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Law Firms Prepare for Slowdown After Record Demand Industry

WSJ – $: “Industry has seen lower revenue growth this year, but firm leaders say they will be buoyed by litigation and bankruptcies Brad Karp, chairman of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, said firms are willing to pay top-dollar for high-performing partners in strategically important practice areas. Law firms are bracing for economic uncertainty after record-breaking revenues last year and hiring sprees that saw even some lower-level lawyers netting six-figure signing bonuses. Market volatility, inflation and rising interest rates have put a damper on corporate merger and acquisition activity, which in turn has cut into a key stream of revenue that has fueled recent boom times in the legal industry. The slowdown is putting pressure on law-firm hiring and prompting firm leaders to look for growth opportunities in other practice areas, including in bankruptcy, restructuring, litigation and government regulation work… Overall law firm demand, measured in billable hours logged, dropped 0.8% in the first nine months of 2022, compared with the same time frame last year, according to a report released in mid-November by the Wells Fargo Legal Specialty Group. Revenue has grown 4.6% in 2022, compared with 14.4% in the same period in 2021. Expenses have grown 12.8% in 2022, compared with the previous year, squeezing profit margins for firms, according to the report….large firms are responding to the slowdown by cutting back on the hiring of associates from other firms, though demand at the partner level remains strong.”

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