June 1, 2012

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Utah Business Staff

June 1, 2012

Also, healthcare has been a very strong area in the last period for us. We represent a number of doctors and clinics and so forth. There’s been a lot of activity with administrative changes and such that are taking place.

ROBINSON: We are a boutique construction law firm, and the down economy was very, very tough on the construction industry. But from our perspective, things are getting a little bit better. We’re seeing more contract review for new projects and more big dispute cases. So there are more projects, which is a good sign.

HULSE: We do a lot of more regional/national-type work—I spend a lot of time working in Las Vegas. You want to see a bad economy, there are people in Las Vegas that are so far upside down on their homes it’s just unbelievable. They have $700,000 mortgages, and the home is worth $250,000. And that’s not an abnormal event.

MAYCOCK: I do family law. If you’re thinking of going to that field, the recession didn’t hurt it at all.

CLINGER: It increased it.

MAYCOCK: To some extent, yes. Although, there were statistics—not in Utah, but in other states—that divorce rates went down because people decided they couldn’t afford it and they’d stick it out a little longer.

CATAXINOS: We’re also an IP boutique. There’s actually been an uptick in a lot of the preparation and prosecution work. Litigation, at times, has been soft based on the economy. But more importantly, what we’re starting to see, especially with our mid-size and Fortune 500 clients, is a lot of consolidation with the outside counsel. We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve been the benefactors of that consolidation in many cases, having a lot of other outside counsel work transferred to our firm.

CLYDE: Law has always been a lagging economic indicator. I suspect most of us stayed pretty robust while the economy was cratering around us, and then we all slowed down. It’s now starting to pick back up, and I think most of us are starting to feel that.

Areas we’re seeing a lot of growth are employment law and domestic relations, unfortunately. And some criminal securities fraud is starting to come back; as people start getting money again, they start screwing each other, it appears to me.

How has the economy impacted your clients’ budgets and the billing practices that they are now demanding?

CLYDE: One trend I have noticed with larger corporate clients is they are squeezing on bills. I’ve got one national client that has just shifted over to electronic billing. They’ll only allow us to submit invoices that way, and then they nick us 10 percent off our bill for the privilege of submitting our bills electronically.

And I have seen even relatively small efforts. Some county wanted to consolidate irrigation, and they sent it out for requests for proposals, much like engineering or architectural firms have to compete for work. And while I suspect we were far more qualified than the people that got the work, they outbid us.

BLACK: There’s a flip side to the story you’re telling: there are certain companies and clients who previously wanted to go to national law firms. They wanted the brand name out of New York or Los Angeles and Chicago. And now, this economy drove people in Salt Lake City to lower overhead and the ability to control and contain costs more effectively.

So we feel like we’ve been beneficiaries of the squeeze that you’re talking about in many ways because work that would have never come to markets that we’re in now—we look really good by comparison.

LORIMER: Edgar commented a moment ago that there’s a lot of consolidation in the IP business; because of that, large multinational firms are shopping lawyers almost like they shop commodities. And this bidding—this courting dance that you’re talking about is the norm. It’s not an aberration in our business. We have several large companies who have portfolios of 200 or 300 prosecution cases that we want to transfer; they want to get the best bang for their buck.

GAYLORD: I agree with that. We do a lot of work for national clients, and they are very savvy. They know exactly what they want, and they tend to know the market well. In the Salt Lake market, they know they can get a rate that is probably less than what the national rates are. And they’re going to push down national rates.

We represent a number of national clients who’ve literally come in and said, “We’re not going to pay your rates. We’re going to pay 10, 15, 20 percent less than whatever that rate is,” because they know they can get it. They know they can go next door, make the same pitch—a firm with the same competent lawyers are going to come in and say, “We’ll do it for that price.”

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