Monday, February 20, 2012
From the AmLaw Daily:
Law firms can expect yet another year of limited growth in 2012, according to the 2012 Client Advisory released Wednesday by the Hildebrandt Institute and Citi Private Bank.
The 2012 advisory the industry's economic prospects as uncertain following a year that, according to Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor data, showed signs of recovery in the first six months but saw demand for legal services tail off in the second half.
At the 116 firms surveyed by Peer Monitor—86 of them Am Law firms (45 from the Am Law 100, 41 from the Am Law 200)—demand in 2011's fourth quarter dropped about 1 percent compared to the same period in 2010. In December 2011 alone, demand fell by almost 3 percent compared to December 2010. Factoring in the end-of-year swoon, demand for legal services overall increased just 1 percent between 2010 and 2011.
The minimal uptick echoes last year's numbers, when the client advisory also reported an increase in demand of just 1 percent between 2009 and 2010. Though the market for legal services has yet to enjoy a significant increase in demand for two years running, the bright side is that 2010 marked the first uptick since 2008, when demand rose by nearly four percent, as we noted last year.
Bankruptcy was the practice area to show the biggest drop-off in demand last year, according to the client advisory. On the flip side, intellectual property litigation saw demand increase by nearly 6 percent in 2011.
One sign that the demand for legal services remains weak was the increase in law firm mergers in 2011, which suggests that firms are looking to mergers as a growth strategy. As we noted last month, a competitive lateral market, lower client fees, and a decline in work have all been factors in encouraging U.S. firms to grow through mergers.
The Hildebrandt/Citi Private Bank advisory cites Hildebrandt's January merger report, which showed a 67 percent increase in completed mergers involving U.S.–based firms last year over 2010, with 45 mergers in 2011 compared to 27 in 2010. The advisory predicts 2012's law firm merger activity to at least equal, and perhaps exceed, last year's.
Firms with an eye toward growth will also likely focus on professional development and globalization as ways to stay ahead of competitors, the advisory states. Hildebrandt/Citi Private Bank cite U.S. firms with major global footprints as being poised to take advantage of the growing demand for legal services in emerging markets like Asia.
The advisory notes that firms prepared to be flexible and creative in terms of delivering their services will experience the most success. Hildebrandt/Citi Private Bank expects the use of alternative fee arrangements to continue to rise this year, with the total firm revenues attributable to those agreements expected to hit 13.4 percent this year, after increasing from 10.8 percent to 11.8 percent last year, based on the Citi 2011 Managing Partner Survey of primarily Am Law 50 firms.
Stanley Fish has a summary in the New York Times of Brian Tamanaha's book Failing Law Schools, which is to published later this year. Fish concludes, “Failing Law Schools does not say entirely, or even mainly, new things, but it does present a comprehensive case for the negative side of this debate and I am sure that many legal academics and every law school dean will be talking about it."
From the Lawyerist blog, 'natch. Advice is categorized based on whether you're a first year associate, second year or three-to-five years out. Let's start with the advice for freshly minted grads and then you can click on the link at the bottom of this post to get the remaining checklists.
Your job is to excel at delivering legal services. Don’t worry about originating new files right now. Your short-term goal is to start building your network. Your long-term goal is to avoid being a 40-year old lawyer with no clients.
- Volunteer for assignments and ask the firm’s “rainmakers” for assignments. Your eagerness will build a reputation among the partners as a dedicated lawyer. Become known as the “go-to” associate of the first-year associates. Make sure that your work is delivered on time, accurate and error-free.
- Start a habit of visiting the people you work with at clients. It doesn’t matter that they’re junior people. In five years they will become executives or company owners, and now is your chance to start a relationship with them. For example, drop off work product in person.
- Take your contacts at clients out for breakfast or lunch. Start the habit of scheduling at least one face-to-face meeting a week. If the firm will reimburse you, go someplace really nice to create a memorable meeting. Ask questions and get to know the other person. Get the person’s business card.
- Whenever you get a business card, write three things on the back: the date, where you are and what you talked about.
- When you return to the office, immediately create a contact record for the person in your e-mail or firm CRM system. Record key points about the conversation and the business card information. Remember, you can search a computer record, but you can’t search a wad of cards in a rubber band.
- Over time, collect more information about the other person – key events in their lives like births, deaths, graduations and promotions; get the names of their spouses/significant others, children; find out their hobbies and what they like to do for fun. Once you have the names of all their pets, you’ve gone deep enough.
- Create a mailing list and keep it updated. Include your law school classmates (who will become referral sources, judges and in-house lawyers), your fraternity/sorority contacts, college friends, etc. In the future, these are people to whom you’ll send your e-newsletter. Ask your firm’s marketing professional for help.
- Join a bar association and learn the law. Make friends with people in your generation. Get their business cards.
- Scrub your Facebook page so there’s nothing you don’t want a client or the managing partner to find. Use the privacy settings to control what’s visible.
- Go to LinkedIn and create a complete profile with a good picture. One million lawyers have profiles on LinkedIn and it’s the de facto online directory for professionals. The idea is to make yourself easy to find. Invite contacts on other online social networks to connect with you on LinkedIn.
- Don’t waste time on Twitter. Only 4% of in-house lawyers use it, so there are few potential clients there.
- Send out holiday cards to your mailing list. Hand-write the signature; do not delegate the signature writing. When you get a holiday card, make a record of the sender’s job or address changes.
- Sign up to have the firm’s annual report or other firm wide messages sent to your mailing list.
- Participate in firm functions where clients are present. Encourage senior attorneys to introduce you to clients you don’t know, or go ahead and introduce yourself and thank them for being your firm’s guest. Ask them questions about their work. Get their business card.
- Look like a lawyer, not like someone who works in the mail room. Take your dress cues from the senior partners and rainmakers. Your office should also look organized and tidy. Do not use the floor for filing space
Click here to read advice for second year associates and beyond.
How Good Are Electronic Translations?
Here’s the text, followed by the translation, according to Bing.
Efforts to find sniff, arrogance of morning light slowly, this macro text summing up the time of playback Han Han, no outrage, only that "whole body itch but couldn't find where it itches" sense of humor ". Not all the music! It is too absurd! Laughing tears I – the only difference! (Translated by Bing)
(I'm not sure if the Chinese characters will translate onto this posting.)
(Thnx to Joe Dellapenna)
Sunday, February 19, 2012
"State Procedure is the process of resolving civil cases in state courts. Students are able to see stages of a civil action as separate units and as a whole, while also mastering rules and doctrines necessary to handling civil suits. By the end of the course, students have a better appreciation for the rules and how they are practically applied every day in practice.
As a bridge between law school and practice, the casebook, Civil Procedure for All States, addresses students as actual lawyers. To transition from law student to lawyer, students must engage in the thinking, strategy, and judgment effective litigators embrace as part of practice. Students are challenged to think like lawyers not just by analyzing the Master Problem (used in each chapter of the casebook), but also in resolving numerous factual hypotheticals called “Practice Problems.”
The course does not limit itself to procedures of one state. Each chapter describes the majority approach to a procedural doctrine, the significant minority approach, and those states unique in their approach. Thus, the student identifies the decision-making steps a lawyer must take in handling any case, in any state. Students must then ask the strategic questions that a lawyer should be asking at each stage of litigation as it progresses.
The Master Problem allows students to have a case to which they can return as they progress through each stage. Students are placed in the role of a new associate. In progressing through the lawsuit, the course includes representative case law, but relies more heavily on a problem-based method of teaching. Practice Problems offering true-to-life fact patterns give students chances to apply the law to fact patterns and reach conclusions. Students are asked, in answering a problem, to research the law of their state in determining an answer. Thus, students also reinforce the research skills necessary to law practice."
One note: I like the idea of having students in doctrinal classes do some research. First, it helps reinforce the differences between different state laws. More importantly, it helps them hone their research skills. While students learn research in the first year, those skills atrophy if they are not used. Clinic teachers often find that their third-year students have forgotten a lot of what they learned in first-year research.
From National Jurist Magazine.
To identify the schools that are outperforming what their LSAT scores predict, The National Jurist did a statistical analysis using incoming LSAT scores and bar pass rate ratios. We created a polynomial model using each school's LSAT at the 25th percentile for 2010 (to account for the students most likely to fail the bar exam), and the ratio of graduates who passed the bar exam compared to the state average for 2009 and 2010. The result is a clear curve. We then computed the difference between the average pass rate ratio and what the curve would predict for each school and computed a probability distribution to determine the most extreme deviations.
- Wake Forest
- North Carolina Central
- U. Washington
- Wayne State
- George Washington
- Florida Coastal
- California Western
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- Florida International
- South Dakota
- George Mason
- San Francisco
- William & Mary
- Texas Tech
- Seton Hall
- Mississippi College
Hat tip to the TaxProf Blog.
The case is U.S. v. Venable, No. 11–4216, 2012 WL 130710 (4th Cir. Jan. 18, 2012) and the benchslap can be found in n.4.
Finally, we feel compelled to note that advocates, including government lawyers, do themselves a disservice when their briefs contain disrespectful or uncivil language directed against the district court, the reviewing court, opposing counsel, parties, or witnesses.... Unfortunately, the government’s brief is replete with such language: it disdains the district court’s “abrupt handling” of Appellant’s first case ...; sarcastically refers to Appellant’s previous counsel’s “new-found appreciation for defendant’s mental abilities,” ...; criticizes the district court’s “oblique language” on an issue unrelated to this appeal ...; states that the district court opinion in Jones “revealed a crabby and complaining reaction to Project Exile,” ...; insinuates that the district court’s concerns “require[ ] a belief in the absurd that is similar in kind to embracing paranormal conspiracy theories,” ...; and accuses Appellant of being a “charlatan” and “exploit[ing] his identity as an African-American,” .... The government is reminded that such disrespectful and uncivil language will not be tolerated by this court.
On a related note, see this decision from a California federal district court which warned attorneys to nix the overwrought criticism of opposing counsel's alleged failure to comply with discover requests.
Hat tip to the (new) legal writer blog.
I have received several responses to my recent posting on the Arizona proposal to have 3Ls take the bar in February of their third year. Here’s one: Bar educator Mary Campbell Gallagher is concerned that students who need to retake the bar may find themselves in a “downward spiral.”
Between November and February, most retakers must find or keep a job, earn money, take time off for intensive study, and pay for bar-preparation courses. They cannot get new student loans, but they must repay the loans they already have.
Dr. Gallagher, president of BarWrite® and BarWrite Press, which prepares candidates for the NY bar exam, and a longtime bar-exam educator, says this downward spiral of bar exam failure may especially affect minority candidates. But solutions are straightforward.
WRITE FOR WHITE PAPER. Dr. Gallagher's new white paper, "Eliminating the Downward Bar Exam Spiral," shows how the legal profession can eliminate this downward spiral of failing bar exam results. For a copy, write to: Staff@BarWrite.com.
More to come.