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2011 Legal Outlook

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Legal Services: Economy Showing Signs of Recovery

 

The legal services sector is seeing signals that the economy is getting better, albeit slowly. Basic business practice is beginning to recover, with liquidity seeping back into financial sector. The optimism remains cautious, however, because the improvement will not come nearly as dramatically as the decline and difficult conditions experienced the past two years.

Jeffrey Phillips, Managing member, Kentucky
Steptoe & Johnson PLLC

“Given the country’s stagnated economic growth, a robust increase in the legal market seems unlikely. Businesses continue to whittle down the number of law firms they use to provide legal services. Clients are rightfully expecting more from their legal counsel. Because we created teams and industry groups tasked with learning the economics, plans and needs of the businesses that call us their counsel to keep clients advised of trends, opportunities and potential pitfalls, Steptoe & Johnson has experience sustained growth over the past few years that should continue into 2011. We have added lawyers and business specialists to our West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky offices, and opened two Pennsylvania offices in 2010. Regional law firms like Steptoe & Johnson have recently, and will in 2011, compete successfully with the mega-national law firms. This is particularly true concerning the need to combat the regulatory burdens on businesses that will continue to be a hurdle to economic growth in 2011.”

Fred “Bo” Fugazzi, Partner
Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love LLP

“Residential sales inventories are high. Bankruptcies are still on the rise. Retail is improving, and consumers are beginning to spend. Service industries are busy. Resignation to current economic levels and new confidence are emerging and encourage growth in spending. The outlook is improving, hearkening a much better year.”

Chauncey S.R. Curtz, Managing Partner, Lexington office
Dinsmore & Shohl

“Kentucky’s economy seems to be starting to show some increasing signs of recovery. While there is greater liquidity in the financial sector, the commercial real estate and construction industries are still struggling to show significant improvement. Recent upturns in consumer confidence and the market in general will hopefully begin to drive new investment and strengthen tourism over the next few quarters, which should help the recovery gain some momentum.

Aggressive regulatory scrutiny focused on the energy, environmental and natural resources industries will continue to impact businesses in those segments for the foreseeable future. On a broader scale, ongoing changes in legislation governing employer/employee relationships and the looming concerns stemming from the healthcare overhaul are likely to impact nearly all area businesses.”

William Lear, Chairman
Stoll Keenon Ogden

“The Good: Recent activity in the housing and Thoroughbred horse markets signals marked improvement over the past two years, which will boost Central Kentucky’s overall economy. The Bad: Being better than 2009 and 2010 isn’t saying much. The Ugly: Neither of these industries will truly rebound unless and until credit markets for them return, and that hasn’t happened yet.”

Bill Hollander, Managing Partner
Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs

“Practices most affected by the recession – including mergers and acquisitions, general corporate and real estate – are coming back. Other practices such as healthcare, litigation and intellectual property continue to be strong. Clients’ renewed focus on value is helping us gain market share from firms located in out-of-state money centers, with higher costs and rates. We believe that trend will continue.”

David Owen, Deputy Chairman
Greenebaum Doll & McDonald

“Greenebaum expects the need for sophisticated legal services to grow in 2011. Our business clients continue to seek innovative ways to structure and operate their businesses. Addressing these demands resulted in a growing need for legal services in 2010, and we expect that to continue in 2011. In particular, we expect environmental, energy, healthcare, natural resources, labor, litigation and tax services to remain strong in 2011.”

Kennedy Helm III, Chairman of the Firm
Stites & Harbison PLLC

“Since the last half of 2010, Stites & Harbison is seeing more transactions coming the firm’s way, which is a sign of an improving economy. We see strong growth in the areas of healthcare, finance and intellectual property. We expect the number of acquisitions to increase in the year ahead. The area of acquisitions has been a lot stronger than a lot of people would assume. It is a great time to be an acquirer if you have the financial wherewithal to do it.”

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