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Howrey Chairman: ‘We Have to Economize for Our Clients’

Posted Oct 20, 2008 8:39 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Washington, D.C., law firms aren’t immune from the economic downturn, and they’re taking steps to keep and bring in more business.

Howrey is one of them, the Washington Post reports. Chairman and managing partner Robert Ruyak said the firm took steps to keeps its fees low in response to requests from clients such as Procter & Gamble, Qualcomm and GE Healthcare.

The firm assigned more work to lower-paid staff lawyers and negotiated fixed fees with some clients, the story says. It is also hiring fewer associates in an effort to keep costs low.

"Clearly, we have to economize for our clients," Ruyak said. "This is more important because of the uncertainty."

The newspaper outlines other steps being taken by law firms: They include shifting to more lucrative areas such as bankruptcies, foreclosures and regulatory work related to the Wall Street bailout. Other firms are capping associate salaries or restructuring. Some are betting that mergers or lateral hires will help insulate them from the bad economic times.

The newspaper cites a study by the West Peer Monitor Economic Index that shows demand for regulatory and bankruptcy work is growing, but litigation has dropped 2 percent to 5 percent in each of the past 10 months.

Mark Medice, who oversees the survey, told the Post he believes the drop in litigation is due to corporations reducing the number of suits they file.

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