Economic Meltdown Meant Change For Many Firms
"We as law firms are going to have to rely more on contract work, and that is a model that is going to be here to stay," Twardy said.
As a result of the downturn, his and other firms have shifted the emphasis of some of their practice groups. "Because there aren't as many mergers and acquisitions as there had been in the past," Twardy said, "we've moved some of our lawyers into the hedge fund area of our business."
While the demand for sales-related transactions has slowed, lawyers have found opportunities handling other work. Especially representing corporate clients dealing with an increase in governmental regulations that sprung up after the economic meltdown.
At Jackson Lewis, for example, the darkest days of the economy was a boom time for its 31 attorneys in Hartford and Stamford who represent management in workplace claims. "In a contracting economy, there certainly was an uptick in numbers of cases," said Beverly Garafolo, the firm's managing partner.
Other firms, including Pullman & Comley, shifted gears and found new opportunities in growing practice areas that were shaped, in part, by the economic challenges. James T. Shearin, the firm's new chairman, said he envisions one future area of growth will be in the health care area, as a result of the Affordable Health Care Act.
"The health care field is ever changing and very complicated," he said, "But I recently read that health care spending is accounting for 20 percent of the GDP at this point, and as far as I can see, there's a lawyer needed at each phase of the health care system."
Rising energy costs have also created a need for alternative, cheaper energy, which Shearin sees as a potential business opportunity. "I think alternative and renewable energy sources, and the regulatory laws governing them when they are exploited, is going to be a huge issue going forward."
Finally, he said, the stagnant economy and reduced spending over the past five years on infrastructure has created a pent up need for fixed roads, bridges and buildings.
For example, he said, work has been going on for years at the Steel Point redevelopment project in Bridgeport. As the project gets moving closer to completion, he said, complicated legal work with regard to tax credits, and government bond issues will have to be addressed.
Last week, President Barack Obama marked the five-year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the low point in a recession that started a few years earlier, by issuing a statement. Obama stressed the steps his administration took.