Legal Outlook: Policy, Tech Changes Mean More Hours in 2018

Kentucky firms expect clients to seek legal advice on taxes, cybersecurity, compliance and strong business growth

By wmadministrator

Kentucky law firms see growth opportunity in every direction. Federal tax reform and economic growth should increase demand for legal services in most practice areas, even in healthcare where the mandate to have insurance coverage was eliminated. Technological change is shifting the operational landscape in every business sector, too, changing the competitive and regulatory landscape, and in turn creating the potential and need to do more deals of every kind. And that is on top of an increasing demand for services created by a growing economy, within the state, across the nation and internationally. Regulatory change out on the commercial playing field and in the office also means more demand for legal service. Firms themselves are having to make special efforts to keep pace with technology’s impact on their own operations. 2018 looks like a busy year for the commonwealth’s legal community.

“In 2017 Kentucky saw an increase in deal flow and as a result, Middleton Reutlinger’s transactional practice exceeded all expectations. Despite a regulatory environment that remains unpredictable, we expect that trend to continue into 2018 with low interest rates and inflation, consistent corporate earnings, federal tax reform that’s enacted, and state tax reform that is right around the corner. As technological advances continue at an astronomical pace, not only are these advances fueling our intellectual property practice as clients continue to protect their unique products and processes, but they are also changing the delivery of legal services to the client. Technology is allowing for greater efficiency, collaboration and communication between law firms and our clients. Firms that adapt and readily accept this change will have an advantage.” — Henry S. Alford, Managing Director, Middleton Reutlinger

“While McBrayer expects another period of growth in 2018, the challenge for the legal profession is to adapt to a changing market and economy. Law firms are steeped in tradition, so what will separate successful firms will be the pace at which they re-evaluate their mission and adapt to provide the services needed by clients. McBrayer continues to be successful because our culture allows our lawyers to provide the personal, prompt and efficient service of a small firm while bringing a diverse and varied skillset that meets the criteria of a large one. McBrayer has recently added several new attorneys who practice in the areas of medical malpractice and professional liability defense, and new practices in compliance and mediation.” — James H. Frazier IIIManaging Member, McBrayer McGinnis Leslie & Kirkland

“Having hired five new associates in 2017, DBL Law is off to a strong start in 2018 and has benefitted from clients looking to midsize law firms for more value in their legal spend. DBL Law continues to grow its white-collar crime, regulatory compliance and cybersecurity practice areas to complement the continued strong demand of services in human resources, manufacturing, healthcare, real estate development, construction and banking. The strong economy throughout Kentucky and, in particular, the expansion of Amazon in the Northern Kentucky market, make us confident of considerable growth in 2018. DBL Law’s membership in the Geneva Group International network of midsize accounting and law firms benefits our clients by enabling us to service their national and international needs. DBL Law hopes to announce the opening of a DBL Law office in Lexington sometime during 2018.” — James Dressman III, Managing Partner, Dressman Benzinger LaVelle

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 will impact businesses in every economic sector. Congressional amendments to the law governing partnerships will require changes in agreement structures, governance requirements and audit rules. Significant changes in workplace laws also are expected as 2018 progresses. The National Labor Relations Board is revisiting precedent established during the Obama administration. Decisions that broadened the joint-employer standard and limited employers’ rights to include certain workplace rules in their handbooks – including rules prohibiting profanity or abusive behavior toward co-workers – have been overturned. New overtime rules, with increases in the minimum salary threshold for employees to qualify for certain overtime exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act, are likely. While this churn of change appears chaotic, experienced counsel can help businesses find opportunities for continued growth and success.” — Doug Barr, Managing Director, Stoll Keenon Ogden

“With the ability to provide prompt, high-quality legal service to our clients in business, restructuring and litigation, Fowler Bell has enthusiasm for 2018. The Bluegrass region’s stable economy is vital to economic development, making Commerce Lexington “It’s Vital” theme an appropriate one. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government’s recent land trade with the University of Kentucky opens 250 acres at Coldstream Farm for manufacturing development while preserving our precious bluegrass. The redevelopment of downtown Lexington by renovation of the “old” courthouse, planned expansion of Lexington Center, development of parks and trails along Town Branch, and the installation of an ultra-fast fiber optic internet service bring tremendous energy to the area, are vital to tourism and make Lexington and the Bluegrass a top area for new and expanding businesses.” — Taft A. McKinstry, Managing Member, Fowler Bell

“Our lawyers should be busy during 2018 with an uptick in M&A activity, real estate and other transactional work and continued strength in the healthcare and financial institution sectors, areas where many of our partners focus. We work in a challenging and rewarding profession that is undergoing transformational change. Today, Kentucky is a wonderful place to live, yet tomorrow our economic future remains uncertain. While our president tweets about unprecedented economic growth, Kentucky is feeling the pinch created by underfunded state pensions and an outdated tax system. The legislature must fix both without losing focus on our three-pronged strategy for success: education, education, education.  Improving education remains the only viable solution for increasing opportunity in Kentucky.” — Franklin Jelsma, Managing Partner, Wyatt Tarrant & Combs

“Our firm has long concentrated its practice around business services, so we get a close view of how the business community is performing. We’ve not seen any slowdown in the amount of work coming to us to help expand existing operations and start new ones. Bowling Green and Southcentral Kentucky offer great quality of life in their local community that is core to drawing businesses. For our own business, we anticipate a strong year as we have added more personal law services, such as family law and an increased portfolio of estate and tax services, to our firm. This work offers a great accompaniment to the business law services that have long been our area of concentration.” — Bob Young, Managing Partner, English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley

“The economic outlook for our elderlaw community is very bright. Continuing education will be big for lawyers in 2018. The changes in the new tax law make estate planning lawyers jump, but every general practice attorney needs to pay attention as well. With the pressure on state and federal budgets, our aging and special-needs clients see the changing public benefits funding. This will bring more clients to our door to help navigate the maze. Continuing legal education is going to be critical for attorneys, and the client demand should move more general practice and estate planning attorneys into this area of practice as their clients continue to age.” — Robert L. McClelland, Attorney, Elder Law Lexington

“The two main issues that will impact the business community this year are cybersecurity and healthcare policy. Cybersecurity is a principal concern in 2018. The growing amount of sensitive information stored by businesses make them key targets for a cyberattack. Businesses must understand how their data is stored and used. Up-to-date data security policies and a strong legal partner ready to assist are key to weathering a cyberattack or breach. The healthcare industry and employers in general should also be on their toes in 2018. Novel legal issues could arise quickly, depending on moves the Trump administration makes. Although Congress has failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, administrative action and the tax reform law’s repeal of the individual mandate penalty will effectively strip it of its effectiveness.” — Bonita Black, Office Managing Member, Steptoe & Johnson

“Sweeping changes at the federal and state levels have already resulted in increased economic growth and activity for the wide-ranging publicly and privately owned businesses serviced by Dickinson Wright. Tax reform, greater fiscal responsibility and continued reductions in regulations that unnecessarily restrict businesses will lead to further expansion and growth of most businesses. We are already seeing significant activity in the manufacturing and healthcare sectors. With this expansion, we expect sophisticated legal services to grow in corporate, real estate, taxation, estate planning and global trade.” — Henry C.T. (Tip) Richmond III, Member, Dickinson Wright

“The country continues to experience regulatory changes under the Trump administration, with evolving impact to the economy, businesses and individuals. Perhaps most notable is the recent overhaul of the tax code, which stands to significantly affect a variety of industries. The manufacturing, natural resource and energy sectors are in a particular time of flux, and I expect that’s where we will see some of the biggest regulatory effects in Kentucky. As we navigate these developments, we will also stay informed and attuned to additional shifts on the horizon. By taking a strategic, nimble posture, our goal remains, as always, to position our clients to capitalize on opportunity and find solutions to challenges.” — Chauncey Curtz, Office Managing Partner, Dinsmore & Shohl

“Intellectual property litigation, M&A, regulatory assistance, class action litigation and employment matters dominate the scene for Stites & Harbison. Similar to 2017, the complexity of legal matters continues to drive spend in the marketplace. Our clients are seeing more intellectual property disputes, regulatory and administrative law uncertainty, and employment issues. Increases in employment matters are attributed to wage and hour issues and social issues within the workplace such as transgender and anti-harassment policies. Also, we are seeing employers facing scrutiny in the media that cause a rise in class actions. The firm continues to have booming health care and construction practices, and we project those areas to continue to grow the next 18-24 months since we have highly skilled attorneys with expertise in these areas.” — Robert M. Connolly, Chair, Stites & Harbison

“In 2018 we expect continued growth in demand for corporate, economic development and tax advice. Our clients are seeking counsel on the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. BGD’s tax, employee benefits and estate planning attorneys are positioned to help businesses and individuals navigate income tax and executive compensation changes. BGD’s corporate and economic development attorneys were exceptionally busy in 2017, and we expect that to continue in the near term. In certain circumstances, this economic activity has generated new matters for our litigation and restructuring attorneys. All of our attorneys are committed to staying up-to-date and keeping our clients in the know on all regulations and changes that may impact their business. As a firm, BGD is growing with our clients and engaged in the significant business transaction impacting our region.” — Jim Irving, Louisville Office Managing Partner, Bingham Greenebaum Doll

“The political landscape in 2018 should continue to bolster the business climate, as Kentucky invests $100 million in workforce training, incentives for highly skilled workers and incentives for companies that provide education to those highly skilled employees. With record interest in Kentucky, a pro-business government and an emphasis on workforce development, Kentucky is well-positioned for growth and economic development. The state does need to focus efforts on critical issues such as tax reform and pension reform to avoid derailing the great steps in long-term progress that we saw in 2017. At this exciting time for our business community, the attorneys and government service professionals at FBT look forward to helping our clients manage and thrive through these significant changes and opportunities.” — Geoff M. White, Member-In-Charge, Frost Brown Todd

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