With the fiscal cliff having been kicked down the road a bit, our corporate clients are cautiously making permanent attorney hires again but we anticipate Q1/Q2 year-over-year attorney search activity to be relatively flat this year. This could change significantly if bi-partisanship in Congress can restore confidence in the business community. We also expect corporations to continue in-sourcing work from law firms and to demand more value (per hour or transaction) from outside counsel.
Law firms are reporting mixed results. Activity in the DFW metroplex is reportedly increasing only modestly, while firms in the Austin-San Antonio metroplex are experiencing better results due to transactions involving the Eagle Ford shale play. Houston is booming and now has 50 branches of AmLaw 100 and 200 firms with a surge of AmLaw 100 branches having opened within the last five years – mostly in pursuit of lucrative energy finance and transactional work for global clients. We expect the energy boom to carry Houston and Central Texas firms to better financial success than the pundits have predicted for firms nationally. Texas law firms, generally, have reason to be more optimistic about their revenue potential this year than in 2012.
What’s hot? Energy finance and transactions, intellectual property (prosecution and transactional), M&A, securities (primarily ’33 Act), regulatory compliance (primarily FCPA, export/import, and treasury regs), onshore and offshore oil and gas transactions, labor and employment (though not as robust as predicted in recent years), healthcare, and general corporate and commercial transactions will be the hot practice areas this year.