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Md. lawyers end the year on an optimistic note, survey finds


This is the latest 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 next survey, please sign up. Also, dive deep into our data visualizations of the results of this survey.
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Sponsor of the Maryland Lawyers Confidence Index Survey

The latest Maryland Lawyers Confidence Survey found that attorneys across the state are feeling more optimistic about the state’s legal market than they have all year.

Respondents’ overall confidence in the Maryland legal market, on a scale of -100 to 100, was -4, which is highest the index score has been all year. Overall confidence in the third quarter had been -6.

While overall attitudes may have improved, survey results have consistently shown that lawyers in the state’s largest firms and solo/small firm practitioners often live in very different worlds and face vastly different challenges.

Among the survey’s 309 respondents, 85 percent who work at a firm with 41 or more lawyers agreed their practice plans on hiring additional attorneys in the next three months. By comparison, 28 percent of respondents at firms with 3-to-15 attorneys agreed with that statement, while 52 percent shared that sentiment at firms with 16-to-40 lawyers.

Optimism about the economy also varied based on the firm’s size. Some 53 percent of respondents who are solo and small firm practitioners agreed with the statement that the state of the economy is good. A similar percentage of attorneys at firms of 3-to-15 shared that sentiment at 56 percent. However, 48 percent of attorneys at firms with and 16-to-40 practitioners felt positively toward the economy, the lowest of all practice sizes. Conversely, some 76 percent of attorneys at the state’s largest firms felt positive about the state of the economy.

“When I talk to our members at larger firms, they are seeing a challenging environment but tremendous opportunity,” said Victor L. Velazquez, president of the Maryland State Bar Association.

But some solo and small firm practitioners are still trying to bounce back from the 2008 recession.

“Solos are grappling with competitiveness of services that increasingly there are more providers for,” Velazquez said, adding that those firms have to find creative ways to market their services.

“If they’re not creative in marketing themselves, they’re losing ground,” he continued.

Some 53 percent of survey respondents said they run a solo practice. Among survey respondents who work in firms with one to two attorneys, 30 percent said they plan to invest in marketing in the next three months. That figure was slightly higher among respondents at firms with 3-15 attorneys, of whom 40 percent said they plan to invest in marketing in the next quarter.

The 2018 quarterly surveys had a significant increase in respondents compared to last year’s because the Maryland State Bar Association, the survey’s sponsor, shared its membership list with The Daily Record. The number of responses tapered off throughout the year, with 654 responses in the first quarter down to 309 responses in the latest survey results.

Sixty-eight percent of the fourth-quarter survey respondents are men. More than a quarter of the respondents practice in Montgomery County; 20 percent practice in Baltimore; and 20 percent practice in Baltimore County. Some 63 percent of respondents said they have been practicing for at least 20 years. More than 80 percent of respondents said they participate in their firm’s hiring process.

Among the overall findings:

  • 57 percent of respondents said they either strongly or somewhat agree the overall state of the economy is good, the same as last quarter; 25 percent said they disagree either strongly or somewhat with that view, compared to 25 percent last quarter.
  • 38 percent said they are likely to see an increase in billable hours in the next quarter, the same as last quarter; 27 percent said that would not be the case, down from 32 percent last quarter.
  • 41 percent said they are likely to invest in new technology, up from 37 percent in the third quarter; 30 percent of respondents said they are not likely to do so, up slightly from the previous quarter’s 29 percent.
  • 38 percent said their firm would invest or expand its marketing operations, down from 40 percent in the third quarter; 33 percent said they would not, down slightly from last quarter’s 36 percent.
  • 25 percent of respondents said they plan on investing in support staff, up from 22 percent in last quarter’s survey; 46 percent of respondents said they don’t plan on investing in support staff, down from the 50 percent of respondents who felt that way last quarter.
  • 24 percent said they’re likely to hire attorneys in the next three months, on par with the 23 percent who felt that way last quarter; 63 percent said they don’t plan on hiring attorneys in the next three months, on par with 64 percent in the last survey.

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 also sent to members of the Maryland State Bar Association, the survey’s sponsor. The survey was conducted by Best Companies Group, an experienced market and consumer research company in central Pennsylvania 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, click here. Your name and your survey answers are confidential.


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