The northern Virginia legal market presents its own set of challenges for law firms. Firm leaders in the region, which includes the cities of McLean, Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria, have mixed reactions on the state of business. The region’s distinct set of practices includes intellectual property, government contracts and real estate, to name a few.

"Over the past couple years the demand in northern Virginia has been very flat," said John Burlingame, managing partner of Squire Sanders’ Washington and Tysons Corner, Va., offices. "We haven’t seen large spikes up or down."

By contrast, Joseph Schmelter, partner in charge of Venable’s Tysons Corner office, said business "has been anything but stagnant for us."

There has been some worry by government-contracts clients in particular about the sequestration and budget cuts. Now, more than ever, contractors are turning to firms for advice.

"It’s been a very strong market for law firms that service that industry," Schmelter said. "There are challenges ahead with the wars winding down overseas and the percentage of the budget spent on defense dwindling."

F. Douglas Ross, a principal at Odin, Feldman & Pittleman in Reston, Va., and member of the firm’s board of directors, said the real estate practice has fared well lately. "With real estate, I think we’re seeing things start to bounce back," Ross said. "Real estate is somewhat reflective of the local economy."

On the lateral front, Burlingame and Schmelter said that a number of firms have engaged in lateral discussions with lawyers who believe their business is being stifled by their current firms’ lack of focus on their northern Virginia offices, including "the lack of coordination among attorneys in the same practice area." — Matthew Huisman