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January 21, 2022

With Strong 2021, Midsize Firm Leaders Look to Nimbly Face 2022—Whatever it Brings

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Managing Partner, Nick Centrella, weighed in on his predictions for 2022 as the year will bring its own set of successes and challenges as midsize firm leaders continue to navigate uncertainty and work through rising costs and remote work.


For midsize firms in the Am Law 200 and boutiques with a niche practice, 2022 will be a year of
instituting several years’ worth of adaptive practices that were piloted in 2021. Yet nearly two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic radically changed work cultures overnight, firm leaders recognize the hazards of counting on yesterday’s insights for tomorrow’s successes. A nimble, adaptive management approach will continue to be necessary, firm leaders say, as Covid variants, virtual operations and a transient labor market have made for an ever-evolving competitive landscape.


Branching Out Into New Practice Areas, Stabilizing Existing Ones

Philadelphia litigation boutique Conrad O’Brien enjoyed its most profitable years in 2020 and 2021, even with a 30% drop in collections in the first three months of COVID-19 in the U.S., said managing partner Nick Centrella. Record profits have come from the decrease in costs associated with travel and in-person work, Centrella said, noting that he’s involved in cases where he’s never met opposing counsel or the judge in person. Centrella said 2022 is shaping up to be what he expected for 2021, expediting a backlog of court cases from 2020 that have been compounded by cases filed in the interim. 


“Last year, I thought I’d be pushed to trial in a lot of different cases and I wasn’t. But this year I already have five trials scheduled for this year,” Centrella said. “They’re so booked that it’s probably going into 2023.” Centrella said, “I expect this year to be a very strong year for firms that practice in Philadelphia, particularly ones that practice in city hall because I think cases are now getting pushed to trial that have been sitting around for the pandemic.”


However, this inventory of work won’t last forever. “The one thing that keeps any firm manager up is the pipeline of cases,” Centrella said. “Right now there’s no issue on the pipeline. The inventory from 2020 still exists and has been added to in 2021. Having said that … there is a strong possibility that the overall cases will drop in 2022.”


Managing Costs

According to litigators interviewed for this story, remote depositions could emerge as the industry’s norm, while mediations and trials are likely to remain an in-person affair.


Centrella said the question of whether to spend on travel costs is largely going to depend on the
preferences of the client. Even before the pandemic, Centrella said some clients asked him to meet with the witness in person for the deposition, regardless of the location because “they felt like the personal interaction with the witness was important.”

“I think less clients feel that way because of the level of depositions that have been done in the last two years,” Centrella said. “But there still will be some occasions where the client or lawyer will feel it is better to be in the room with the client. It won’t completely eliminate travel but…every person will ask, ‘Why am I getting on a plane when I could simply sit in my home office and do this remotely?’”

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