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Survey: First-quarter lawyer optimism tops 2018


This is the latest installment of The Daily Record’s Maryland Lawyers Confidence Index, a confidential survey of private attorneys in the state sponsored by the Maryland State Bar Association 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 first Maryland Lawyers Confidence Survey of 2019 indicates that attorneys are starting the year feeling optimistic about the legal market. The first-quarter survey had 354 respondents.

Respondents’ overall confidence in the legal market, on a scale of -100 to 100, was 0, which is higher than the index score for all of  2018. The highest overall confidence level last year was -4, reported in the fourth quarter.

The survey consistently shows that attorneys’ attitudes about the economy correlate with the size of their firm, with attorneys at larger firms generally reporting more positive attitudes. However, in the first quarter of 2019, 58 percent of attorneys working at firms with 3 to 15 attorneys felt positive about the state of the economy. Among attorneys who work at firms with 41 or more lawyers, 63 percent agreed the economy was doing well.

“Firms are busy and their first quarters appear to be strong,” said Randi Lewis, a Maryland-based recruiter with Major, Lindsey & Africa, the largest attorney search firm in the world. Lewis did not specifically address the survey results.

There was more variation by firm size with respect to hiring in the first-quarter survey.

Eighty-three percent of lawyers who work at a firm with 41 or more lawyers agreed their practice planned to hire additional attorneys over the next three months. In comparison, 34 percent of respondents at firms with 3 to 15 attorneys agreed with that statement, while 63 percent of respondents at firms with 16 to 40 lawyers concurred.

Fifty-two percent of survey respondents said they ran a solo practice or worked with one additional attorney. Among lawyers in that category, 38 percent said they planned to invest in marketing and business development efforts over the next three months. Among respondents who work at firms with 3 to 15 attorneys, 45 percent said they planned to invest in marketing in the next quarter.

Sixty-five percent of the first-quarter survey respondents were men. A quarter of the respondents practice in Montgomery County, while 20 percent practice in Baltimore and 17 percent practice in Baltimore County. Nearly 60 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.

Starting last year, the Maryland State Bar Association shared its membership list with The Daily Record to expand the number of possible survey respondents. In the first quarter of 2018, 654 attorneys responded. By the fourth quarter last year, 309 lawyers responded.

This year, two questions were changed slightly in the first-quarter survey. The question about whether a firm plans to invest in marketing was expanded to include business development efforts. The question about whether a firm anticipates an increase in billable hours was broadened to include a general increase in business to accommodate firms that do not operate on a billable-hours system.

Among the overall findings:

  • 51 percent of respondents said they either strongly or somewhat agreed that the overall state of the economy is good, down slightly from the last quarter; 26 percent said they disagreed either strongly or somewhat with that view, compared to 25 percent last quarter.
  • 45 percent said they were likely to see an increase in billable hours in the next quarter, an increase from the last quarter; 23 percent said that would not be the case, down from 27 percent last quarter.
  • 41 percent said they were likely to invest in new technology, the same as last quarter; 30 percent of respondents said they were not likely to do so, also the same as last quarter.
  • 46 percent said their firm would invest or expand its marketing operations, up from 38 percent in the last quarter; 31 percent said they would not do so, down slightly from the fourth quarter’s 33 percent.
  • 29 percent of respondents said they planned to invest in support staff, up from 25 percent in last quarter’s survey; 47 percent of respondents said they did not plan to invest in support staff, up slightly from the 46 percent of respondents who responded that way last quarter.
  • 29 percent said they were likely to hire attorneys in the next three months, up from 24 percent who responded affirmatively last quarter; 60 percent said they did not plan to hire attorneys in the next three months, down slightly from 63 percent in the fourth-quarter survey.

How the Maryland Lawyers Confidence Index was done

The confidential survey was emailed to The Daily Record’s 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, which had 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 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, click here. Your name and your survey answers will be confidential.

 


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One comment

  1. glegendre@comcast.net

    Thanks for this valuable survey. I can attest to firms expanding interest in legal marketing business development support. Many firms now include marketing training and coaching for younger lawyers, who expect this as part of their professional growth. Glenda LeGendre Principal, Strategic Marketing & Communications