospitals are now looking for legal help as they try to survive and stay independent. And as the industry explores accountable-care organizations and new payment models based on performance, healthcare organizations need the right legal advice to steer them through these agreements.”
Healthcare regulations are another important driver of new business for legal firms.
“While litigation continues to be a mainstay of our firm, healthcare has been a big driver for us,” Connolly said. “Whether dealing with a HIPAA audit or assisting a healthcare organization with a data breach, our healthcare team is busy. We’re looking forward to a good year.”
9300 Shelbyville Road,
Louisville, KY 40222
More than a leading law firm, McBrayer serves its clients and the community through its commitment to service and local involvement. The firm’s 60 attorneys focus on a varied array of practice areas such as litigation, corporate law, employment, real estate law, intellectual property, hospitality law, healthcare and mediation. These attorneys consistently win accolades from organizations such as U.S. News Best Lawyers, Chambers USA, Super Lawyers, Louisville Magazine’s “Top Lawyers,” and various bar associations.
In addition to offices in Louisville, Lexington, Frankfort, Greenup, Ashland and Washington, D.C., the firm is recognized for its exceptional lobbying group, MML&K Government Solutions, located in Frankfort.
Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP
3500 National City Tower
101 South Fifth Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP has served the legal and business needs of clients for more than a century, providing transactional, litigation, tax and government-related services to clients across a variety of industries and business sectors. The firm also provides estate planning and other services to individuals and nonprofits.
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