Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read May 2021 — Managing Partner at K&L Gates Lee Hogewood says some of the sectors his firm works in have remained strong over the course of the pandemic, some less so. In an interview with Invest:, Hogewood said that ultimately, he is optimistic, especially for the region’s future.
How has demand for your services changed as a result of the pandemic?
We’re a full-service office. We have a corporate practice, a real estate practice, employment, litigation, restructuring and insolvency. Our corporate practice has remained extremely active and engaged in various types of work you’d see in a normal economy: mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures. Real estate has been very active in the residential markets and with land acquisitions in and around Raleigh. People recognize that they’re going to be spending more time at home and are looking for newer and bigger homes where they can afford them. The employment practice, because of all of the issues and complications related to working at home, testing, has been very busy. Insolvency and litigation was probably the area most affected early in the pandemic. The court systems have reacted by creating a more virtual environment that has proven effective and successful, so now litigation matters are not just completely on hold.
What incoming legislation or regulations are you watching that could affect your clients?
On the insolvency side, one of the things that we’ve been keeping an eye on are the debt limits related to the small business limits on Chapter 11. Those were increased on a temporary basis. Probably fewer businesses than one would have expected have taken advantage of that. The benefit of those debt limits was extended for some period of time, in the likely event that some small businesses will need some Chapter 11 relief. That subchapter of the bankruptcy code does make some reorganization much less expensive for the smaller business, and, thus, a more attractive way to reorganize debts. In my world, that’s one thing that I’ll be interested to see. The other thing happening in North Carolina over the course of this summer, and is unrelated to the pandemic, is the change in the receivership statutes in our state. They were modernized and improved in a manner to make state receiverships a more attractive and usable form of relief. So, it’ll be interesting to see if, instead of filing bankruptcies, companies will choose to use the state court process. A number of states use a more modernized approach, so North Carolina was catching up on that front.
What is your outlook for the legal industry in the next 12 to 18 months?
I think 2021 is going to be a tough year, not just in the legal industry but in many ways. It could turn out to be great if the economy comes roaring back in the third and fourth quarter. This all depends on the extent to which people feel safe as a consequence of the high numbers of vaccinations. We have a very positive outlook on continuing to grow our office. One of our new associates was scheduled to start last September, which we pushed to this year, because we didn’t know how things were going to turn out. We have three new associates arriving in the fall. They work in the corporate area: data privacy and real estate. I think those are areas that will grow. We’re also looking for lateral partners in the corporate and securities area.
I think another trend we may see is young lawyers — maybe five or six years out — who have practiced in big markets like New York and Chicago and may have a connection in the Carolinas, deciding to come here, transitioning back South after the great experience they’ve obtained. We have a lot of talent in our office who have followed a similar path. I think post-pandemic, that will be a likely source of increasing talent, and not only for our firm. Being a bankruptcy lawyer, I’m cautiously optimistic. I think it could be a tough year but you can’t live your life on single-year cycles, either. In regards to the long term, I think this is a great place to be and a great law firm to be a part of and we’ll have many great years to come.
What else are you optimistic about?
I don’t know if “optimistic” is the right phrase or not. The pandemic and its aftermath has put so many people out of work and as we are seeing many well paying jobs are not being replaced. So suffering continues. I am proud that many in our office stepped up in a variety of ways — especially pro bono legal services. Lawyers voluntarily report hours spent on pro bono. Fifty hours is recognized by our North Carolina Supreme Court as an “honor roll” performance. Ten lawyers in our office reached honor roll status for 2020, and across the office we averaged 54 hours per lawyer.
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