Monthly Archives: April 2011

Atlanta’s March Unemployment Report Offers Hope for the Region

Atlanta-skyline.jpgThe unemployed in Atlanta may have finally breathed a small sigh of relief upon seeing the city’s March unemployment figures this week. With little variation over the last 12 months, the unemployment rate for Atlanta has been hovering between 9.7% and 10.4%. February’s rate sat at 10.2% and the March figure posted a marked improvement at 9.8 %. Metro Atlanta, as one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas, continues to be hard hit by the recession with more than 260,000 unemployed. In February this year, Atlanta was the only metro area among the nation’s top 12 metropolitan regions to show a year over year net loss of jobs. With a real estate market that continues to decline and an increase in gas and food prices, this week’s unemployment report provided a bit of good news that Atlanta really needs.
The improvement translates to 8,600 jobs that were added last month, many within the hospitality, leisure and health care fields. While much of this hiring is temporary, as hotels and restaurants start to staff up for the summer season, some permanent tech jobs were added. In fact, the need for computer network designers increased by over 11% over last year and wireless telecom jobs grew by over 7%. While these statistics are encouraging, despite posting improved earnings figures, some of Atlanta’s larger corporations like Coca-Cola and UPS have yet to make any hiring announcements.
Atlanta’s residential and commercial real estate values also lag behind the national average. Home prices in the metro area fell by 5.8% between February 2010 and 2011. Together with Detroit, Las Vegas and Cleveland, Atlanta’s home values are still below 2000 levels. Overbuilding in the construction industry at the beginning of the recession hurt Atlanta more than most cities around the country. The glut in commercial real estate was made worse by job losses in the financial and legal sectors. Workforce reductions at larger institutions in these sectors created less income for property owners and caused many commercial buildings to go into foreclosure. Many institutions closed their doors, but the companies that did survive found ways to augment declining revenue. Atlanta’s legal firms that survived the initial economic downturn, for example, found ways to fill vacant office space after headcount reductions. Newly freed up Atlanta law space provided an opportunity for cash strapped independent law practitioners in need of office space.
In 2010, Elaine M. Russell found a way to help law firms with open office space and solo law practitioners by creating www.LawSpaceMatch.com. This free service matches lawyers seeking to sublease law space with unoccupied office space at compatible law firms around the country. Elaine M. Russell is a corporate and business attorney representing clients throughout Georgia. Elaine’s office is located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta.
Notes:
Taken from: Jobless rate slide fuels wary optimism

The Pre-Law Outlook – Importance of Networking with Lawyers as an Undergraduate

479608_shaking_hands.jpgAs a junior year college student finishing up my sixth semester of undergraduate education, the thought of graduation is very scary. This idea is equally if not more scary to many of my peers in the college of arts and sciences here at Emory University, located in metropolitan Atlanta. After all, with the current Atlanta job market on the decline and no pre-determined tract to follow, what’s a History or English major to do? The answer for many of these stressed out individuals is Law School. After all, Law School requires none of the prerequisite undergraduate work that Medical School does, and a Law degree is among the most useful degree one can obtain. Sure, you have to take the LSATs but what’s one more standardized test in the grand scheme of things? Plus, while Law School applications are certainly time-consuming, they do not require the interviews or extensive extra writing samples other professional schools do.
This is simply not the right mindset one should have when figuring out their future. The decision to go to Law School should not be a cop-out decision but rather one that is thought through long and hard. As a Pre-Law student, I have spoken to numerous lawyers, and just asked seemingly simple questions such as what a normal day is like in the office, what they deal with and do day in and day out, and most importantly, if they enjoy it and why. Through this process I have realized that pursuing a Law Degree is the right move for me, but may not be the right move for everybody. Even if a job is not available after law school graduation, I have the opportunity to network and work with lawyers by sharing law space with established lawyers, such as Diane Baker, in the Atlanta metro area.
I believe that all undergraduate students interested in pursuing a legal career should network as much as possible as they near graduation, both in order to confirm their interest and to create a network of colleagues in the field. After all, when it comes time to apply for legal internships either as a summer undergraduate or a law school student, connections you have made can potentially tip the balance in your favor. In short, it is never too early to begin networking, even if it is exploratory in nature. www.LawSpaceMatch.com can help with this networking, as you can set up a profile and instantly be connected with attorneys from all over Atlanta. Although many attorneys do not offer undergraduate internships, as I have found out throughout the semester, almost all will offer you advice if you simply ask, and some may even offer to set up a coffee meeting. This advice and communication can get you further than you think, and will undoubtedly be a positive asset going forth. Students interested in pursuing a legal career should thus put legal networking at a high priority as it both aids on in confirming their interest in law, and establishes important professional connections going forth. www.LawSpaceMatch.com can help one accomplish this, and easily allow one to get their foot in the door of the legal profession.
Contributed by Merrick Pastore (not a law student but hopefully will be soon)

Sunrise in Atlanta

5:00AM finds me walking into the kitchen of my sorority house with my computer, backpack and highly caffeinated tea. During any other time of the year I would expect the common area to be empty but this morning someone beat me and the sun. One of my sisters has fallen asleep at the table–computer open and books strewn from her lap to the floor. She’s pre-business and I know there is a macro exam today. Sensing my arrival she awakens, sheepishly looks around, gathers her belongings and goes upstairs (hopefully to bed). I’m left alone in the brightly lit space to think about the work that needs to be done. I also begin to think about the noticeable changes at Emory.
It’s once again the time of the year when campus is filled with energy. But unlike the typical energy that one expects to feel from young adults, this is the tense, electrified sort that can only arise from finals season. Walking around campus there are fewer and fewer students playing ultimate Frisbee on the quad and more and more with books and binders. Emory’s student life undergoes as dramatic a change as its flora. Everyone from Public Health and Law students to freshmen and seniors are feeling the strain of final papers and thesis defenses. Even the once bustling Greek life is winding down to wind up for the end of term. The multiple libraries are all full and the once “secret study spots” nestled in the basements of various buildings are no longer secrets.
By 3:00PM I find myself sitting in Starbucks watching the various patrons attack biology books, LSAT study guides and marketing strategy materials. It’s interesting to see each person with their books and their headphones, attempting to block out the world so they can better focus on the words in front of them. Sure, it seems like Emory just traded “play hard” for “work harder” but truth is that’s how things always are here. Emory, located in Decatur Georgia is very much an academic school. So much so that during December and May, the students here develop tunnel vision that borders on singularity.
Being one of those single minded students I understand how important it feels to stay afloat when it seems as though my peers are miles ahead. But as I enter into my sixth semester I’m beginning to realize that much of that feeling is perceived. My dad always says that life isn’t a race and there isn’t one way to get where you want to be. It’s taken me 20 years, but I think I’m finally starting to understand. During a run through Emory’s Lullwater Park last week I had the opportunity to watch the sun rise over Candler Lake. I took nearly half an hour for the sun to rise above the trees and in those minutes I felt calmer than I had in weeks. I think in our haste to be the next Supreme Court judge or corporate guru we forget that not everything needs to be done at full throttle. If the sun can take it’s time, so can I.
Contributed by: Meg R. DeFrancesco

Persistence of the Economic Downturn Forces a New Legal Landscape

downtown_atlanta_usa.jpgThe past few years have brought significant changes to the legal industry in the US. The recession has forced law firms to reduce costs to stay in business. Just behind reducing staff, cutting back on real estate ranks second in efforts to creating cost efficiencies for most firms. For larger firms, the reduction in office space leased can contribute large savings to the bottom line over many years. But, not all firms have million dollar real estate agreements. Smaller firms are relying on a new way of doing business to survive. And eventually, as opportunities to reduce overhead diminish, even the largest firms will be forced to adapt.
As the economy faltered, relationships between law firms and their clients began to change. Many clients were no longer willing or able to pay top dollar for routine legal activities. Cost is king in the new legal landscape of the recession and many clients are now interested in different types of arrangements to obtain the legal counsel needed. Bartering services, for example, so that no money changes hands between parties, is becoming more common. Clients may be unable to pay for legal services, but the need for these services has not diminished.
This situation is similar to what the healthcare industry suffered in the US as the recession of the 1990s took hold. Patients, unable to pay, still showed up at hospitals in need of urgent care. As the recession deepened, premium healthcare providers were not able to continue with pricing that excluded the bulk of the US population. The result was a shift in how healthcare is managed and obtained. With changes to insurance, individuals were asked to manage their own care as cost was assigned to these individuals. For some underinsured patients, the only solution is to look for healthcare overseas, where costs savings of 30% or more can be founds.
This may be where the legal industry is headed. When the economy was strong, the cost of healthcare and legal services was never questioned. These were must-haves, at any cost. As the economic downturn persists, cutting legal expenditures is on the hit list, even for the largest corporations. Web-based legal services and cookie-cutter programs can help companies and individuals defray legal expenses. But, just as with healthcare, the long-term effects of this strategy may backfire on even the most conscientious consumers.
In 2010, Elaine M. Russell created www.LawSpaceMatch.com, a service that matches lawyers seeking to sublet space with unoccupied office space at compatible law firms around the country. Elaine M. Russell is a corporate and business attorney representing clients throughout Georgia. Elaine’s office is located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta.
Notes:
Taken from: The legal industry’s changing environment: Permanent or temporary?

Atlanta’s Largest Law Firm Comes Out on Top with Strategic Cost Cutting

atlanta_ga.jpgSince the economic downturn in 2008, large law firms all around the country have downsized office space as part of overall efforts to reduce operating costs. Firms in Atlanta are no exception and today continue to cut expenditures. Unable to forecast when business will pick up and return to levels seen in the mid-2000s, even the City’s largest firms that have held on to business with longstanding clients are cautious to expand and sign on for more office space. The competitive advantage rests with firms that are able to marry low overhead with the best talent, as clients continue to reduce spending on legal counsel.
In 2010, Atlanta’s largest law firm, Alston & Bird LLC, began negotiations on an agreement to downsize the Firm’s office space from 435,000 to 300,000 square feet. The reduction in space was structured so that the Firm’s offices would relocate from space in two separate buildings at One Atlantic Center and Atlantic Center Plaza, to space in only One Atlantic Center. The developer Daniel Corp. was reported to have proposed construction of and relocation to a new office tower, but financing was difficult for the project and it was rejected. In the end, Hines Real Estate Investments, Inc, the owner of One Atlantic Center won the bid. Unwilling to give up its longtime client of 20 years to another building owner or developer, Hines offered Alston & Bird a winning deal that the Firm could not refuse.
Alston & Bird LLP will complete the transition to the new office space at One Atlantic Center in 2012. The term of the new lease spans 18 years and the contract gives tenant improvement allowances of between $50 and $80 per square foot. Construction on the new space between the 35th and 50th floors will begin in 2011. With the reduction in office space under the new agreement, Alston & Bird stands to save between $10 and $20 million over the life of the loan. But the law firm isn’t the only winner, since the agreement leaves One Atlantic Center at 90% occupancy. Not bad for Atlanta, that at 27% has the nation’s highest in-town vacancy rate. It is now up to the deal’s loser, Atlantic Center Plaza, to find tenants to fill the 200,000 square feet that will be left vacant by Alston & Bird.
In 2010, Elaine M. Russell created www.LawSpaceMatch.com, a service that matches lawyers seeking to sublet space with unoccupied office space at compatible law firms around the country. Elaine M. Russell is a corporate and business attorney representing clients throughout Georgia. Elaine’s office is located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta.
Notes:
Taken from: Alston & Bird consolidates in move to One Atlantic

Effect on Stock Market

745243_u_s__supreme_court_2.jpgWhen one thinks of the stock market, their head becomes filled with corporations, interest rates and rises and falls in the economy. A new phenomenon sweeping throughout the Internet, however, is bringing a new meaning to “playing the stock market”. These new markets, coined “prediction markets” allow users to buy stock pertaining to whether future real world events will occur or not.
For example, a current hot market in the legal “subsection” is whether the Supreme Court will rule individual mandate to be unconstitutional before December 31st, 2012 at midnight. Predictions run at $5.00, and from current buying and selling of these stocks, a 50% chance of this happening has been generated. Thus, the people purchasing and selling these shares are creating the probability of the event occurring. Other hot topics include the potential leader of Libya at the end of the year and who will win this season’s “American Idol”.
This system obviously will not directly effect whether individual mandating will be ruled unconstitutional, but it shows how the general public feels about the situation. Furthermore, since real money is being put down, these predictions represent an accurate portrayal of people’s true feelings. This is simply because people would rather make money than lose it, and will seriously consider the possibility of an event actually occurring before purchasing “stocks” in it.
How does this pertain to the everyday practice of a lawyer? Well it does not really now but this concept is still in its infant stages. Give it a few more years and who knows what kinds of real world questions people will be able to buy stocks in. All types of public cases brought to trial may be open to trading in this prediction market, and the probability statistics generated by buying and selling tendencies would prove to be very useful for each side to gauge where they stand in a given argument. Going further, these probabilities may demonstrate to lawyers how people feel about certain issues that they may encounter with clients, allowing them to shape their approach accordingly. Law Firms would most certainly see these probabilities as somewhat legitimate, as they reflect the view of the public, which is exactly the role a jury has in the court of law. This may sound slightly far-fetched and even ambiguous, but crazier things have certainly happened. After all, don’t we all sit around sometimes and wonder where this increasingly interconnected world is taking us?
Contributed by Merrick Pastore