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Industry Outlook: Legal
The two things that are going to be left long-term are counseling and advocacy, and along with that is expertise. So we’re focusing on being experts—in our case, in technology—and being outstanding advocates. When people need the counseling or the advocacy and the expertise, that’s when they will still come to you.
CLINGER: One of my favorite things to do is instead of bringing the client to me, doing the opposite and going to the client, learning their business. I love getting out and working with my automobile dealership clients, learning about them. Also with the restaurant franchises. If they know that we are sincerely interested in them and their business, that’s the changing factor.
OWENS: I had a client recently call me and say, “I’ve settled this matter all by myself for $50,000, and I just want you to do the settlement arrangements.” And I raised about 10 issues that she had never thought of. Did this come up? Is there a lien? Did you talk about confidentiality and non-disparagement? My goal is to make myself invaluable to that person. I know next time, she won’t settle a case, even a $50,000 case.
SCOTT: We do brown-bag lunch trainings, training clients on new developments in the law, specifically construction law. That’s one way that we try to show our clients that we are valuable to them and we value them. And we do it at no cost and provide lunch.
What do you see out there emerging as far as business opportunities or new opportunities in law for your firm?
BERGER: The regulatory environment across the board is becoming more and more robust at the federal and state level—increasing enforcement actions, for example. We have a fairly large white-collar group at the firm. So following that trend, we’ve been going out through that section and training our clients, doing regulatory audits in a variety of areas to make sure that they’re compliant. Whether it’s a securities regulation issue, whether it’s a clean air regulation issue, actually getting with clients and trying to get ahead of that curve and anticipating that increased regulatory enforcement.
ANDERSON: We do a lot of work in the energy sector, which is going through a lot of changes. We’re moving from traditional coal burning and into renewables. We’ve been trying to stay ahead of that market and be involved not only in what’s happening on the production of electricity, but also all the environmental regulations that sort of forced those changes.
JARVIS: We have certain industries that we track and work hard at understanding where they’re going. Regulation is rampant in almost all industries right now—financial institutions, mining, energy. In looking toward those trends, we make sure that we have the expertise within our firm to fill the need, based on where those industries are going. So we try to be ahead of the curve in making sure that we have the expertise we need.
There’s a lot of foreign work—even here in Utah we have lots of connections. It’s becoming a much more global economy. So we have offices in China and have been working a lot on our Chinese-American practice. We have a very strong Canadian cross-border practice, also an Israeli practice. All of those assist companies as they begin to expand beyond the borders.
DAVIES: In the last year we’ve added three entirely new groups to our practice, and we’re looking at adding others as well. We added an immigration practice, and that, in turn, involves a lot of foreign connections and foreign businesses. We’ve substantially bolstered and added an entirely new firm to our practice in domestic work, and we’ve added business formations.
It does change the firm dynamic, and it’s interesting also in terms of the structure of the firm, because when you do that you’re adding laterals instead of always growing from the bottom up. But we’ve also gotten back to hiring new associates as well, straight out of law school, and we’ve been doing that to a greater extent than we have over the last few years.
BARKER: A huge growth area for us is government regulation. That’s making us have to specialize more. We’ve been pushing hard for our lawyers to be more specialists, and it’s just very tough to make it now as a general lawyer. You can’t do everything, and particularly in the government regulation area.
The other area is the high-tech world, which Utah is a hotbed of activity. We have really beefed up and seen a lot of growth in IP work, and having IP people within a general practice firm has been very beneficial to us.
All eyes are on Utah, because of how profitable and successful we have been in this industry. Has this affected your practice in your firms? What opportunities is this presenting to the state?