The New York legal market saw demand rise in the last months of 2009, with improved conditions in litigation and corporate practice areas.
In its quarterly report on market conditions (pdf), consulting firm Hildebrandt Baker Robbins said demand nationwide grew 2 percent in the last three months of last year compared to the same period in 2008, and New York experienced the strongest growth in billable hours of the major markets.
"As expected, some transactional practice areas improved as the year progressed," the report said.
"However, despite the improvement, corporate work remains well below pre-recession levels, and 2010 will reveal more about the true strength of the recovery in cyclical practice work."
Nationally, rates remained under pressure, the report said, staying flat through much of 2009 when factoring in collections.
Firms continued to cut expenses, with attorney headcount contracting 3 percent and overhead falling 4.1 percent.
Hildebrant said the efforts to cut expenses "have moved beyond simple cost cutting" and reflect "permanent changes to the law firm business model, adopting a leaner, more efficient structure."
Hildebrandt said it expects further improvement this year, especially in mergers and acquisitions and transactional practices.
Litigation will likely see flat to slightly positive growth, but demand levels will likely remain 2.5 percent below those in 2007, the report said.