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May 5, 2011 9:00 PM

Report: Demand for Legal Services Rising Slowly

Posted by Tom Huddleston Jr.

Demand for legal services rose 2.1 percent in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same period last year, according to the latest Peer Monitor Index Report from consultant Hildebrandt Baker Robbins.

The increase marks the second straight quarter of growth. (Demand picked up 1 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, compared with the same period in 2009.)   

"No one's suggesting that we are in a highly robust economy, but things are certainly moving in the right direction," says Mark Medice, Hildebrandt's program director for Peer Monitor. "The past couple of quarters have been the first couple of quarters we've seen for quite some time where demand has actually grown."

Litigation saw the highest increase in demand of any practice area, jumping 4.1 percent from the same period last year. According to the report, litigation practices have bolstered the overall industry performance over the past two quarters, representing almost one-third of billable hours in the legal market.

"Our expectations would be that the legal industry would work somewhat in concert with the overall economy, and if the overall economy continues to improve, we expect the legal economy [would] improve as well," Medice says.

Medice notes that some firms are seeing much more demand than the overall average while others are still looking for growth opportunities. Those firms, he says, will be putting "a much greater emphasis on top-line revenue growth, whether that comes through rate increases--which, I think, is less available--or it comes through growth in certain practices and demand."

(Download the full report here.)

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