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In pre-pandemic survey, Md. lawyers foresaw more billable hours

This is the latest installment of The Daily Record’s Maryland Lawyers Survey, 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 attorneys’ 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.

Sponsor of the Maryland Lawyers Survey

In a survey of Maryland attorneys conducted from Feb. 21 to March 6, 52% of respondents agreed the economy was strong overall.

How quickly things have changed.

The first-quarter Daily Record-MSBA Maryland Lawyers Survey is a poignant snapshot of the profession just before the coronavirus pandemic began ravaging the nation, sickening tens of thousands and devastating the economy.

The 250 attorneys from across the state who took part in the survey were more likely than not to agree that their firms would see an increase in billable hours and greater investment in marketing, business development and new technology over the next three months.

Lawyers were less sure their firms would hire additional attorneys or support staff or invest in infrastructure, with 56% of respondents saying they disagreed that their firms would hire attorneys in the next three months. Likewise, 49% said they disagreed that their firms would invest in support staff in the second quarter and 50% disagreed their firms would invest in infrastructure.

Randi Lewis, a recruiter at the Baltimore office of legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, said the survey results were mostly moot.

“I don’t think anyone knows what the next three months will look like,” Lewis said. “What I do think is that firms are looking out for their employees first by (having them) working from home” to reduce the chances of infection with the new virus.

Lewis said that while legal hiring was strong in 2019, the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, has caused some law firms to put a “pause” on hiring for the time being, while others are continuing interviews over the phone and through online videos.

“We’re in a wait-and-see pause,” Lewis said. “Firms will eventually go back to business as usual at a certain time, and that would include hiring.”

Of the attorneys taking part in the first-quarter survey, 70% have practiced for 20 years or more. Sixty-four percent of respondents practice civil law, 11% practice family law and 3% practice criminal law. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they take part in their firms’ hiring process.

Sixty-four percent of respondents identified as male, 32% identified as female and 4% chose not to say. No one identified as non-binary, an option added this year to the survey, which was formerly known as the Maryland Lawyers’ Confidence Survey.

A majority of respondents – 51% — belong to firms with one or two attorneys. Twenty-eight percent work at firms with three to 15 attorneys, while 13% work for firms with 41 or more attorneys.

Geographically, 28% of respondents were from Montgomery County, 19% from Baltimore County, 17% from Baltimore city and 12% from Anne Arundel County.

Survey respondents were asked about the biggest drivers of change in the profession in the next quarter. Forty-eight percent said artificial intelligence or other technologies that automate would have the greatest impact. Other potential drivers were commoditization of the profession, demographics, evolution of fee structures, succession – and “other,” which was chosen by 12% of respondents.

How the Maryland Lawyers Survey was conducted

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

The survey was also sent to members of the Maryland State Bar Association, the survey’s co-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. The total index score for the first quarter was -3.

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 Survey, click here. Your name and survey responses will remain confidential.





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