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Law Firms Forecast Another Strong Year

Economic growth combined with regulatory, technological and demographic change should keep demand high for legal talent

By LaneReport.com staff

With nearly all sectors of the general business community that stimulate legal practice areas experiencing growth, Kentucky’s major law firms expect 2019 to continue the strong demand and revenue growth they saw in 2018. There is ongoing demand for experienced legal talent. However, law firms, like many of their clients, are going through a generational transformation as the post-war baby boomer generation retires and there is increased competition for top law school graduates as well as recruitment of attorneys with experience.

“In 2018, Kentucky attempted to amend the Affordable Care Act contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to include requirements for work or education toward work for Medicaid eligibility. A federal district court ruled the proposals did not explain how they would further the objectives of the Medicaid statute and could not be enforced. The proposal has been resubmitted and approved again by CMS but is being challenged again. These efforts will move to legal issues that affect individuals once initial challenges are resolved. The economic impact to the legal community will continue to improve but at a slower rate and will be affected by federal and state budget pressures due to political differences on health care, immigration and our struggling Eastern Kentucky economy. The Kentucky WINGS (Working Interdisciplinary Network of Guardianship Stakesholders) effort will provide new guidance for Kentucky guardians and courts working with adults in guardianship.  A primary focus is, what changes can be made both at the federal and state levels in preparation for the expanding aging demographic over the coming years.”  — Robert L. McClelland, Attorney, ElderLaw Lexington

“The continuing economic resurgence in the U.S. economy during 2018 was remarkable. From my firm’s perspective, the discrete periods of stock-market volatility during the year had no measurable impact on middle-market deal flow. We closed over $1 billion in transactions and financings over the last 12 months and believe that we will have similar volume during 2019 as private equity continues to seek out deals in Kentucky and the surrounding region. Our litigation practice groups also have started off on a blistering pace in 2019, and we have witnessed an atypical number of commercial cases going to trial over the last several months. Finally, we believe the economy in 2019 will continue to fuel material growth in our intellectual property practice with the only ‘guardrail’ being the difficulty in finding patent-eligible lawyers with relevant engineering skills.” — Henry S. Alford, Managing Director, Middleton Reutlinger

“In 2019, the legal industry is in a period of transition. We saw the continued growth of super national and international firms in 2018 thanks to several mergers and consolidations. While these did not directly impact Kentucky’s legal market, they set a tone that firms who aim to gain revenue are focusing on growing practices in core growth industries and markets. The demand for outside legal services is softening for firms in all markets focused on serving customers on a general basis, while lawyers combining legal expertise with deep industry knowledge and connections are in high demand, particularly for large and middle-market companies.” — Geoff White, Member-In-Charge, Frost Brown Todd

“Business law is the core of our work here in Bowling Green and south-central Kentucky. While keeping a close eye on the markets, we still anticipate our clients, and our firm, will have a strong 2019. Our environmental law practice is extremely strong, particularly as laws and regulations change and businesses have questions about how to best handle these matters. Our estate and tax law and real estate practices grew so much that in 2018 we decided to add a second location just down the street to give that growing practice area the room it needs. We anticipate more growth in 2019 and continue to invest in Bowling Green. This is a great place to live and work, and the community’s growth shows that.” — Bob Young, Managing Partner, English Lucas Priest & Owsley

“The McBrayer firm forecasts another strong year due to continued growth in the number of law-adjacent services it offers, including but not limited to mediation, compliance and human-resources consulting. It is no longer enough to be the smartest and most efficient firm – to remain competitive, a law firm must both engage with the community and offer more than just basic legal services. This firm has always demanded the attorneys serve and give back, therefore community engagement is a core part of its culture. While still dedicated litigators, negotiators and lobbyists, the McBrayer firm differentiates itself from others by maintaining a client-centric approach. This is accomplished through expansion of services the attorneys offer clients, thus fulfilling as many of their needs as possible.” — James H. Frazier III, Managing Partner, McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland PLLC

“If the partial government shutdown and partisan gridlock in Washington are to set the tone for 2019, it will be an unpredictable policy year, and that will certainly be felt here in Kentucky. Democratic control of the U.S. House will create scrutiny of energy and natural-resource regulatory rollbacks set out in the first half of the Trump administration; this means those sectors in the commonwealth will remain in flux. In contrast, passage of the federal farm bill in December was a much-needed shot in the arm for Kentucky farmers and provides a promising outlook for agribusiness statewide. Through these and other regulatory shifts, Dinsmore attorneys will remain focused on providing strategic, results-oriented counsel to our clients and helping them navigate legal changes as they occur.” — Chauncey Curtz, Lexington Office Managing Partner, Dinsmore & Shohl

“BGD continued to see an increase in demand for services in 2018 and expects that trend to continue in 2019. Demand for seasoned attorneys with the management and business skills to handle the most complex matters continues to outpace supply and this issue will be a challenge for many firms as law firm leadership transitions from the baby boomers to Generation X. Forward-looking firms that are willing to invest in new technologies and talent will continue to differentiate themselves from those who are static and satisfied with the status quo in 2019.” — Branden Gross, Office Managing Partner–Lexington, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

“Overall, DBL Law is very optimistic about Kentucky’s economy in 2019. We believe we will continue to see gains in both the business and employment sectors, particularly in our urban markets. However, I do think things will slow this year, largely due to the instability of our nation’s government and global threats to our safety and security. At DBL Law, we’re taking time to develop and implement a robust strategic plan. To remain relevant and competitive, we believe it’s necessary to build a long-term, future-focused strategy and plan that includes investments in people, property and technology.” — James Dressman III, Managing Partner, DBL Law

“We expect the business sectors Dickinson Wright services in all its markets in Kentucky, the United States and Canada to be volatile in 2019. While the federal income tax law enacted in 2018 should contribute to increased economic activity by business and individual clients, the political climates in Washington and Frankfort are worrisome, and the ‘new normal’ for U.S. trade likely includes quotas, tariffs, voluntary export restraints, foreign investment restrictions and other burdens. This unpredictable political and economic environment will put a premium on the ability of businesses to plan for the worst … and hope for the best. Dickinson Wright is positioned, with offices in Kentucky, Washington, across the United States and in Canada, to assist clients with local needs as well as interstate or global businesses. 2019 will provide an ample supply of opportunities and challenges.” — Henry C.T. “Tip” Richmond, Member, Dickinson Wright

“In 2018, law firms demonstrated increased revenues, which grew at the highest rate since before the recession. Despite issues of stock market volatility, trade issues with China and uncertainty regarding interest rates, the legal sector enjoyed steady growth. It is expected that law firm revenue and the United States’ economy will continue to demonstrate growth in 2019, but at a somewhat slower rate. Concerns as to market volatility and other economic issues will require law firms and others in the legal industry plan conservatively and prepare to adapt to a changing economic landscape.” Richard W. Edwards, Boehl Stopher & Graves, LLP

“Steptoe & Johnson views Louisville and Lexington as great places for companies to locate and to grow, especially in the health care, advanced manufacturing, high tech, and food and beverage industries. The integrated efforts of state and local chambers of commerce and state and local economic development efforts in these areas lead us to believe the future for these sectors is bright. As a result, we are building our Kentucky practice with these industries in mind by hiring experienced transaction lawyers familiar with these key sectors and litigators who can cost effectively represent businesses in these sectors when disputes arise. In short, we are bullish on and excited about both Kentucky’s business climate and our opportunities here.” Jim Newberry, Office Managing Member, Steptoe & Johnson

“2019 will see a continuation of political upheaval locally and nationally. The uncertain political situation will affect the outcome of discrete issues such as Kentucky’s public pension system and matters of contested legislation, and state elections this year will have far-reaching consequences. While political matters consume most of the attention and discussion, technology will continue to advance at a faster rate, continuing to change almost everything about commerce in Kentucky, America and the world. Generational turnover among leadership in business, government and the law has begun and will continue. As lawyers, our challenge is not just to help clients navigate change but help form and write the new rules as the world changes. Dramatic change creates dramatic and unprecedented opportunity if you know where to find it. 2019 presents those opportunities.” — P. Douglass Barr, Managing Director, Stoll Keenon Ogden

“Stites & Harbison is very enthusiastic about 2019. We appreciate the confidence our clients place in us, and continue to assist many with complex litigation matters. Intellectual property litigation (and other IP issues), data security, professional services and white-collar criminal investigations, health care, estate planning, and construction matters also dominate our workload. We don’t foresee a slowdown in any area, and the firm is making concerted efforts to continue hiring the best and brightest to maintain high-level client service. We are keenly watching aerospace and behavioral health arenas as well. As in every industry, technological advancements in the legal industry are forcing firms to work smarter, faster and more efficiently for clients. Stites & Harbison works to ensure we keep pace with industry advancements.” — Robert M. Connolly, Chairman, Stites & Harbison

“Stable markets, moderate interest rates and low unemployment are all signs of a strong economy. Despite recent stock market volatility, the fundamentals of our economy remain strong, and we expect moderate and sustained economic growth in 2019. Kentucky is well positioned to grow alongside the national economy. Business tax cuts enacted last year, together with commitments made to invest in domestic infrastructure projects, are likely to spur economic growth here. Our clients in construction and manufacturing are encouraged by these developments and by recent state legislation, which is fostering new interest in public-private partnerships. With 11 offices in six states and Washington D.C., Jackson Kelly will continue to grow and evolve our practice to meet the changing needs of our clients.”  Clifton Clark, Managing Member–Lexington, Jackson Kelly