Gillman Market Barometer

Updated My 2024

Monthly Comments

The legal profession doesn’t have to be this way.

This month, ALM released its report, Mental Health by the Numbers, which summarizes its survey of the mental health of the legal profession.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about culture and mental health in the legal profession, so what’s particularly interesting to me is that lawyers rate the profession worse now than before on most measures.

Some highlights (lowlights?) for me:

  • 76% of respondents say that morale is worse now than during the pandemic.  
  • Nearly 70% say that personal relationships have suffered as a result of being a part of the legal profession.
  • 55% feel depressed and,
  • 79% feel their work environment contributes to their issues.


Firms are taking action… or are they?

Some are. Some firms are adding wellness programs and even giving billable hour credits for mental health and well-being. But it’s not many.

One reason may be that the “old guard” feels slighted: if they had to suffer, the next generation should also. Providing wellness is a cost… Yoga instructors aren’t free, after all.  

Enter the 6-Pillars to Becoming a Happy Rainmaker.

When I interviewed Chris Santomassimo, he mentioned helping his team build relationships and set boundaries. In my words, his firm helps its lawyers become happy rainmakers.

I realized that the “old guard” misses the fact that happy lawyers are productive lawyers. If you help your team to be better lawyers who are great at bringing in business, they will be happier, generate more money, and the firm as a whole will be better off.

And you might not even need the yoga teacher.

Hopefully, your firm supports your efforts to be(come) a happy rainmaker. If not, I can help you with a change, or maybe we can talk about bringing 6-Pillar thinking to your firm.

Hottest Geographies at the moment:

This hasn’t changed much in the last year, and I don’t expect it to change much this year.

However, in April 2024, San Diego seemed to be reemerging as a hot market.

  • Warmer Climates
  • Lower Cost-of-Living Climates
  • Secondary Markets
  • Florida
  • Charlotte
  • Raleigh
  • New York
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Texas
  • California
  • Seattle
  • West Coast

Hottest Practice Areas

Practice areas shift more frequently than geographies; we review them monthly and update them as needed. Overall, the market sentiment seems to be positive; the economic uncertainty that weighed on 2023 has largely melted away (for now, anyway), though not completely – some firms (Fenwick & West, for example) are reducing headcount. M&A appears to be strengthening, which is a good sign for the market in general, though there is some suggestion that this could be temporary. Anti-trust actions are another uncertainty that could slow down M&A. We see lots of lateral moves and continued interest in growing firms through lateral partner hires.

Some interesting Headlines:

The 2024 AmLaw 100 Ranked by Revenue Per Lawyer

Practice
Area
GaugeOpportunitiesUncertainties
Generative AI
Technology
The opportunity seems to be in creating a new practice at a law firm. But this is so new and so hot that it is hard to pin down what the opportunity is: what is clear is that AI is causing issues, and legal help is in demand.

Interesting article on how AI adoption is likely to lead to all kinds of litigation.

Cyber attacks continue to grow and reveal privacy issues. This looks like an area for growth if it is an area you are interested in pursuing.

These are things you can still learn; take a CLE course, and read this post on retooling.
Impact of AI on litigation.
Corporate / Mergers and Acquisitions/ M&A seems to be back; we’re seeing a lot of articles suggesting that M&A is strong, such as this one from law.com, this one on the private equity market, and another on M&A rebound.

From March 2024, energy and pharma driving M&A.

April 2024: Mergers and Acquisitions in 2024 a Cautious Recovery with Strategic Shifts
Economic activity/recession – there is also some suggestion that the uptick may not be sustainable.
Capital MarketsCapital Markets have been down, especially in the last 18 months, but seem to be strong in the first part of 2024. There is some speculation that concern around election shocks is driving current activity. This seems to especially be true in terms of business coming from Latin America. Impact of US elections on capital markets – some concern that the election could disrupt the market.
Funds Lawyers and FinanceDemand for funds lawyers is up all over; if you can retool as a funds lawyer, this is an area that is seeing sustained demand.

Finance is a little less clear: it seems that finance is holding steady.
EnergyWhile many corporate practices have been down since 2022, the energy market continues to be strong, with many deals proceeding. If you focus on a down market and are looking for opportunities, retooling for energy may be a good move.

This seems to be at least partly driven by the Inflation Reduction Act money.
The long-term impact of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Bankruptcy
We expected bankruptcy to be strong in 2023, it wasn’t as strong as we expected. In the first quarter of 2024 it has been stronger than expected, but with interest rates likely to decrease, and inflation under control, we expect bankruptcy to moderate.

Of course, there’s this article on how O’Melveny is expanding its bankruptcy practice.

Bankruptcy filings (March 2024)

Another firm is expanding their bankruptcy practice (March 2024)
What will happen to interest rates?
Labor and EmploymentYears ago, this was a slow and steady practice, but it heated up with the COVID shutdown. It remains hot, with employees not wanting to return to offices, layoffs with companies experiencing the recession, and general uncertainty in the labor market. The impact of the recession on the labor market.
LitigationExpecting to see an uptick in litigation because it is a counter-cyclical practice. As deals go bad, we’d expect people to sue over these deals rather than move to the next one.

We are starting to see some improvement and greater demand for litigation.

Also, many court closures created a backlog of cases, and as courts catch up, this has created demand for more litigators.

April 2024 Article showed a huge uptick in Antitrust Litigation
If clients experience a recession, they may not want to pursue expensive litigation. The impact of a recession, therefore, is an uncertainty.
Commercial Real EstateReal Estate is off everywhere at the moment because borrowing money is expensive, and the direction of interest rates is unclear.

Sit back, build your book of business, and be ready for the next wave.

Real Estate is not down in Florida… one of the few exceptions to the rule.
The future of interest rates.
Environmental Social And Governance (ESG) and RegulatoryRegulatory practices are strong across the board – if you feel that your practice is threatened, look for an opportunity to retool as ESG.

2023 got hit with banking crises and climate change legislation.

We like the insights from this article from March 2024, it suggests that ESG will stick around even in the face of political uncertainty.
Political impact on ESG programs and future.
Intellectual PropertyBio-Tech was up at the beginning of the pandemic, and it continues to be sought after. There is a lot happening in electrical engineering, computer science, and pharma/biotech seem to be the busiest areas right now.

Patent litigation has been very busy.
Some suggestions that firms are reducing IP staff – but patents still seem very strong. (December)
Privacy and Cyber LawContinues to be very active, and sources tell us that this is an opportunity for the future.

If your corporate practice is down, consider a CLE in Healthcare.
HealthcareContinues to be very active and sources tell us that this is an opportunity for the future.

If your corporate practice is down, consider a CLE in Healthcare.
Cannabis Everybody says that there is an opportunity in the Cannabis market, but we aren’t seeing it so strongly.
LobbyingNews suggests that Lobbying is hot right now, a function of divided government and an election year… this is a good time to be a lobbyist!