Sher & Blackwell, Attorneys

Sher & Blackwell, Attorneys

Partner

www.sherblackwell.com

In posing this year's question, you asked how I see our "end of the industry changing." As a lawyer, I not only have the luxury of being able to answer a question with a question, but also restating it. Let me do both. If you mean by my end of the industry - lawyering - I can make two predictions with supreme confidence. The first is that the number of lawyer jokes, most of which make W.C. Fields' humor look subtle, will painfully continue to grow. Second, the Washington practice of law in international transportation will change precious little in 2004. What I mean by that is the demand for transportation-related legal services in Washington will continue to increase. Demand will grow, explained by the old shibboleth, lawyers prosper at the top and the bottom of economic cycles. And we are at a top. In international ocean transportation we are in a boom. All three ocean modes (liner, tanker and dry-bulk carriers) are exceedingly strong - high utilizations, a return of carrier-pricing power and heightened equity investments.

Apart from the economics, the need for Washington legal services is nurtured by a longtime ally, the U.S. government. Whether it be through new regulations or laws, security programs or proposals for new taxes (always labeled user fees) - all of these are truly red meat for lawyers. One thing we can count on, Congress will not "deregulate" itself. One can legitimately question whether all of this is good for clients, the efficient transportation of goods in international commerce or the common good. I leave the answer to those less partisan and with broader vision.

At the end of the day, the old saw about the U.S. government's approach to the transportation industry holds sway - "If it moves, regulate it. If it doesn't, tax it. And if not regulated or taxed, it serves no purpose, and therefore make it illegal." In all cases, for better or worse, lawyers will be necessary.