After signs of a rebound in late 2010 and last year, the pace of business expansion for many law firms has slowed. Two new surveys by legal consultants at Wells Fargo Bank and the Hildebrandt Institute illustrate how rocky the comeback trail has been. In the Philadelphia region, net income at firms is down by 8 percent.

At Ballard Spahr, business is up this year over last, despite more intense competition, according to firm Chair Mark Stewart. Another trend, Mr. Stewart noted, is that clients are resisting rate increases and are asking more frequently for alternative billing arrangements. One practice that remains robust is labor and employment. As downsizing companies look for ways to minimize legal exposure, labor and employment lawyers are being called upon more frequently to provide guidance.

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