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Legal outlook: Slow, steady growth

By The Lane Report

legalOptimism is gaining a foothold in Kentucky’s legal services sector. Slow economic growth, but growth nonetheless, is generating demand for legal work. Real estate and Kentucky’s important equine industry are beginning to rise from their post-Great Recession bottoms. Healthcare reform compliance is creating work and will continue to do so for the next few years, plus an aging baby boomer generation is seeking more and more estate planning. Uncertainty remains a strong presence in the business community, but there are economic stirrings. The commonwealth’s manufacturing sector, anchored by a resurgent automotive segment with some 450 suppliers, is growing and requires special legal services and advice.


Bill Lear

“The early 2013 signs from the economy generally, and from our client base, point to continued slow but steady growth in the economy and uneven performance among specific sectors. For example, the equine industry has clearly found its bottom and is bouncing back, but the real estate market, despite a few bright spots, is still not moving as it was in the non-boom periods of the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st Century. One of the brightest spots is the explosion (no pun intended) in the energy sector. Our firm has recently opened offices in Pittsburgh and Evansville in response to client needs, principally energy-related, in those areas.”

Bill Lear, Managing director, Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC


Legal ChaunceyCurtz_Dinsmore“Implementation of new federal programs promises to impact industries, healthcare providers and businesses across the state. With the true impacts not yet known, more businesses will consult legal counsel. Intellectual property practice will remain busy with the ongoing implementation of the America Invents Act, a landmark change in the U.S. patent system. To protect their innovations, companies of all sizes will need to work closely with seasoned attorneys to navigate these uncharted waters. Larger firms are likely continue expanding to increase the depth of their bench and ability to serve clients, while smaller and mid-size firms seek mergers and other means of growth. In 2012, five Louisville firms were part of mergers, a trend expected to continue throughout the state in 2013.”

Chauncey Curtz, Managing partner, Dinsmore & Shohl


Legal Gaines Penn“Our law firm primarily practices business law, so when we’re doing well so is the economy in South Central Kentucky. We saw growth across all our practice areas in 2012, which tells us the economy in our area is gaining momentum and may be stronger than other parts of the state.  We’re already seeing that same level of activity in 2013. A lot of the manufacturing businesses in this part of the state are automotive, and the auto industry has been explosive. That trend looks like it will continue. We’re anticipating a solid 2013.”

Gaines Penn, Managing partner, English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP


legal jdressmandbllaw-com“As one of the largest healthcare firms in the state, 2013 will be one of the busiest years in recent memory for DBL Law. There are a number of legal and political developments in the state that will impact healthcare organizations. Navigating the Affordable Care Act, the upheaval caused by the implementation of Managed Care Organizations in the state’s Medicaid program, mandatory compliance programs for nursing facilities, and integration and enforcement of the expanded HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules are just a few examples of how the changing regulatory landscape will impact many facets of healthcare operations.”

James A. Dressman III, Managing partner, DBL Law


legal Robert McClelland“As the tsunami of aging ‘boomers’ swells and life expectancy grows, the practice of elder law is feeling its energy. A shortage of qualified attorneys who understand public benefits and the specialty legal areas of guardianship and special-needs planning creates an excellent opportunity for attorneys to serve a growing client base. Few clients are truly prepared with proper estate plans that address long-term care, healthcare decision-making and durable power of attorney for financial support. In the past 12 months, the Kentucky Bar Association Elder Law Section has grown from 17 members to 77. The next five years will see dramatic growth in this practice area.”

Robert L. McClelland, Attorney, McClelland & Associates PLLC & Chairman, Kentucky Bar Association’s Elder Law Section


Bill Hollander

“We are optimistic about 2013. We have a very large real estate team, which is beginning to see increased activity. Merger and acquisition work has shown signs of improvement. Increased commercial activity is likely to lead to more litigation and employment law work. Our healthcare team – the largest in Kentucky – remains very busy helping clients navigate the managed-care landscape and assisting both healthcare providers and employers implement the Affordable Care Act. Last year we noted that uncertainty about the national political scene was a potential problem. Unfortunately, it still is.”

Bill Hollander
, Managing partner, Wyatt Tarrant & Combs LLP


John Crockett III

“Uncertainty persists in our national and global economies. Perhaps the 2012 elections will bring more clarity for the business community, but that remains to be seen. While some segments of the nation’s economy show signs of growth, others remain stagnant, and lingering concerns about rising healthcare costs, the tax climate and unemployment remain unresolved by elected leaders who appear unable to find definitive solutions that drive sound business decisions. Our clients turn to us for advice and counsel during uncertain times, and it is a privilege to be trusted with their important legal issues. Their challenges and opportunities are ours. We make it a point to know and understand our clients’ businesses, to be responsive to their needs, and work to deliver what they need before they need it.”

John R. Crockett III, Chairman, Frost Brown Todd


Henry S. Alford

“The battle between the irrepressible American entrepreneurial spirit and the federal government’s desire to control that spirit through commercial regulation and taxation plays out in earnest on the American stage during 2013. Governmental intrusion into the economy continues to be the greatest barrier to growth, and at some point that intrusion will tip the balance between risk and potential reward to the point where entrepreneurs will no longer be willing to invest the required intellectual and monetary capital to build businesses. By the end of 2013, I believe we will have a clearer vision of how close we are to the tipping point.”

Henry S. Alford, Managing director, Middleton Reutlinger


Kenneth Sagan

“Stites & Harbison projects more slow but steady economic growth in 2013 and will continue our commitment to innovative, value-driven legal services for our clients. We continue to expand our geographic reach and depth of legal expertise, particularly to better serve our clients in litigation, healthcare, financial institutions, construction and intellectual property work. Our new Covington office improves our ability to serve Northern Kentucky and Ohio clients. We expect our intellectual property practice, already one of the largest in the Southeast, to experience more growth in 2013. Stites & Harbison look forward more great results in 2013.”

Kenneth R. Sagan, Chairman, Stites & Harbison PLLC


Mason Miller“We continue to see a transition from law firms that depend on the inefficient billable-hour model and who base their business on leveraging armies of young and green associates toward law firms that offer flat fees per project, routinely produce budgets for all legal work and that know their customer’s business, goals, strategies and objectives, ultimately working to help the client make more money – not just performing legal work solely for legal work’s sake.”

Mason L. Miller, Miller Wells PLLC


James Frazier III

“Medium-sized firms such as ours are optimistic. We have contained costs, cut overhead and operate on much leaner infrastructures. Those factors equate to lower costs for our clients, who are still watching their bottom line and their legal bills. Although hourly work still rules, a great deal of our work has gone to set fees or other alternative billing arrangements; i.e., success fees. The healthcare regulatory maze will continue to generate work not just in the regulatory realm but also the litigation arena; the latter has risen the past three years. The new normal for 2013 will be to look toward economic success through a long-viewed lens. Our business decisions during this economic turmoil have focused on client costs, client satisfaction and timely quality service. Those are the recipes for continued success; we see expansion on the horizon.”

James H. Frazier III, Managing member, McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC


Taft A. McKinstry

“Lexington’s law firms will continue to face change in 2013 after seeing mergers, hiring freezes and new firms entering the city during 2012. Firms must continue to streamline processes using technology appropriately. Firms that are remodeling or moving will consider smaller office footprints since many of their attorneys spend as much time working outside the office as they do in it. Fowler Bell’s driving force is to maintain the highest level of service to its clients while addressing these changes.”

Taft A. McKinstry, Managing member, Fowler Bell



“Throughout the region, Bowles Rice experienced a much stronger year in 2012 than anticipated, and we are optimistic we will see continued growth in 2013. The slow but steady recovery of the economy will continue to encourage companies to expand operations, creating the need for legal services. The demand for estate and financial planning services will continue to increase because individuals are more concerned about protecting their wealth in these uncertain times. Transactional work will continue to be unpredictable and fluctuate throughout the year. We will continue to focus on providing our clients with solution-based services at a reasonable cost.”

Timothy C. Wills, Partner, Lexington office, Bowles Rice