Legal market overview in United States
Overall the government contracting community is a little edgy due to the current political landscape. With the change in the administration came a change in the way contracting is done. For example, the Department of Justice is more willing to use its power to dismiss False Claim Act qui tam cases. There also appears to be a move towards less regulation for contractors than there had been under the Obama administration. One key example is the Department of Defense’s acquisition reform initiative, which is intended to significantly simplify the defense acquisition process.
Another notable trend is that for a number of years there have been serious concerns about participants throughout the entire supply chain, particularly in light of cybersecurity threats to contractors in the defense and infrastructures sectors from countries such as Iran, China and Russia. As a result, the US government is seeking to impose export controls not only on weapon systems, but also other technologies. The recent government shutdown that started in December 2018, which was the longest in US history, had an adverse financial impact. However, this impact was mainly felt by civilian agencies rather than those defense agencies like the Department of Defense, which is fully funded.
While the first year under the Trump administration was a year characterized by uncertainty in the government relations arena, there was a move into an active phase in the past year. The 2018 tax reform bill in particular kept many public policy groups busy, and also generated a fair amount of work for law firms. Similarly, the government’s international trade agenda and various issues surrounding trade policies have provoked a flurry of legal activity and advocacy.
Outside of trade, defense and financial services, there has also been a focus on reviving economically depressed areas, which generated a fair amount of activity in the infrastructure sector. The 2018 government shutdown, however, made it slightly more cumbersome for firms to submit written advocacy as a result of considerably reduced government services. On the other hand, the increased attention to economically depressed areas may continue at least until the next election cycle.