Law firm leaders in Pennsylvania predict the new year could be almost as tough on law firms as 2012 was, factoring in rate pressures and overall economic uncertainties nationwide. They express cautious optimism about clients' legal "spends" for 2013.

Ballard Spahr Chair Mark Stewart is one leader who subscribes to this viewpoint and believes that certain practices will heat up. He noted that Ballard Spahr experienced an increase in deals in fourth quarter 2012, but the financial fortunes of the firm in 2013 will hinge greatly on political decisions made in Washington.

"It was a very, very hard year," said Mr. Stewart of 2012, "and I don't think it's going to get any easier in 2013. … We keep waiting for an uptick in business transactions, but as long as you've got the uncertainty coming out of the government, people are going to hold back."

Mr. Stewart expects that white-collar criminal defense, especially within the financial services industry, will be a robust area of practice for Ballard Spahr in the coming year.

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Mark S. Stewart