Daily Record survey: Md. lawyers increasingly optimistic about economy

This is the third installment of The Daily Record’s Maryland Lawyers Confidence Index, a confidential survey of private attorneys in the state that explores their views on the economic factors influencing their practices.If you’d like to participate in our third-quarter survey, please sign up.Also, dive deep into our data visualizations of the results of this survey.
(JanPietruszka / Depositphotos.com)

(JanPietruszka / Depositphotos.com)

Maryland lawyers showed a spike in optimism about the legal market and greater interest in investing in marketing and infrastructure over the next three months, according to The Daily Record’s latest Maryland Lawyers Confidence Index survey.

The quarterly index, which gauges the overall optimism or pessimism of respondents about the economic prospects of their practice and the economy as a whole, produced an overall score of 7 on a scale of -100 to 100, with positive numbers reflecting optimism. That’s up from 2 in the second quarter and -1 in the first quarter.

On the whole, there were no large changes in the third-quarter responses compared to the previous two quarterly surveys. However, there was a decrease in negative sentiments among respondents toward future investments in marketing, new technology and support staff.

In the first survey, 35 percent of respondents said strongly disagreed with the statement that their firm “intends to invest in infrastructure in the next three months.” In the latest survey, however, only 26 percent felt that way, with 25 percent of respondents feeling positive about future infrastructure. The latter figure has been increasing steadily each quarter, with 18 percent reacting positively in the first survey and 23 percent in the second survey.

Some 63 percent of the respondents in the most recent survey work at a firm with five or fewer attorneys, and about one-third of the attorneys surveyed practice in Baltimore.

Victor L. Velazquez, executive director of the Maryland State Bar Association, hears that sentiment anecdotally when speaking with Maryland attorneys.

“I’m hearing way more optimism about the state of the profession,” Velazquez said. “What I hadn’t heard before, and is happening now, is firms are beginning to see opportunities in the marketplace to acquire talent, practice areas, or be acquired themselves.”

The email survey of 151 attorneys in private practice in Maryland was conducted from Aug. 18 to Sept. 1. Respondents were asked seven questions on the their attitudes toward the economic prospects of their practices and the overall economy.

Among the findings:

  • 55 percent of respondents said they either strongly or somewhat agree the overall state of the economy is good, compared to 48 percent in the previous survey; 19 percent said they disagree either strongly or somewhat with that view, compared to 28 percent in the previous survey.
  • 36 percent said they are likely to see an increase in billable hours in the next quarter, compared to 33 percent in the previous survey; 27 percent said that would not be the case, down from 29 percent.
  • 50 percent said they are likely to invest in new technology, up slightly from 49 percent; 23 percent of respondents said they are not likely to do so, up from 21 percent.
  • 51 percent said their firm would invest or expand its marketing operations, up from 44 percent; 22 percent said they would not, which is down from the previous survey’s 28 percent.
  • 33 percent of respondents said they plan on investing in support staff, up from 27 percent in the first survey; 38 percent of respondents said they don’t plan on investing in support staff, compared to 33 percent in the previous survey.
  • 26 percent said they’re likely to hire attorneys in the next three months, down from the 30 percent in the second survey; 59 percent said they don’t plan on hiring attorneys in the next three months, up from the previous survey’s 55 percent.

How the Maryland Lawyers Confidence Index was done

The confidential survey was emailed to The Daily Record master database of subscribers, who were asked if they were attorneys in private practice who did not work for a government agency or for a law school. Respondents who chose “yes” were taken to the survey of seven questions.

The survey was conducted by Best Companies Group, an experienced market and consumer research company in central Pennsylvania that is owned by The Daily Record’s parent company. The results were compiled by Best Companies.

An index score for each question and for the overall survey was calculated by taking the (total positive responses – negative responses)/total responses x 100.

Would you like to participate?

If you are an attorney in private practice in Maryland and would like to participate in the quarterly Maryland Lawyers Confidence Index survey, sign up here. Your name and your survey answers are confidential.

To purchase a reprint of this article, contact reprints@thedailyrecord.com.

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