D.C. Law Firm Leaders Optimistic Despite Tighter Market

Oct. 2, 2019, 10:02 AM

Law firm leaders agree competition for talent and clients is tightening in Washington, but they’re optimistic about their businesses and many are committed to growth in the nation’s capital, a Zeughauser Group survey shows.

The new report by the law firm management consultancy group surveyed managing partners and other senior leaders of Washington firms ranging in size from less than 10 to roughly 150 attorneys over the first half of 2019.

Of the 36 responses received, 100% of senior leaders were optimistic for their firms versus the overall law firm environment in Washington. However, when asked about how they feel about the level of competition faced from national, non-D.C.-based firms in the coming year 89% said they felt it would increase.

“The competition set is getting larger with more scale and increasingly profitable and so they’re competing for talent in particular,” said Kent Zimmermann, a law firm management consultant for the Zeughauser Group.

This in some cases gives larger and more profitable firms a recruiting advantage.

“Obviously it’s not a phenomena exclusive to Washington,” Zimmermann said.

Practice-wise their highest growth priorities were litigation and regulatory followed by privacy and cybersecurity. The latter was a newer development that hadn’t been seen in other surveys of law firms in other cities, Zimmermann noted.

That may have to do with the nature of the practice in D.C. or may have to do with rising need more generally that firms feel that they have to grow that area, he said.

The survey also asked about other growth priorities. Over 58% of respondents reported that they were approached to combine with another firm over the past year. While 80% reported that they were not interested in a combination, 20% of firms were. Of those, 55% said they were interested in combining with a similarly sized or larger firm.

Many firms surveyed indicated their growth priorities remain in the nation’s capital with 45% of leaders said they’d like to grow there over the next three to five years. The Bay Area and San Francisco were their second targets followed by Chicago.

“They like the market they’re in and they want more of it and I think that bodes well for the D.C. market,” Zimmermann said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Meghan Tribe in New York at mtribe@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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