St. Louis firms with strong corporate practices are keeping busy with steady mergers and acquisitions work, according to Armstrong Teasdale managing partner Michael Chivell. For its size, St. Louis has an unusually large number of publicly traded companies, he said.

Across the board, those companies have been “in the acquiring mode, and some have been acquired in the last year, so it’s been very active.” Armstrong Teasdale, for example, has added 16 attorneys so far in 2011, with litigation, intellectual property and corporate law leading the way.

As in most cities, the job market is tough for recent law school graduates, but firms are hiring midlevel associates, Chivell said. St. Louis firms were generally healthy last year, he said, so partners are staying put for the most part. “I don’t think you’ve seen firms have terrible years, which has caused people to ponder whether they need to make a move.”

As companies based in other cities look to cut down on legal bills, Midwest firms are seeing a boost in outside business, as well, Chivell said. “As opposed to the past, when the economy was good [and] there was less focus on that bottom line, some of that work would have found its way to the coasts at a higher cost,” he said. “Midwestern firms have benefited as a result of what’s been going on with the economy, and I don’t foresee that changing.”