Monday, October 20, 2008

The Impact of the Economic Downturn on the Legal Industry

One of my favorite blogs,, has posted a very interesting article by Heather Chapman on the impact of the poor economy on the legal industry. Below is a snippet from the article, so be sure to click here for the full version.

The financial market isn’t the only industry being affected by the recent downturn in the U.S. economy. Businesses all across the nation have seen a decline in customers. However, in the legal industry, the number of bankruptcy, litigation, regulatory compliance, white-collar defense, and divorce cases has risen as people and businesses try to either save themselves from collapse or cash in on someone else’s. With questions like “Should I keep investing my money?” to “What do I do about my health insurance plan?” lawyers are finding that business is booming.

Rjon Robins, attorney and founder of a lawyer coaching website, says that he is seeing more personal consumer bankruptcies. “The biggest reason is the social factor. When you see other people around you taking advantage of bankruptcy relief the social stigma is reduced which makes the decision easier for you to make. The same is true of commercial bankruptcies. Except that business owners tend to come to the decision a little faster with the help of accountants and vendors who prevent them from avoiding the reality of their predicament.”

He continued, “Litigation attorneys are seeing an uptick in new business. And we expect that trend to continue too, but not necessarily because the economy is causing people to have more reason for litigation. Rather every time we see a down-swing in the economy what seems to happen is that people who might otherwise have focused on the future instead of resorting to litigation start to try and tie-up loose ends.”

Thomas W. Kerner, attorney for Kerner & Betts in Williamsburg, North Carolina, agrees. He sees consumer debt collection and tax litigation rising, in addition to business-to-business (B2B) debt collection. “Especially among contractors and subcontractors who are not being paid because banks have pulled the funding on projects they’ve put months of work into; I would say 75-80% of it is directly or indirectly related to the building slowdown, which has been fueled by the collapse of the housing market and the tightening of lending practices which has caused a lot of projects to stop dead in their tracks.”

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