On Legal Trends

As 2015 gets underway, there are any number of issues facing Triangle attorneys from those we expect, such as immigration, to those that have yet to appear on the horizon. In December, we asked a number of attorneys, “What legal issues or legal trends do you see in your crystal ball for Triangle firms in 2015?”

A key trend I can spot from my vantage point at Smith Moore Leatherwood is continued consolidation in heavily-regulated industries such as health care and financial services. This consolidation is not only creating current work for compliance lawyers, but will also spawn dispute resolution work with disappointed acquirers in the future. While both civil and criminal filings are down in the Eastern District of North Carolina, our white-collar criminal defense lawyers expect work will increase next year because Thomas Walker, the United States attorney, has recently hired additional staff.
– Mark Finkelstein, Partner, Smith Moore Leatherwood.

In light of continued budget cuts, I predict an ongoing attempt to decrease spending in the judicial system. The state has already taken steps to do so through the recent amendment allowing defendant’s to waive jury trials in superior court, numerous cuts to IDS, and decreased penalties for Class 3 misdemeanors. A major drain on state resources is the cost of incarceration. Federal sentencing guidelines were recently amended to allow for a two-level decrease for most drug offenses meaning the potential early release of several thousand inmates. I foresee North Carolina following this trend to decrease penalties for low-level, non-violent offenders to address budget concerns.
– Lindsey W. Spain, Associate, Thomas, Ferguson & Mullins, L.L.P.

As a boutique employment law firm, we expect that retaliation claims will continue to rise in 2015. Given the EEOC’s declared interest in pregnancy discrimination, the rise of federal cases involving pregnant workers and the pending Supreme Court decision interpreting the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, we expect more pregnancy discrimination claims litigation as well. Finally, although 2015 legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is unlikely, we do expect to see more cases next year relying on a broad interpretation of Title VII to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination.
– Laura Noble, Managing Partner, The Noble Law Firm, PLLC

I expect we’ll continue to see increasing numbers of pro se litigants on domestic court calendars; either because they think they can’t afford a lawyer or believe they don’t need one. If family lawyers are going to remain viable, it is essential that we provide good customer service. Return phone calls. Keep your client informed. Be accessible to your client.
– Catherine Pavur, Owner, Law Offices of Catherine Pavur

At Law to the People, LLC, we see a renewed sense of advocacy amongst the attorneys. Attorneys are requesting CLE training that helps them defend their clients against police misconduct. For example, many attorneys are requesting information on how to defend clients who were arrested when lawfully attempting to videotape police officers. Attorneys want to be trained in how to defend clients who were charged with crimes after unjustified traffic stops. We have to continue to gear our CLE programs so they are teaching attorneys how to fight for justice.
– Timothy Peterkin, Senior Lecturer, Law to the People

I anticipate the number of claims in which the parties agree to participate in binding arbitration will continue to increase in 2015. Many clients want to have a firm schedule for the litigation of their claims and are willing to forgo having the case heard by a jury in order to avoid what can be a limited number of civil motions and trial dates available in the North Carolina court system.”
– Ashley K. Brathwaite, Partner, Ellis & Winters

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