It may not be the next sign of an economic downturn, but a new analysis of how law firm expansion efforts have been faring doesn’t exactly inspire confidence either.

The analysis of 2013-2018 data from ALM Intelligence shows that while many of the firms in the National Law Journal 350 index have opened new offices over the past five years, many have shuttered offices as well. Plus, outside of a few hot markets, about as many offices have contracted as have grown.

The bulk of the expansion has been happening in the Midwest and Southeast. Large national and international firms have led the growth into these markets. They include firms such as such as Jones Day, which opened a Detroit office in 2015, and Holland & Knight, which set up shop in Charlotte, N.C., in 2016.

Relatively smaller regional firms have also expanded to keep pace with their bigger peers. Those include Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein, which has its strongest presence in the Carolinas and opened an Atlanta office in 2016,  and Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff, which has its largest office in Cleveland and opened a Chicago office in 2016.

But it hasn’t all been a winning game. There have been almost 40 office closures in the Southeast, and 20 closures in the West Coast region, such as Morrison & Foerster’s retreat from Sacramento.

The data also challenges the traditional wisdom about just how flush with business the supposedly “red-hot” markets are. With only 55 percent of firm offices growing on the West Coast, for example, it begs the question about just how much of a boon all the tech money in places like Silicon Valley and Seattle is to the wider legal industry.

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