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Law Firm Forecast: What conditions will attorneys weather in the coming year?
By Bea Quirk CHARLOTTE — Last year was a tough one for the Charlotte business community, and the legal profession took a harder hit than the economy as a whole. As a result, the environment for law firms and individual attorneys is going to remain in a state of flux in 2010. “Attorneys are so tied to the fundamentals of the economy — banking, real estate, housing — that the unemployment rate among attorneys and people in the legal business is higher (than the overall county rate),” said John Lassiter, immediate past president of the Mecklenburg County Bar and the owner of Carolina Legal Staffing. Firms both large and small, national and local, have reduced head count and compensation packages. Andrew Walsh, director of the Center for Professional Development at the Charlotte School of Law, said some firms are revisiting their entire compensation structure and considering changes to fee structures. According to Lassiter, Charlotte has absorbed 200 to 300 new attorneys each year for the last decade, but that pace has slowed down. In the last 18 months, Lassiter said, his company has seen an increase in its temporary attorney placement business, while the business of placing attorneys permanently has been “hit or miss.”