Updated: 3:03 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28, 2009 | Posted: 3:02 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28, 2009
Law firms get a boost from stimulus funds
By Péralte C. Paul
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Law firms have taken a few lumps in the down economy, but they are getting a boost from a not-so-obvious source: Washington’s massive $787 billion economic stimulus bill.
“We’re very busy now,” said Neal Sweeney, a partner with Kilpatrick Stockton who works in the Atlanta firm’s construction and public contracts practice areas. “In terms of where the stimulus money is going, it is having and will continue to have a favorable impact.”
The stimulus program aims to kick-start the economy through taxpayer funding of large projects. Law firms are being tapped by clients looking to get some of those funds.
Sure, the money may take months to work through the various federal agencies that will parcel it out to state and local governments and private businesses. But metro Atlanta law firms say they already are busier.
“The stimulus money hasn’t hit full-steam yet, but it will come,” said Lee C. Davis, a partner in the construction group practice at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.
Sutherland’s construction practice attorneys are holding seminars on the differences of public projects and federal guidelines they’ll have to follow.
Firms are reluctant to say the expected demand will replace loses in other practice areas, such as real estate, hit hard last year by the down economy. Nor are they willing discuss bottom line expectations.
But areas seeing the most stimulus activity include the construction and medical and technology-related practices, firms say.
Some stimulus money is earmarked for health care providers switching to electronic recordkeeping of patient files. That, indirectly, is creating work for privacy and data security lawyers, said Roy E. Hadley, an attorney in the corporate and health and information technology practices at Bryan Cave in Atlanta.
Troutman Sanders created at least five practice groups designed to address clients’ stimulus-related needs and questions, said Kevin C. Fitzgerald, managing partner of Troutman’s Washington, D.C. office.
One team is dedicated to the energy stimulus and focused on the U.S. Department of Energy; another is focused on renewable energy and another with helping clients in the banking sector with potential re-regulation of the finance industry.
“These teams are all doing well in terms of new client matters and new client work,” he said. “A lot of what’s being driven on a macro level is coming from Washington. We’re trying to be responsive as we can to the marketplace.”