If there’s a single theme running through the legal services market in the Midwest, it’s variety. As The National Law Journal’s 2014 Midwest Report shows, a broad mix of practice areas is sustaining law firms across the country’s middle region. Whether it’s private equity in Chicago, mergers and ­acquisitions in Minneapolis, health care in Cleveland or real estate in Milwaukee, an array of matters is keeping law firms busy, their leaders tell us. They are an optimistic group — even those in still struggling local economies — encouraged by startup activity within their borders and out-of-state clients looking for lower rates. Our regional analysis of eight major markets in the Midwest also includes key demographics of the legal communities and a look at the largest firms in those areas.
The Chicago legal services market is keeping busy despite the city’s high unemployment, thanks to a stable base of local corporations, an upswing in private-equity work and business from clients located outside the area.
Merger (and Acquisition) Mania
A burst of venture-capital work and huge development projects, plus strong niche energy and food practices, are fueling the Minneapolis legal market.
With an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent in June—more than a point above the national rate of 6.3 percent—Cleveland is still feeling the recession’s effects. But two practice areas are thriving there: health care, owing to the city’s status as an industry hub, and transactional law involving a surge in construction projects.
Work from large corporate clients in St. Louis makes for a stable legal business environment, while startup incubators including the Cortex Innovation Community in the city’s historic Central West End offer the promise of growth to come, according to law firm managers.
Detroit is in the middle of the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, but the city’s reorganization and redevelopment efforts by other local governments are creating work for some lawyers.
Legal business isn’t exactly booming in Kansas City, Mo. “At this point, it’s pretty saturated. The market share is primarily going to come from each other,” said Pat Whalen, chairman of Spencer Fane Britt & Browne. “That means the competition’s going to be stepped up among all the big firms in town for that same slice of the pie.”
Legal Sector Humming Right Along
Corporate tax cuts, a robust job market and modest legal billing rates are helping Indianapolis law firms win work amid corporate cost-cutting and consolidation.
Milwaukee’s tepid economic recovery continues to stall growth in the legal market, but there are signs of a turnaround, law firm managing partners said.
The largest offices in the region’s major cities.