Where to?

Karl Schieneman knew the time was right to expand his legal staffing firm, but the question was, expand where?

Schieneman’s company, Legal Network, has experienced revenue growth of 1,500 percent over the past five years and placed on the Inc 500. And the legal staffing industry in general is growing, projected to expand at a 16 percent clip in 2003 — faster than the staffing industry overall, according to Staffing Industry Analysts Inc.

With law firms dissolving and corporate budgets slimming down, Schieneman, an MBA grad of Carnegie Mellon University who holds a law degree from Pitt, saw an opportunity to expand Legal Network to an additional city.

“We do extremely well in fast-growing markets or shrinking markets,” says Schieneman.

Shrinking markets mean lawyers are losing jobs and looking for either permanent or temporary assignments. Additionally, scaled-back departments may find they need additional legal personnel to handle unexpected projects. Growing markets create a demand for additional legal services and more work for lawyers.

Schieneman decided to locate a second office in either the mid-Atlantic or Midwest region. Over a 14-month period, Legal Network researched possible locations and ultimately settled on Cleveland.

“Because Cleveland is economically and demographically similar to Pittsburgh, we thought Cleveland would be the perfect choice for our second office,” says Schieneman.

Norman Clark, a principal with Walker-Clark, a legal management consulting firm, says Cleveland is a major but often-overlooked legal center with a strong presence of large and regional firms. Clark says Legal Network can be of particular value to large firms in multiple markets that have large, labor-intensive projects to complete.

To get the Cleveland office off the ground, Legal Network hired Sharon Comet-Epstein — a Cleveland lawyer who worked in private practice and also managed an Ohio contract attorney firm — as its executive director.

“Many law firms today are struggling to obtain and retain more clients and are more vigilant than ever to be cost-effective in order to keep them,” Comet-Epstein.

In an uncertain economy, she adds, using contract attorneys offers lawyers, law firms and corporate clients a cost-effective solution.

Another factor that Legal Network weighed in its decision to locate in Cleveland was its proximity to Pittsburgh.

Says Schieneman: “It doesn’t hurt that it’s two hours away.” How to reach: Legal Network, www.legalnetworkltd.com