February 14, 2012
Advantage Bloomberg Law? Part 1: Not until BLaw unleashes BNA’s sales force to get boots on the ground
So BLaw has added DLA Piper as a subscriber and not just a handful of seats at a BigLaw firm as has been the past adoption rate for BLaw at BigLaw. All US-based DLA Piper attorneys now have a BLaw account, that’s something like 1,400 attorneys. Quoting from BLaw's press release:
“We are deeply gratified that a firm of DLA Piper’s caliber has chosen Bloomberg Law for its lawyers throughout the United States,” said Bloomberg Law Chairman Lou Andreozzi. “We look forward to working closely with DLA Piper as we continue to develop the resources to help law firms better manage their research and costs so they can concentrate on adding value to their clients.”
Hum, "work closely with DLA Piper as we continue to develop the resources"... .
Initially, I thought BLaw's Lou Andreozzi was stealing a page from Lexis' advertising playbook. Remember back in the 1980s: "all Skadden Arps attorneys have a UBIQ in their offices” (read sure as hell Skadden did not pay the equipment leasing fees the rest of us did back then). But no, DLA Piper Jean O'Grady's Dewey B Strategic blog post title makes it clear that nothing similar happened. See Welcome to Bloomberg Law: No Deals No Discounts No Apology. I sure as hell don't think this transaction requires any apology whatsoever. Again, quoting from the press release, (which IMHO should have been released the day before, not the day of TRI’s 2011 financial reporting):
Don Jaycox, DLA Piper’s Chief Information Officer, said, “Law firms need to cost effectively deliver great client service in a highly competitive environment. In addition to being experts in law, our clients have made it clear that they also want us to understand the business challenges they face on a daily basis. Bloomberg Law’s unique combination of legal research, company information, and news helps our lawyers stay abreast of a wide array of information affecting our clients. Plus, Bloomberg’s inclusive pricing model helps us manage costs in a predictable way.”
So, let's do the math. Now if the transaction was based on a single user flat rate fee: 1,400 seats times $450 per seat per month flat rate equals $630,000 per month or $7,560,000 per year. Of course, the BLaw-DLA Piper transaction was based on a multiuser license so the pricing was substantially less. How much less? Who knows, but still it certainly was not a bad day in the world of professional legal services sales in the specialist market!
Can Bloomberg Law capitalize on this transaction? Well, there are plenty of BigLaw firms (and academic law libraries) that have been waiting for BLaw's sales force to travel beyond Manhattan to hear from the Company as one law firm librarian characterized the situation in a LawLibCon podcast episode recently. And there are plenty of Bloomberg BNA field reps biting the bit to sell BLaw, like now, Lou!
BLaw needs to seize the post-DLA Piper moment by unleashing BNA's sale force. That’s the best damn way for BLaw to get boots on the ground beyond Manhattan. When you pay over $900 million, isn't it about time to grab some ROI by way of an experienced sales force? Perhaps the DLA Piper announcement means BNA sales reps have been or soon will be pitching BLaw. If not, the DLA Piper adoption doesn't mean all that much.
BLaw ought not wait until BNA content is fully integrated into BLaw before giving the Bloomberg BNA field reps the green light because … well, that’s the topic of tomorrow’s post. [JH]
January 17, 2012
Is the Great Legal Recession of 2008 Over?
"There are some encouraging signs in hiring, compensation and partner profits at the nation's biggest firms, but things may not be as good as they seem, Above the Law Editor-in-Chief David Lat tells Bloomberg Law's Lee Pacchia. David also gives his views on ABA President Bill Robinson's controversial remarks regarding the legal job market." Quoting from the Bloomberg Law YouTube summary. [JH]
January 15, 2012
Browsing On A Sunday: SOPA, E-book Loaning, and the Billable Hour
The White House released a statement yesterday in opposition to filtering the Domain Name System as a response to Internet piracy. Three of the administration’s top technology and IP officers issues a lengthy statement on the White House web server detailing the objections. Victoria Espinel, Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator at OMB, Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Howard Schmidt, Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator for National Security Staff wrote that removing sites from the DNS system wouldn’t remove the illegal content and would drive consumers to use alternative DNS systems that could be unreliable and weaken security policy. They recognized that piracy is a serious problem and solicit comments from the public as to how to combat it.
It didn’t take long for Rupert Murdoch to react negatively. He sent five different tweets including “So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery.” The Register pointed out the irony of this statement given the phone hacking scandal that closed News Corp property News of the World. Politicians sought Murdoch’s favor due to his ownership of significant media properties. His complaining about corporate meddling in politics is not very credible given some of the reports (here and here) out there. He might have saved some invective for Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the lead sponsor of SOPA. He said he will remove the DNS filtering provision from the bill after discussions with industry groups. One presumes technology companies such as Google gave Rep. Smith and others an earful to prompt the move.
The Washington Post (registration required) examines the tension between libraries as lenders of e-books and the publishing industry resisting that lending. The article covers the usual territory of publishers expressing their concern about piracy and libraries and their users frustrated at the lack of available content. What is interesting is some of the statistical material the article notes about demand for e-books in various Washington area library systems. Maryland’s entire library system has less than 10,000 copyrighted e-books with 266,000 checkouts in the last year. The trend over time is a rapidly increasing demand by a public expecting libraries to lend e-books with the same ease as physical books. Publishers would rather see sales rather than lending, and limiting what libraries can lend certainly helps the sales market. Perhaps the various government investigations into e-book pricing might make that sale alternative more palatable to the buyers.
Another article in the Post examines the pressure on the billable hour. It seems members of large firms who handle major clients start their own practices and taking some of those clients with them. The attraction is the trust in the attorney’s work and the attorney’s willingness to use alternative billing arrangements. These may include a lower hourly rate, capped or flat fees, and bonuses depending on the success of outcome in client matters. The article suggests that large firms are feeling the heat and are turning to similar arrangements to keep business. Law graduates take note: There will be less money coming in which means less compensation for jobs in the future. [MG]
January 04, 2012
Piggybacking on Students' Free WEXIS Access by Practitioners: "No can do" says Utah State Bar
It's a widespread and fairly well-known practice that one "benefit" of hiring a law student as a law clerk is access to free WEXIS legal search. However, under Westlaw's "Educational Purposes" and Lexis "Academic Purposes" licensing agreement clauses with law schools that provide student user accounts, any law student working as a law clerk who is using his or her WEXIS academic account in the workplace is violating the terms of the WEXIS license. Frankly I've got no complaint with that. A license is a license is a license.
I don't know if this issue has been addressed before in the context of state rules of professional conduct but Utah recently did. "Requiring, encouraging or even tolerating the violation of the law student’s contractual obligation to refrain from using the services for profit is also conduct involving dishonesty or misrepresentation that also is a violation of Rule 8.4(c) of Utah Rules of Professional Conduct." Under Utah law, the state bar also noted that this is a theft of services.
In a nutshell, and quoting from the Utah State Bar's Ethics Advisory Opinion Committee's Opinion No. 11-03 (Issued Nov. 15, 2011):
1. ISSUE: Is it a violation of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct for an attorney to ask a law student to undertake research using the law student’s free account and in breach of the student’s contract with Lexis and/or Westlaw?
2. OPINION: A lawyer who encourages or participates in a law student’s violation of the student’s contractual obligation to the electronic research service violates the Rules of Professional Conduct.
For more, see Jim Levy's Utah opinion notes "numerous" law students report employment is conditioned upon criminal misuse of free Wexis access post on Legal Skills Prof Blog. [JH]
December 26, 2011
Thank God the World is Going to End on December 21, 2012: The Coming Deluge of Law Firm Blogs
Reporting in Watch Out: A Deluge of Legal Blogs is Approaching, Bob Ambrogi reviews some of the findings of a recently released survey of social media in the legal sector that was conducted by LexisNexis and Vizibility. Bob writes:
Better start building that ark, because a deluge of new blogs will soon flood the legal profession. At least, that seems to be the conclusion of a just-released survey of social media in the legal sector conducted by LexisNexis and Vizibility.
Of AmLaw 100 firms, 93.8% have or plan to have blogs. Of AmLaw 200 firms, 94.7%. Move on down the list and the percentage for every size firm is greater than 75%. Among 1-5 lawyer firms — which make up the majority of firms in the U.S., 87.8% have or plan to have blogs.
In short, roughly nine out of every 10 law firms will be blogging — some might have multiple blogs.
December 21, 2011
"Going Mac" in the Legal Industry is Gaining Ground
According to the 2011 Clio Apple in Law Firms Survey results, summarized here, 46.5% of respondents said they chose Apple hardware over PC options because the technology was more reliable and secure. Usability ranked next at 33.8%. Familiarity due to home use of Apple/Mac products was 9.8%, and aesthetics and design came in fourth at only 3%. 76.5% of law students said that when they graduate, they plan on choosing a Mac platform for their office. Of particular interest in that 25.3% of respondents had switched to Mac within the past year.
About this year's survey findings Clio CEO and Co-Founder Jack Newton said:
Apple hardware and devices – especially the iPad and iPhone – continue to capture the attention and dollars of lawyers, cloud-based applications have won attorneys’ confidence and gained more traction. With the majority of law students planning to use Mac apps in their law practices upon graduation, we can reasonably predict a longstanding trend toward continued expansion of Apple products within the legal industry.
763 people participated in the survey, 80% of which were practicing lawyers and 20% of which were law students or non-lawyers. 76% of respondents were lawyers at firms with 10 attorneys or less. [JH]
December 16, 2011
Onshoring LPO Work Because Recent Law Grads Are Looking for Jobs, Any Sort of Jobs, Even Bottom Rung Jobs
In Ten for 2012: Top Ten Trends for Legal Outsourcing in 2012, Fronterion, an international consulting firm for outsourced legal services, identifies profitability squeeze on foreign LPO firms as one of the market dynamics that will impact the industry next year. Why? Because the US labor market is flooded with unemployed law grads willing to be underemployed by taking LPO jobs here in the US. From the report:
Wage inflation abroad and soft labor markets domestically in the United States and United Kingdom have signi:icantly narrowed the cost differential for the legal professionals performing LPO services. Fronterion has observed that offshore LPOs charge clients $25‐35 per hour for basic legal services while contract review attorneys in the U.S., particularly in the Midwest, often are charging comparable rates of $25‐30 per hour.
The soft labor rates in the domestic legal sector place a natural cap on the amount LPO vendors can charge their clients, despite the increasingly expensive wages they pay their offshore staff. This squeeze in profitability is only set to increase in 2012 as the newly minted law graduates in the U.S. and U.K., who flocked to law schools during the downturn, are now seeking to join the workforce.
Hat tip to Want to Outsource Legal Work? Ohio Can Be as Cheap as India, Report Says by ABAJ's Debra Cassens Weiss. [JH]
December 08, 2011
What Do You Do When You Are Losing Customers? Thomson Reuters Buys the Competition
Back in September, UK-based Pilgrim Systems, a provider of law practice management solutions called LawSoft, announced Another Elite site goes live with Pilgrim's Lawsoft, noting:
As well as the functionality and quality of the LawSoft solution, the firms’ selection was based as much on Pilgrim’s ability to migrate and convert one Elite database into three LawSoft systems.
Earlier this week, Thomson Reuters Elite announced it acquired Pilgrim Systems for an undisclosed sum. From the press release:
Acquiring Pilgrim and its LawSoft solution is a key component in Elite’s product development strategy and overall growth strategy to expand internationally.
Pilgrim’s current product, LawSoft, has been very successful since its launch in 1996 with a large client base in the UK. Elite will leverage this success and the strength of Pilgrim’s software development efforts to enhance its business management solutions targeted for mid-market firms in the UK and Asia Pacific. The addition of Pilgrim’s assets builds on Elite’s earlier acquisition of FWBS and its robust core matter management capabilities.
“Pilgrim is a strategic fit within our plan to provide a mid-market back-office solution for law firms in the UK and Asia Pacific region – areas where we do not currently have a solution,” said Cary Burch, chief operations officer for Elite. “This marks the fifth acquisition for Elite this year, all of which have been integral to our vision of creating a compelling, integrated mid-market offering utilizing the best technologies. The culmination of these acquisitions will broaden our capabilities and expand our offerings for our global clients.”
Why grow products organically when customer-flight tells you who has the better product line?
Is Thomson Reuters Elite on a buying binge? This is just the latest acquisition. In October, FWBS was acquired. See Elite Acquires FWBS to Offer Clients Expanded Access to Matter Management Data: Acquisition Also Extends Elite’s Growing International Presence. [JH]
November 29, 2011
Bonuses And Pro Bono Work Down Somewhat At Big Firms
How bad is it getting for the legal-industrial complex? The ripple effect of not enough jobs and clients balking at paying for new lawyer training now includes smaller end-of-year bonuses and a small decrease in pro bono hours. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that major firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP is keeping its bonuses at around 2010 levels, with the most senior associates taking around $37,500, and the most junior attorneys getting $7,500. It’s shocking as the higher figure can only buy the entry level Lexus at best. Seriously, though, that’s a drop of around 20% from 2007 figures when the markets collapsed.
Fortune is picking up on figures reported last June issued by the Pro Bono Institute and its Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®, where major law firms contribute legal services to those who could not otherwise afford them. The number of donated hours significantly increased between 2005 and 2009, ranging from 2.226 million hours to more than double at 4.868 million hours. The number of reported pro bono hours in 2010 fell to 4.451 million. Fortune cites a number of anecdotal reports from various large firms suggesting that while they still contribute significant hours, they need to concentrate on the paying customers. The bright side, if one could call it that, is that new lawyers needing real world experience often find it in a firm’s pro bono work. [MG]
November 27, 2011
Browsing On A Sunday: Lobbying SCOTUS, The Legal Cloud, And Defending Law Faculty Idealism
The idea that deep pockets can affect congressional action is hardly a new one. What surprises me, however, is this account in The Hill, describing lobbying attempts to affect the deliberation of the Supreme Court as it considers the constitutionality of the healthcare reform law. These take the form of media campaigns designed to sway public opinion on the law. The Supreme Court is mostly immune to these actions, though it’s hard to imagine that the Justices never watch television. Another new partisan tactic is raising the debate on whether several of the Justices should recuse themselves from the consideration of the case. Justices Scalia and Thomas, for example, had dinner with challengers to the law. Justice Kagan was part of the administration when the law was pending. If history is a guide, all nine Justices will weigh in. Amicus takes on a whole new meaning in this context.
Somewhere back in February of 2010 the LLB reprinted with permission an article from BNA called Privacy and Data Security Risks in Cloud Computing. BNA now reports on an Iowa State Bar Association ethics opinion concerning the storage of client data in the cloud. Iowa says it’s ok, provided a lawyer perform due diligence as to the mechanism and security of the storage. The concerns raised include whether the lawyer will have unfettered access to the data, including a back-up in case the cloud is down; whether the lawyer has a clear understanding of the reputation of the storage company and the terms of the contract to store data; and what happens to the ownership of the data if the lawyer does not pay the required fees. Other practical concerns include who at the company has access to the data and passwords, whether third parties can get to it, and whether the lawyer controls the encryption scheme. Expect to see future ethics opinions (or court cases by aggrieved clients) as reality meets standards.
Noah Feldman defends law professors in light of the article in the New York Times that paints faculty as out of touch with the legal practice class. He notes in Bloomberg how former and current law professors dominate politics, including Justice Anthony Kennedy, Elizabeth Warren, Cass Sunstein, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and of course, President Barack Obama. Law professors, he says, tend to compare the ideal with reality and become frustrated with the way reality works out. Faculty members do not want to accept “messy compromises” that exist in reality.
Because they tend to like logical principles, law professors are also big believers in the power of reason to prevail. If they could just get the public to see things clearly, they tell themselves, results would surely improve.
Well, Professor Feldman, as many of the faculty you cite who are now part of government, they have all had to deal with those messy compromises dictated by politics. Justice Kennedy, for example, tends to be pragmatic despite being labeled a conservative. Presidents Clinton and Obama surely understand negotiating deals that are less than ideal but pass into law. If anything, it seems they have not let their law faculty past affect too much their roles in government.
Law professors consider having an impact on policy to be a plus. One test of the value of a legal scholar’s ideas is whether anyone in the real world bothers to listen to them.
Indeed, though even philosopher-kings had to exercise power at some point. [MG]
October 19, 2011
More Corporate Legal Departments Just Saying "No:" Is billing newbie attorneys at paralegal rates the answer?
More than 20% of the 366 in-house legal departments that responded to a recent survey conducts by Association of Corporate Counsel for the WSJ reported that they are refusing to pay for work performed by first- or second-year assocates. The WSJ Law Blog's Joe Palazzolo reports that almost half of the companies said they put that policy in place during the past two years, and the trend appears to be growing.
Why pick up the tab to train newbie attorneys? Corporate counsels should know. First, they too were not-practice ready law school grads once. Most likely they also attended the post-graduate school known as BigLaw to acquire the training they needed before moving to a corporate law department.
ATL's Elie Mystal thinks the consequences will be that law firms will just assign the billable work to mid-level associates. In Clients Won’t Pay For What Law Schools Churn Out, he writes “It’s entirely possible that 20% of clients don’t understand that having a midlevel do work more suitable for a trained monkey is actually worse than having a first-year do it." I think corporate counsels are smarter than that.
Billing Law School Grads at Paralegal Rates. Perhaps law firms could recoup some of their newbie lawyers employment training costs if the firms billed them out at paralegal rates. Doubt paralegals would like that unless the first- and second-year associates were also compensated at paralegal rates. Now there's a thought. Based on working with paralegals, however, an experienced paralegal trumps recent law school grads (regardless of where that newbie attorney graduated) any every day.
While a cyclical (recession-based) overall reduction in demand for high-end legal services explains part of this transformation, I believe that a significant and still growing part of the change is structural, and results from the change in the staffing and pricing of legal process work reflected in the trends discussed above. What this means is that rates of hiring at larger law firms for highly compensated partnership-track associates are likely to remain much lower than they were in, say, 2007 for quite a long time. While this is producing some wrenching short-term dislocations in the entry-level job market that are both tragic and widespread, it is at least as important to consider the possible longer-term effects not only on clients and law firms, but on prospective and current law students, law graduates, and law schools.
October 13, 2011
Moneyball-ing Legal Services (and Law Schools and Law Libraries)
We shouldn't be surprised that the new film, Moneyball, would lead to a discussion of the applicability of Moneyball-ing law firm hiring and retention, and the value of legal services provided to clients. Heck, seven years before the movie and within a year after the publication of Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (W.W. Norton, 2003) by Michael Lewis , law profs Paul Caren (Cincinnati) and Rafael Gely (then Cincinnati, now Missouri) sparked a flury of discussion in the legal academy with their landmark article, What Law Schools Can Learn from Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics [SSRN], 82 Texas Law Review 1483 (2004). Quoting from the abstract:
In Moneyball, Michael Lewis takes an inside look at how in recent years the Oakland A's have achieved one of the best records in baseball despite having one of the lowest player payrolls. Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler have argued that the book has large and profound implications for other professions. This review essay by a tax law professor and a labor law professor explores the book's large and profound implications for law schools.
In many ways, legal education is teeming with more inefficiencies than Beane uncovered in baseball. We argue that changes in the economic conditions of higher education and the legal profession, combined with increasing demands for accountability and transparency, created the market demand for measuring organizational success which U.S. News & World Report met with its annual law school rankings. We explore the implications of Moneyball for legal education in three areas.
First, we argue that law school rankings are here to stay and that the academy should work to devise ways to more accurately measure law school success. We advocate the comprehensive collection of data that users and organizations can weigh differently in arriving at competing rankings systems.
Second, we applaud efforts begun in the past decade to quantify individual faculty contributions to law school success. We support measures that take into account both quantitative and qualitative measurements of faculty performance. We provide data that confirm the relationship of productivity and impact measures of scholarship and provide support for isolating background and performance characteristics in predicting future faculty scholarly work.
Third, we use Billy Beane as a prototype and identify the qualities that enabled him to revolutionize baseball. We shift the focus here to deans and present data measuring decanal scholarly productivity and impact. We contrast these figures with the corresponding faculty data and distinguish deans' scholarly performance both in the period prior to becoming dean and while serving as dean. We also offer some surprising predictions, based on the data, of the qualities that a future dean will need to assume the mantle of the Billy Beane of legal education.
I'm thinking Paul, a diehard Boston Red Sox fan, and Rafael, if a baseball fan, hopefully a Cubs fan during his long-term stay teaching at Chicago-Kent Law, should have been offered cameo appearances in the Moneyball movie. But I digress.
Moneyball-ing in the Private Sector. So now comes two New Normal articles from the ABAJ. In If Legal Services Value Stats Were Created, Standardized, Law Clients Could Play ‘Moneyball’, Patrick J. Lamb writes
In sports, statistical analysis is a means to an end: securing the best win-loss record and winning championships. In law, the challenge is whether statistics can be a useful means of determining value, which is, like beauty, frequently in the eye of the beholder. But the efforts to at least circle around some common understandings of value are nothing but positive developments, and defining the kinds of analyses and statistics that are pertinent to hiring and retention of lawyers will assist law firms and clients in focusing on the same indices of value.
Paul Lippe asks and answers in Can ‘Moneyball’ Principles Be Applied to the Valuation of Legal Services?
Can we apply Moneyball-style analysis to law? The answer is a qualified “yes,” informed by three considerations:
First, value of services is inherently more nuanced than value in goods, and law is toward the more nuanced end of the spectrum of services (say more nuanced than a baseball player, a real estate agent or a travel agent, but probably less than a psychotherapist).
Second, value discussions have to be specific—value in sell-side mergers and acquisitions is different from buy-side, and altogether different from counseling to avoid employment discrimination claims.
Third, discussing value is always going to be useful, even though it doesn’t lead to one absolute standard.
Unfortunately, what many Moneyball commentators fail to emphasis is that once the statistical analysis used by the Oakland A's became institutionalized in professional baseball, the initial competitive advantage the A's had was lost. The playing field was leveled. Statistical analysis has become just another tool.
Quantifying value in legal services and in hiring and retention of lawyers is problematic at best as noted by Lamb and Lippe. Will Moneyball-ing in this context also level out the playing field? Without absolute standards, can the metrics be agreed upon? Will the stats used be accurate or gamed?
Moneyball-ing in the Legal Academy. While Caron and Gely's call for more comprehensive law school data so users and organizations can create alternative methodologies to US News Law School Rankings should be applauded, that hasn't happened and that wasn't what caused the flurry of debate in the legal academy. What did was the the second and third issue presented in their article, namely Moneyball-ing the legal academy in terms of law prof and law dean contributions to law school success by narrow focusing on the relationship between productivity and scholarly impact as if the game of the legal academy is careerism of law profs and their dean.
Isn' the game about producing practice ready graduates by an institutional scorecard of the outcomes of a profession education? One ouside the legal academy can't start Moneyball-ing that because even the current self-reported and unadited data provided by the "team" is unreliable. One might say, the legal academy's credibility issues compounded by the ABA failure to police law schools as their accrediting body has lead many to conclude that law schools have been Moneyball-ing gamed data to move up in the standings of the major leagues knows as US News Law School Rankings. And just like in baseball, the more teams that do this, the more level the fudged playing field is.
Moneyball-ing in Law Libraries. Well, actually first in academic law libraries. At least our data isn't known to fudged when it comes to the size of a academic library collection but I am reminded of the objections raised about the prospects of devaluing the volume count stat at a NOLA seesion. In our New Normal of Shed West Era-Digital First-Digital Only, I think the issue, the value of that metric, has been settled. It's not important.
Law librarian contributions to the success of their employers is not measured by the size of their collections but by the services they provide and are responsible for: saving costs by way of their negotations with vendors, executing efficencies by way of implementing sensible information technologies and e-communications, providing expert services to their user populations.
Our duty is to our institutions but there is little no chance that some new metrics can be created. Providing a metric on expert services is too subjective unless opinion polls are based on scientific principles of opinion research. Just slapping together a bunch of questions for SurveyMonkey doesn't cut it.
There are metric that can be used to evaluate library websites in terms of traffic, what library website pages are visited the most, etc., as long as one carefully understands the limitations of web server logs, plus the frequency of updating library site pages, adding new ones and contact a librarian in real time by way of web links. One could also add law library (not law librarian) blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts. In addition to traffic, frequency of posting institutionally relevant messages, plus the life-span of these alternative forms of web communications could be measured, if anyone really cared to do so.
Then there is cost saving by way of law library-vendor negotiations. Thanks to NDAs we can't share that data in any way, even if specific institutional identities were replaced by alternative identifiers. Hell, I don't think we can even share database-by-usage stats by type and subtype of law library market sectors. At least we can't do that via AALL mediums because that would be "anti-competitive." [JH]
October 06, 2011
Is the Legal Profession, Is the "ABA-Legal Academy Cartel," as Future Ready for Alternative Business Structures as "Professional Legal Services" Vendors Are?
Readers of Richard Susskind's The Future of Law: Facing the Challenges of Information Technology (OUP, 1998) and The End of Lawyers?: Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services, Revised Ed. (OUP, 2010) can already see forecasted changes in the provision of legal services. From e-commerce sites offering fill-in forms for routine business and personal transactions for the individual to LPOs providing document review and related work for corporations and law firms, a de facto distinction between lawyer services and legal services already exists. The class action lawsuit against LegalZoom for unauthorized practice of law in Missouri might have tested the boundaries of distinguishing between purely lawyer services and legal services not requiring a lawyer but as Mark Giangrande wrote about the settlement of the lawsuit before it went to trial, it "sounds as if the company is buying off the plaintiffs." Mark adds
I can only wonder how this settlement will stop any other enterprising attorney from attempting to shake down the company for cash with a future suit. We'll see if the settlement extinguishes future claims of unauthorized legal practice
Do note that LegalZoom has sued the North Carolina State Bar in an effort to gain registration for its legal services plan according to the ABAJ report.
On 3 Geeks, Toby Brown's has posed the issue in terms of deregulation of the practice of law. He doesn't use the "nasty" characterization "ABA-Legal Academy cartel," but I will. See Is Practice of Law Already Deregulated? (Sept. 5, 2011). Two comments to that post and Brown's response hit the mark:
I expect that a distinction will soon be made that officially separates a narrower "lawyer services" band from the broader "legal services" category. Something like this already exists in England & Wales, where legislation divides law-related tasks into "reserved legal activities" (generally, lawyers only) and "unreserved legal activities" (generally, anyone and their grandma). UPL as we know it, accordingly, stands a very good chance of being an empty vessel before the end of the decade, maybe sooner.
What we need to acknowledge as a profession is that "the practice of law" as we know it today is something of an historical anomaly: lawyers have long been performing many law-related activities without competition mostly because there wasn't anyone else around to compete. Our exclusivity emerged from the fact we were the only halfway competent entrants in the market, not from a time-tested demonstration of skill so superior that it required a ring-fenced franchise on legal services.
The challenge in addressing this issue is defining the practice of law in a defensible way, carving out those activities exclusive to a lawyer.
In my past experience with a mandatory bar, efforts to provide a useful definition always fell short. I recall one dialog where the only defensible ground for lawyers was appearing before a court of law. Everything else could be done by non-lawyers.
So I suggest caution to those looking for the hard-line behind which lawyers can safely stand. We may find not much space behind that line and much of what lawyers currently do pushed out into the open.
The fact is that while nobody was paying attention, a host of unregulated and unlicensed providers of legal services (perhaps we may not have a precise definition for the”legal services industry, but as U/S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said of defining pornography “I don’t know what it is, but I know it when it when I see it”), in the form of legal project outsourcing companies and Internet based providers of legal servicers have already taken significant market share.
And Toby Brown's reply to both:
You are both hitting on the definition of the practice of law issue. The challenge in addressing this issue is defining the practice of law in a defensible way, carving out those activities exclusive to a lawyer.
In my past experience with a mandatory bar, efforts to provide a useful definition always fell short. I recall one dialog where the only defensible ground for lawyers was appearing before a court of law. Everything else could be done by non-lawyers.
So I suggest caution to those looking for the hard-line behind which lawyers can safely stand. We may find not much space behind that line and much of what lawyers currently do pushed out into the open.
See also Toby Brown's follow-up 3 Geeks post, Growing Chorus on the Deregulation of the Practice of Law? (Sept. 25, 2011)
I'm not sure deregulation of non-lawyer required services will be pushed completely out into the open for all legal services but one may say that is already the case with LPOs. Remember the ABA's Ethics Opinion? The ABA Ethics Committee noted that its lacks authority to express an opinion about whether any particular service provider is engaging in unauthorized practice of law, leaving that call to state bar associations. See ABA Ethics Opinion on Legal Outsourcing: Vendor Speak, Legal Processing Outsourcing (Sept. 8, 2008). Quoting from the post, Mark Ross, Vice President of LawScribe takes a moderate position:
The Opinion is simply another newsworthy item relating to the LPO industry, nothing more and nothing less." "My personal belief is that the tipping point is client driven and that clients' perception and attitude to LPO will be influenced by numerous factors, including the current state of the economy, the rising costs of junior US qualified junior associates and litigation generally, the commoditization of certain elements of the legal function, and yes admittedly, increased press exposure to the concept of LPO."
For a more "bang the drum" reaction, see Pangea3's ABA Blesses Legal Outsourcing in August Ethics Opinion. Was this the "tiping point" where TR Legal started to take LPO seriously enough to crunch numbers for an additional revenue stream, one that eventually led to acquiring Pangea3? Hell if I know but TR Legal did acquire Pangea3 in Nov. 2010. See Thomson Reuters Acquires Pangea3: Gives Thomson Reuters a leadership position in fast-growing legal process outsourcing market press release with its "dateline" tag, "NEW YORK and MUMBAI, India, Nov. 18, 2010." That was followed a scant two or so months by TR-Pangea3's on-shore LPO hiring ad. See Barred in Any US Jurisdication, TR Legal Still Wants to Hire You [for LPO work]. See also the ABAJ's initial coverage, Vendor or Competitor? Pangea3 Purchase Pleases Some, Worries Others and the ABAJ's follow-up story, Thomson Reuters Hiring Attorneys for New LPO Outfits in Michigan, Texas:
When we reported Thomson Reuters’ acquisition of Indian legal process outsourcing company Pangea3 in the February issue, the publishing giant hadn’t yet disclosed where it would build document review centers in the U.S., aimed to mirror those overseas. ... The company is hiring lawyers “barred in any U.S. jurisdiction” to “build multiple document review project teams” in “anticipation of establishing a document review facility in Ann Arbor, Mich. ... [and] a Carrollton, Texas [facility]. When we inquired about the number of lawyers to be staffed in Ann Arbor and asked whether any other U.S. facility locations have been planned, Thomson provided a vague response. "As we've mentioned, we see a multishore, 24/7 operating structure as key to supporting Pangea3 customers in all parts of the world. We're working on this now, and will keep you posted as things progress," a company spokesman wrote in an e-mail."
Let's give credit where credit is due. TR Legal, Professional, whatever, certainly knows how to commodize legal publications with at best marginally qualified editorial staff, so extending this business model to LPO is a no-brainer even if it turns a vendor into a competitor.
Outside of LPO, I would hope some routine legal services require some sort of standalone licensing or certification. I'm thinking in terms of state professional licensing, not ABA, perhaps something akin to the regulation of the insurance industry, for providing legal services to the masses. The gist behind LLB's two-part series of "Providing Routine Legal Services to the 'Masses' in the 21st Century" posts, listed below, is that many people need affordable legal services for fairly routine matters that do not require a lawyer but cannot obtain them outside of the e-Commerce market because of the current unauthorized practice of law standard.
In Brown's second 3 Geeks post, he calls attention to a recently published Brookings Institution monograph, First Thing We Do, Let's Deregulate All the Lawyers (Aug. 2011) by Clifford Winston, Robert W. Crandall and Vikram Maheshri. A big hat tip for the cite. Just ordered the work to see where the authors stand on this issue and the arguments they make. Do check out Brown's current 3 Geeks posts. Hopefully he will be following up on this topic with additional posts.
Bread and Butter Distinctions. The issue may be framed as what is the "bread and butter" work that requires licensed attorneys to perform and what "bread and butter" legal services work does not require a lawyer? It's going to be difficult to draw a bright line test. Certainly representing a client in litigation is one area where a licensed attorney is needed in most matters. Personally I cringe when pro se patrons come to our little county law library for non-criminal court matters because we are restricted in the assistance we can provide. I believe those restrictions on law librarians are sound but wish some sort of "right" to counsel existed in civil matters. Not likely, and legal services agencies staffed by attorneys are overloaded with work.
However, in terms of routine document creation matters, even routine court filings, affordable legal services by way of qualified and licensed legal assistants working independently of law firms and eCommerce sites could be viewed as an alternative business structure for the provision of legal services if licensed by state agencies. The ABA-legal academy cartel might not like it but a vendor-turned-competitor like TR Legal (or any other major "professional legal services" vendor) can see the revenue generation potential based on the H&R Block storefront model for legal services not requiring attorney staff. The storefront model for attorneys didn't work but a legal services model could. WEXIS could hire qualified legal assistants who have access to WEXIS online resources for standardized work product creation specific to state legal requirements that are pretty boilerplate but difficult for the average person to understand in sufficient specificity...
And this might not be a "bad thing" since the market for licensed routine personalized legal service at an affordable price is huge and needed by folks who can't afford an attorney. There is market for this. H&R Block has proved the concept for storefront tax prep. Quicken has proved the concept on the Web by way of apps. I do not see how the ABA-legal academy cartel can stop progress. "Bread and butter" business structures will eventually be bifurcated into those which require a JD and those which do not. Consumers will have the option to retain JD-expertise for the latter. However, like the example set in tax prep, individual and even some corporate structures who already do not need to toil for hours over tax formalities or hiring an accountant to do the work, will find that similar routine legal matters provided by legal services products and services which do not require a lawyer "cost effective." This will trump the two current options: lawyers or legal DIY. [JH]
Providing Routine Legal Services to the "Masses" in the 21st Century:
- Part One: Internet-Based Legal Document Prep Services
- Part Two: A Prescription for Allowing Main Street-Based Services Provided by Licensed Legal Assistance Practitioners
September 29, 2011
Run! Hide! The Lawyers Are Being Replaced By Machines
There are a series of articles in Slate lately on how computers, or, more generally, technology, will changes professions by automating the more mundane tasks and possibly the more complex ones as well. Today’s entry takes a look at the legal profession. I won’t build up any suspense. The prediction is that computers will tread into the advising clients area through litigation analysis. The example is a company trying to decide if it wants to defend a patent suit or settle by licensing. A computer program with enough analytical power along with a database filled with reams of documents from a statistically significant set of similar cases could predict the outcome of the current dispute. The Justice Machine™ says settle.
The article notes the work of Professor Daniel Katz at the Michigan State College of Law who is working on just such a product. One of the points made is that Professor Katz needs that large cache of documents to build his system. These are locked in PACER unfortunately. The work may be slowed due to the time it takes to liberate these documents via RECAP or some other free archive. For my own part, I suggest that Professor Katz work with Lexis or Westlaw on this. They have the goods documents in their systems. Assuming he can work out compensation with either of them he can help them develop a new line of business. If WestlawNext can predict the documents we want, why can’t it predict our litigation strategies and outcomes? Get a patent, Professor Katz. The new patent law revision changes the rule from first to invent to first to file. I can see someone in Eagan right now mouthing the words “By the pricking of my ears….”
There are companies out there doing some of this analysis. The article mentions Lex Machina, a company which started as a Stanford University project. It analyzes patent litigation that makes forum shopping a bit more predictable for the desired result. I’ll assume that counsel at Lexis will let this one slide as a possible trademark confusion issue. I wonder if Lex Machina’s computer system can figure the outcome of that one, or will they have to ask an attorney. Recall that Lexis famously sued the makers of the Lexus luxury automobile for trademark violations.
Let’s not forget Google. That company capitalized a documents automation system to the tune of $18.5 million. I expect that if that venture turns out well Google would buy the service outright and merge it into its offerings. Google loves to automate the obvious stuff and be disruptive at the same time. Artificial intelligence and legal advice is so that. Better yet, something like this would give the Justice Department something else to think about. If not the Department, then it’s brand new antitrust analysis machine that it purchased from…Google.
I think artificial intelligence and the law are made for each other for the type of analysis the article describes. Nonetheless, I doubt that computers would supplant the legal industry entirely. The article takes a slightly different view:
If automation brings more people legal services, at lower prices, while also pruning the ranks of human lawyers, I suspect most readers will consider that a win, win, win. And in the long run, this could well be. The trouble is that the path from here to there will be rocky—many firms will be shuttered, an ever-larger number of newly minted young attorneys will fail to find work, and a huge industry's economic prospects will fade.
I don’t think so, at least not for a long time. In any event, the legal industry seems perfectly capable of doing this without automation helping it along. I don’t know if you need an attorney-client relationship for something like a simple document preparation scenario. I think you do need one for litigation strategy. It may take fewer lawyers to deliver the machine’s result, but the machine has to be that accurate before that will happen. I mean, WestlawNext isn’t perfect yet, is it? We are indeed a long way from lawyer apps provided to indigent criminal defendants. [MG]
September 09, 2011
"The Disrupter" Makes ABAJ's List of Legal Rebels 2011 for Pangea3
That would be David Perla, co-founder of Pangea3.
The day Perla and his good friend Sanjay Kamlani met to hash out their plan for Pangea3, their purpose was both simple and disruptive—to turn the traditional law firm model inside out. A former corporate lawyer and a vice president at the online career service Monster, Perla knew three things well: human resources and recruitment, Internet and technology, and law. But he also knew that India held the future. They put together enough venture capital to allow them to experiment with highly trained legal professionals in India who set new standards for such baseline legal responsibilities as due diligence and e-discovery. The company, which is opening offices in Dallas and Ann Arbor, Mich., was sold in November to Thomson Reuters, owners of West Legal Publishing, for an estimated $35 million. And even under new management, the firm is still turning the traditional law firm model inside out.
If this is why TR Professional is spending ad dollars for the ABAJ's Legal Rebels 2011: Big Change in BigLaw's chance to win $5K by viewing "legal rebels" videos this month, perhaps lawyers a/k/a ABA members ought to wonder why they should be providing Thomson Reuters with revenue the Company can use to compete against them by way of Pangea3. Quoting one comment to the ABAJ story:
Legal Rebels - Really? My favorite is the fella setting up shop in India. Hey, we outsourced and eliminated our middle class manufacturing base - why not do the same with legal work?
Hey, it's not all bad. Thomson Reuters is hiring for its Pangea3 offices in Michigan and Texas. Even if you are barred in any US jurisdication, you still might be able to get a LPO gig without needing a passport.
Is it just me or did the ABAJ find a Charlie Sheen look-alike? [JH]
Where the Jobs Aren't: Nationwide, a Legal Career is the Most Difficult for Job Placement
Nationwide hiring remains steady with most industries showing hiring increases recently according to SimplyHired.com. But not in the legal field. There is less than one job opening for every 100 working attorneys. At that rate, a legal career is the most difficult for job placement unless, of course, you believe the legal academy's cooked placement stats. See the WSJ's Where The Jobs Are and the ABAJ's Legal Field Is Nation’s Most Difficult Industry for Job Placement, Employment Website Says. [JH]
September 02, 2011
"Satisfaction within the midlevel ranks has fallen to its lowest level since 2004"
That's the subtitle of The American Lawyer's overview article about AmLaw's 2011 The Associates Survey. What the hell are they whinning about, at least they have jobs. Oh, I know why. [JH]
August 23, 2011
Are BigLaw Firms Gaming AmLaw Rankings?
We all know that some, many, most, whatever, law schools game placement stats for US News Law School Rankings but Citi Private Bank Law Firm Group is reporting that more than half of the nation’s top 50 law firms could be overstating profits per partner to the American Lawyer magazine.
ABAJ's Debra Cassens Weiss is reporting that "[a]n analysis by Citi Private Bank Law Firm Group reportedly found that 22 percent of the top 50 firms overstated profits per partner by more than 20 percent in 2010, the newspaper says. Another 16 percent inflated partner profits by 10 to 20 percent, and 15 percent boosted partner profits by 5 percent to 10 percent." See Are BigLaw Firms Inflating Partner Profits? Citigroup Unit Reportedly Finds Fudging (citing to the WSJ's paywalled article, Law Firms' Profits Called Inflated: Tallies by a Citigroup Unit Come in Lower Than American Lawyer's Measure). [JH]
August 22, 2011
Is the Teaching Law Firm a Way to Produce "Practice Ready" Law School Grads?
The teaching law firm is a proposal offered by Bradley T. Borden, (Brooklyn Law School) and Robert J. Rhee (Univ. of Maryland School of Law) in The Law School Firm [SSRN] 63 South Carolina Law Review (forthcoming 2011). The authors propose that law schools can address the widespread criticism that the legal academy does not produce "practice ready" graduates by establishing affiliated law firms. From the article:
The basic idea is simple. A law school can establish a law firm that is separate and distinct from the law school. The law school firm will be a professionally-managed, revenue-generating, non-profit law firm. The CEO will be an experienced attorney with proven legal and business-development skills, who is committed to the profession and active in the legal community. The firm will hire several senior attorneys, each to manage a different practice group. The senior attorneys will be experienced attorneys with business-development and management skills, a public-service mentality, and commitment to the profession. As needed, the firm will hire more experienced attorneys to work under the practice-group managers, service clients, participate in business development, and train resident or provisional‖ attorneys.
The law school law firm operates just as any private law firm would. Although the law school firm would be non-profit organization, it would be non-profit as a matter of legal status and end motive. It should generate revenue and be self-funding (after perhaps an initial support from the law school and an organization period). This means that the law firm must find clients and source revenue just as a private firm would. The law school would be the economic owner of the law firm, and it may have profit allocation arrangements, but there would be a separation of ownership and control. We understand that this may require changes in the rules of professional responsibility regarding the sharing of fees with a non-attorney; there would be issues of accreditation; and there may be tax implications. These are also entrenched interests and concepts, and minds are not easily changed.
Two Models for the Teaching Law Firm. The authors offer two models: (1) two years of legal education with a third year attending the law-school law firm similar to the UK apprenticeship system and (2) one based on the US medical school model with three years of legal education that offers slots in the law-school law firm to select students.
Law schools may adopt one of several different law school models. Some law schools can provide the traditional three-year track and offer slots in the law firm to select students. Other law schools may provide an alternative law school firm track. Under the three-year model, the law school old offer practice-focused and advanced substantive courses. Members of the law school firm would help with instruction in the third-year courses. The practice-focused courses would available to students who intended to continue with the law school firm following graduation as resident attorneys and to students who intended to pursue other opportunities. Resident attorneys will commit to several years of work at the law firm.
Under the two-year model, law students would take a two-year curriculum that is largely the required curriculum at most law schools plus a few electives. It takes two years to develop essential skills: legal research and writing, ability to read case law and statutes, and construct an understanding of entire legal doctrines. Upon acquisition of these essential skills, a student can transfer to the law school firm to work under contract for a fixed period, perhaps three to six years after which time a provisional attorney should be prepared to begin a law practice or join another firm. Such an arrangement would be strictly in and out‖ meaning that the law school firm would not be an indefinite career option. In the firm, post-graduate law students, so to speak, would work as a provisional attorney‖ supervised by a permanent senior staff. Since the firm must be profitable and self-funding, we envision a traditional pyramidal structure of junior attorneys working under a small group of senior attorneys.
The authors offer the graphic, above right (click to enlarge), to illustrate the relationship between the law school and the law school firm.
The Economics of the Teaching Law Firm. Economic considerations abound. "Law schools and their faculties have deeply entrenched self-interest in not losing revenue," write the authors. The profits generated by the teaching law firm would have to flow back to the legal academy to compensate for lost tuition revenue.
Under either the three- or two-year model, schools and students stand to gain economically. The law school firm should be self-funding and should strive to generate profit, which can flow back to the law school, legal education, or professional development. We don’t know whether there can be a precise one-for-one matching of lost tuition revenue with profit flow back under the two-year model, but that would be the minimum goal. Greater profit can flow back to the law school for its uses, or be plowed back into the law school firm for business or professional development.
There are obvious economic considerations for law students as well. Under the two-year model, students do not pay tuition during their third year of training. Instead they work as provisional attorneys earning a trainee’s salary commensurate with their level of knowledge (very low) and skill level (beginner). Lost tuition revenue for law schools and opportunity cost for law students can be offset by profitable law practice that delivered legal training and legal services. Under the three-year model, resident attorneys would start at salaries that are higher than those paid to provisional attorneys but below those paid at traditional firms. The law school firm would be attractive to students who recognize that several years at the law school firm will enhance their professional competency and outfit them with practice skills that will provide them with independence in the future.
Show Me the Money. And then there is start-up costs. If "owned" by the law school, the teaching law firm will have to financed by the law school with good old-fashioned cash. The authors do not address the matter in any costs specificity in their thought piece. Certainly such issues needed to be address would include: compensation for the practicing attorneys, office space, administrative and support staff, IT infrastructure, legal research resources, productivity "solutions" offered by vendors, malpractice insurance, marketing, etc. Some of the costs can be capitalized, some cannot. The size of the teaching law firm legal staff (practicing attorney and law school students) would factor into the overall cost of doing business and that size could be fairly large, particularly under the two year model. Where's that money coming from? Increasing tuition? Downsizing a/k/a "right-sizing" the existing full-time law faculty?
In theory, I like the teaching law firm idea. Either version is better than the current state of affairs. Personally I prefer the two-year model because all "3Ls" would "join" the firm. I take it that law students would not be admitted to the bar until completion of their "practice ready" education under either model but some accommodation for apprenticeships or "provisional attorney" status can be made by state bars if their work product is closely supervised by the teaching law firm's attorneys; otherwise, the students would fall under the category of paralegals.
The authors conclude
Law school education and law practice are more disconnected than they should be. It is unfortunate that the legal academy cannot match the medical and business academies in providing practice-ready professionals. Newly minted attorneys typically receive their practical training on their first jobs. However, that training must be funded. The business sector, the professional bar, or the legal academy, or a combination, must bear the cost of training. At the same time, the cost of legal education is skyrocketing and law students today face a large debt load. There is a confluence of adverse economic factors.
Our idea for a law school firm addresses the totality of these problems. From a training and educational perspective, it makes sense. Economically, it makes sense for law student who would earn a small wage in the third-year rather than pay large tuitions. If the economic arrangement between the law school and the firm can be made to the law school’s satisfaction, everyone wins.
Who Wins? The students could "win" but I doubt that matters because the legal academy might not. I think it is fanciful to believe "everyone wins." If past is prologue, the moral irresponsiblity of the legal academy's current tactics right now offers plenty of evidence that the only thing that matters is keeping the legal academy's rice bowl full. Just look at the ABA's accediation standards review and proposed changes... .
A fundamental flaw in this otherwise very interesting proposition is that a law school-owned teaching law firm ends up competing for business in the marketplace with established law firms, big and small, and solo practitioners. It's not that the teaching law firm is not do-able but in these times, competing in the local market where many local law school grads practice is a convenient rationalization for not implementing a teaching law firm -- it just isn't a "good thing" for law schools to compete for business with local alumni practitioners.
Oh sure, the legal academy would explain that it does not want to interfere with its alum's livelihoods who somehow ended up becoming "practice ready" after graducation without institutionalizing a teaching law firm. But would that be the real reason? Ah, no. Local alumni are the first target for all but national law school development officers seeking donations. Certainly, competing with them by way of a local teaching law firm could be a factor but my hunch is successful alumni, the ones who who have really big checks, would ante up donations to capitalize a teaching law firm given that option. Oops. That won't do to maintain the status quo.
While those alum may have deep pockets, my second hunch is that they would direct their donations go to the teaching law firm to benefit the profession in lieu of, not in additional to, donations that benefit the the law faculty. I am speaking from some experience wherein big $$$ donors seek out establishing personal relationship beyond the Dean and development officer to find opportunites to make donations that matter because they do not buy the legal academy's pitch. They do not want their pockets picked if their donations do not improve the quality of legal education. Oops, again. Law students could win but their law school might lose.
Possibility the only way "everyone wins" is if the US News Law School Rankings adds a metric for a teaching law firm. That's something Borden & Rhee toss out as a suggestion. Of course, the weighting any producing "practice ready" law schools metric in the US News ranking methodlogy would be crucial for the legal academy to jump on the back of and try to ride this tiger.
Who is Competent to Produce "Practice Ready" Law School Grads? There is, however, an interesting implicit admission in Borden & Rhee's article. Regular law profs are simply too incompetent to produce "practice ready" graduates. Commenting on Borden & Rhee's The Law School Firm article, in A Law School Law Firm??? Yeah Right!!! on Adjunct Law Prof Blog, Mitchell Rubinstein writes:
What I find most significant is that the professors recognize that this law school law firm would have to be staffed by attorneys-not by the professors. The major problem with law school professors today is that many, if not most of them, are simply incapable of practicing law and many never had. But, this is what we have, for the most part, training the lawyers of the future.
Now, I suppose that the law schools will respond by stating that is what us adjuncts are for. Really; law schools should rely on the lowest paid members of the staff who have no say about admissions or curriculum or running the school. But, that is exactly what most law schools today do.
What a system. I hope it changes, but I do not see any evidence of that in that virtually every law school is looking for the newly minted ivy P.hd. who also has a ivy law degree and may have done a federal clerkship for a year or two.
August 16, 2011
"A picture is worth a thousand words" for illustrating law grads' corporate sector career paths in the "New Normal"
The caption for the image, right, in Vanessa O'Connell's WSJ story, Cut the Law Firms, Keep the Lawyers, reads "Dargie Anderson Bowersock had expected to go to a law firm—the "traditional path"— but now works in H-P's legal department in Palo Alto, Calif."
I know more than a few damn good attorneys who moved to the private sector as assistant GCs after acquiring an equally damn good post-graduate education by practicing at a BigLaw firm. Typically, they accepted positions for one of our law firm's clients. Not a bad thing for client-BigLaw relationships. I'm not sure if any had this career objective but after 3-4-5 years grinding out billable hours back then they were willing to take a pay cut to have a life. I've also known a few partners who made the switch, ones who having served the client well for many years and knew their legal matters so intimately they moved into the office of GC-VP without losing a step -- also not a bad thing for client-BigLaw relationships. Hell, when a former law firm partner who had turned GC-VP was about to retire, it was just a matter of wondering which partner who worked on the client's matters regularly would fill the slot.
That was back in the 1980s but times they sure have changed. Vanessa O'Connell reports on a new trend -- hiring grads right out of law schools, one who have not benefited from the post-graduate education in the practice of law provided by BigLaw firms. Of course, without that education, one that teaches law grads how to actually practice law, the jobs offered by the private sector aren't what they once were.
About this new trend, O'Connell writes:
Companies used to depend on elite law firms to train new lawyers they could bring in-house years down the road.
Now, some are just doing it themselves, hiring directly from law-school campuses rather than recruiting lawyers who had previously spent a few years at a major firm. These companies are growing weary of paying high hourly rates for inexperienced law-firm associates.
Hewlett-Packard Co. was one of the first known companies to bypass law firms in recruiting new lawyers.
"I think it's the wave of the future," said Michael Holston, H-P's general counsel.
Hat tip to Stefan Padfield's Congratulations, You're a Lawyer! on Business Law Prof Blog. [JH]