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The legal industry can expect to see low single-digit growth in revenue and profitability next year, just as it did in 2016, according to a report released Tuesday by Citi Private Bank’s law firm group and Hildebrandt Consulting. The report states that top performing firms may continue to pull away from the rest of the pack as a result of the challenges the industry faces.

“Overall, what we’re seeing is a profession that’s pretty stable actually, but having much slower growth,” said Hildebrandt founder Brad Hildebrandt, who authored the report with Gretta Rusanow, head of advisory services at Citi, and the chair of the law firm group, Dan DiPietro. Lagging demand is one of the biggest issues the industry faces, Hildebrandt said.

The report, which is released annually, noted that demand for law firm services grew by 0.3 percent in the first three quarters of this year, while expenses grew by 3.4 percent during the same time period, thanks in part to the rise in associate pay. Still, firms were able to raise revenue by 3.7 percent, largely because lawyer rates grew by 3.2 percent.

Figures such as those will likely persist into 2017, which, when paired with the uncertainty as a result of the U.K.’s so-called Brexit and recent U.S. presidential election results, amount to a competitive environment for law firms. While it remains to be seen how the geopolitical surprises will affect the legal industry as a whole, the report’s authors believe it’s clear that the most successful firms share some characteristics that may help them continue to outperform.

The good news for everyone else is that some of those characteristics can be replicated by other firms.

“In an environment where your success will largely come at the expense of other firms, there are things that any firm can consider,” Rusanow said.

Though clients continue to push for lower prices, the top firms have been able to increase their rates. While their existing clients might successfully demand discounts for legal services, these firms have also been able to give new clients higher rates, the report said. That is due, in part, because these firms are viewed as the go-to experts in their niche fields.

The most successful firms have also remained more dependent on associates and contract lawyers and less so on relatively more expensive income partners, the report said. In 2015, the top firms’ nonpartner lawyer populations were made up of 72.7 percent associates, 9.6 percent temporary or contract lawyers and 7.6 percent income partners, compared with 53.1 percent associates, 5.9 percent temporary or contract lawyers and 28 percent income partners at other firms surveyed by Citi.

Finally, at the top firms, there has been “more rigor around holding [partners] to performance level,” said Rusanow, as well as more “aggressive encouragement of early retirement.” (The report pointed out that at the partner level, diversity remains elusive in Big Law.)

Given the highly competitive environment law firms are in, Rusanow said many firms will continue to hire high-profile lateral partners, acquire smaller firms and—in fewer cases—look for a merger partner. Rusanow noted that firm leaders are making the decision to pursue those strategies carefully and deliberately.

Some of those trends have been in evidence as the year draws to a close, though the report did not mention any firms specifically. A number of lateral additions have recently been announced, such as Kirkland & Ellis’ recruitment Monday of Cravath, Swaine & Moore corporate partner Jonathan Davis in New York, where Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison grabbed Cravath M&A bigwig Scott Barshay earlier this year, as well as Weil, Gotshal & Manges’ hire of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett antitrust leader Kevin Arquit, a move expected in January.

Rusanow, who also did not name any firms, said top tier lateral hires are not necessarily new, but 2016 saw “a notable number of them.”

Law firms of all sizes continue to look for small firms to acquire or large firms to join, but a merger of equals is more rare. Last month, however, Arnold & Porter and Kaye Scholer agreed to combine on Jan. 1, 2017, and form a 1,000-lawyer firm.

Much of the consolidation in the legal industry has been driven by an increase in expenses, Hildebrandt said. In additional to associate pay raises, the cost of cybersecurity protection, rise of artificial intelligence and other types of technology have added line items to law firm ledgers, increasing the pressure to scale up.

But Hildebrandt said the most valuable thing law firms can do going into 2017 is protect the relationships they have with their clients.

“In the end, client trust and client relationships top everything,” he said.

The legal industry can expect to see low single-digit growth in revenue and profitability next year, just as it did in 2016, according to a report released Tuesday by Citi Private Bank’s law firm group and Hildebrandt Consulting. The report states that top performing firms may continue to pull away from the rest of the pack as a result of the challenges the industry faces.

“Overall, what we’re seeing is a profession that’s pretty stable actually, but having much slower growth,” said Hildebrandt founder Brad Hildebrandt, who authored the report with Gretta Rusanow, head of advisory services at Citi, and the chair of the law firm group, Dan DiPietro. Lagging demand is one of the biggest issues the industry faces, Hildebrandt said.

The report, which is released annually, noted that demand for law firm services grew by 0.3 percent in the first three quarters of this year, while expenses grew by 3.4 percent during the same time period, thanks in part to the rise in associate pay. Still, firms were able to raise revenue by 3.7 percent, largely because lawyer rates grew by 3.2 percent.

Figures such as those will likely persist into 2017, which, when paired with the uncertainty as a result of the U.K.’s so-called Brexit and recent U.S. presidential election results, amount to a competitive environment for law firms. While it remains to be seen how the geopolitical surprises will affect the legal industry as a whole, the report’s authors believe it’s clear that the most successful firms share some characteristics that may help them continue to outperform.

The good news for everyone else is that some of those characteristics can be replicated by other firms.

“In an environment where your success will largely come at the expense of other firms, there are things that any firm can consider,” Rusanow said.

Though clients continue to push for lower prices, the top firms have been able to increase their rates. While their existing clients might successfully demand discounts for legal services, these firms have also been able to give new clients higher rates, the report said. That is due, in part, because these firms are viewed as the go-to experts in their niche fields.

The most successful firms have also remained more dependent on associates and contract lawyers and less so on relatively more expensive income partners, the report said. In 2015, the top firms’ nonpartner lawyer populations were made up of 72.7 percent associates, 9.6 percent temporary or contract lawyers and 7.6 percent income partners, compared with 53.1 percent associates, 5.9 percent temporary or contract lawyers and 28 percent income partners at other firms surveyed by Citi.

Finally, at the top firms, there has been “more rigor around holding [partners] to performance level,” said Rusanow, as well as more “aggressive encouragement of early retirement.” (The report pointed out that at the partner level, diversity remains elusive in Big Law.)

Given the highly competitive environment law firms are in, Rusanow said many firms will continue to hire high-profile lateral partners, acquire smaller firms and—in fewer cases—look for a merger partner. Rusanow noted that firm leaders are making the decision to pursue those strategies carefully and deliberately.

Some of those trends have been in evidence as the year draws to a close, though the report did not mention any firms specifically. A number of lateral additions have recently been announced, such as Kirkland & Ellis recruitment Monday of Cravath, Swaine & Moore corporate partner Jonathan Davis in New York , where Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison grabbed Cravath M&A bigwig Scott Barshay earlier this year, as well as Weil, Gotshal & Manges ’ hire of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett antitrust leader Kevin Arquit, a move expected in January.

Rusanow, who also did not name any firms, said top tier lateral hires are not necessarily new, but 2016 saw “a notable number of them.”

Law firms of all sizes continue to look for small firms to acquire or large firms to join, but a merger of equals is more rare. Last month, however, Arnold & Porter and Kaye Scholer agreed to combine on Jan. 1, 2017, and form a 1,000-lawyer firm.

Much of the consolidation in the legal industry has been driven by an increase in expenses, Hildebrandt said. In additional to associate pay raises, the cost of cybersecurity protection, rise of artificial intelligence and other types of technology have added line items to law firm ledgers, increasing the pressure to scale up.

But Hildebrandt said the most valuable thing law firms can do going into 2017 is protect the relationships they have with their clients.

“In the end, client trust and client relationships top everything,” he said.