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PLP Pulse: News from the Frontiers of the Legal Profession
December 2010
 

Innovation and New Models

Thomson Reuters’ “Transformative” Purchase of Legal Process Outsourcing Provider
Law 21.ca

Thomson Reuters recently acquired Pangea3, a rapidly growing legal process outsourcing provider, in a deal that has the potential to redefine the legal information sector. “But for my money,” writes Law21’s Jordan Furlong, “the main event here is the transformation of Thomson Reuters from a company that provided legal support services to law firms and law departments into, well, something brand new.”
Comment

Should Lawyers be Regulated on Facebook?
Courier-Journal

More than half of all lawyers are using social networks today, compared with less than one-fifth just two years ago. This increase has created challenges for state bar associations hoping to regulate certain online activity that might be considered advertising. Most recently the Kentucky Bar Association has proposed regulations prohibiting a lawyer from soliciting potential clients on social media sites unless a $75 filing fee is paid and the postings are regulated by the bar’s Advertising Commission. Critics argue that Kentucky’s proposed regulations—and similar initiatives in other states—are too vague and violate the First Amendment, because any posting could arguably be considered “advertising.”
Comment

Innovative Lawyers in America
Financial Times

The inaugural U.S. edition of the Financial Times' report on “Innovative Lawyers” recognizes American attorneys for innovative lawyering. According to the Financial Times, innovative lawyers are skilled legal technicians with deep subject-area expertise who also possess strong business skills and wide-ranging personal and professional experiences.
Comment


Corporate Counsel

A Fine Line between Advocacy and Obstruction?
New York Times

Federal prosecutors have charged Lauren Stevens, GlaxoSmithKline’s former associate general counsel, with offenses relating to her alleged failure to inform investigators about presentations that promoted an antidepressant drug for weight loss (a purpose not approved by the FDA). According to the Times, “[t]he line between legitimate advocacy and obstruction … is not clear, and the prosecution of Ms. Stevens should cause lawyers to think twice about what they say to a government agency.”
Comment

Hundreds of Chief Legal Officers Surveyed About Relations with Outside Counsel
Corporate Counsel

The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and the American Lawyer recently surveyed over 450 corporate chief legal officers and general counsels about relations with outside counsel. The results are being reported in a series of American Lawyer articles, the most recent of which explores “alternative billing”. Among other findings, the survey suggests that firms and general counsels are willing to discuss alternative billing, but relatively few—on either side—appear willing to change.
Comment

Qwest’s General Counsel Explains Current Preference for Hourly Rate over “Alternative Billing”
Corporate Counsel

Richard Baer, General Counsel of Qwest Communications, argues that “alternative billing” might be well suited to high-volume repetitive matters. But for complex legal challenges (such as commercial disputes, class actions, IP litigation and similar matters that comprise the bulk of Qwest’s legal spend), “I prefer the hourly rate with trustworthy outside counsel teamed with highly engaged in-house attorneys.”
Comment


Professional Development

PLP Launches Groundbreaking Survey on Legal Mentoring
Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession

The Program on the Legal Profession is conducting a groundbreaking empirical survey analyzing mentoring practices in the legal profession. We are interested in your experiences and opinions regarding how lawyers are mentored and how these relationships can impact lawyering and careers. The results will be published in a scholarly report analyzing the history and future promise of mentoring in the legal profession. To learn more and to take the survey click here.

“A Terrible Melancholy” in the Legal Profession
National Law Journal

In a new documentary New York attorney Daniel Lukasik explores depression in the legal profession, highlighting examples as far back as Abraham Lincoln. “A Terrible Melancholy: Depression in the Legal Profession” suggests that depression is “pervasive” among lawyers, but that—like Lincoln—lawyers can manage their melancholy while practicing law and achieve success. “This film is meant to educate and to inform … and also to destigmatize [depression] in the legal profession,” according to Lukasik.
Comment

Dimmer Future for Future Judges?
CBS Money Watch

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be 700 fewer jobs for judges and magistrates by 2018, due primarily to budget cuts. As a result, judges were recently featured in CBS Money Watch’s “10 most surprising job categories whose numbers are projected to shrink in the coming years.”
Comment

Most Lawyers Are “Critical, Cautious and Distant” When Stressed
ABA Journal

Lawyers under stress tend to become distant, tense, overly critical, risk-averse and indecisive, according to a recent study by legal consultants Hildebrandt Baker Robbins.
Comment


Legal Education

Korean Law Students Protest Government Proposal to Reduce Number of New Attorneys
Korea Times

Thousands of Korean law students threatened to quit law school unless the government abandoned its plan to cut the bar passage rate to 50 percent. The government and some Korean lawyers’ organizations believe that the market is saturated, but Korean law students and law schools argue that more lawyers will increase legal services and lower service rates.
Comment

Harvard Study Examines “Widespread” Plagiarism in Indian Law Schools
India Law News

A wide-ranging examination of plagiarism in Indian law schools by PLP Student Empirical Research Fellows Jonathan Gingerich and Aditya Singh was recently reported in the India Law News. Gingerich and Singh found that “students commonly plagiarize by copying and pasting an article from the Internet or an electronic database, by copying chunks of a few different articles and stringing them together, or by [copying] papers written by students at their own law school.” The research analyzes the causes of “widespread” plagiarism and explores proposals to enhance academic integrity in Indian law schools.
Comment


Public Interest Lawyering

Watershed Increase Proposed for New York’s Civil Legal Aid
New York Times

New York’s Chief Judge, Jonathan Lippman, is requesting a $100 million increase in state financing to help provide legal representation for low-income people involved in civil cases. The increased funding would be phased over four years, expanding assistance to the poor in matters such as eviction, child support and debt-collection. Currently the state spends $200 million annually for civil legal aid offices and other programs that provide legal representation to low-income clients.
Comment

Massive Decrease Proposed for Britain’s Civil Legal Aid
New York Times

British Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking to cut the $3.4 billion legal aid program by $560 million, primarily focusing on civil case assistance in family disputes. The cuts are designed to help the government meet its target of reducing the Home Office’s (Justice Ministry’s) budget by one-quarter. Criminal defense assistance will not be affected, and public opinion polls suggest that 60 percent of respondents approve of the budget cuts.
Comment

Crowell & Moring to Donate $675,000 and Supervise 10,000 Annual Pro Bono Hours for At-Risk Youth
Washington Post and Legal Times

Upon the recent passing of Eldon “Took” Crowell—founding partner of Crowell & Moring—the firm committed $675,000 to launch the Took Crowell Institute for At-Risk Youth at the University of the District of Columbia School of Law. The firm will pay out the amount over six years while supervising (along with attorneys at the law school) more than 10,000 hours of law student pro bono work each year. The law school’s dean hopes the Institute will help “change the trajectory of a child’s life through early intervention” and “serve as a model for other communities.”
Comment


Globalization

BRIC Building: Can Other Emerging Economies Replicate Russia’s Transactional Law Successes?
The Lawyer

Russia’s liberal legal system and prominent use of both International and English law have made it particularly attractive to global law firms (for example, the vast majority of M&A transactions in Russia use English law, while IPOs are governed by International law). The increasing use of Russia’s legal system has been accompanied by a rise in both standards and salaries, and the question now is whether this dynamic can be replicated in the other “BRIC” nations of Brazil, India and China.
Comment

Early Engagement of Chinese Counsel Important for M&A Success
Metropolitan Corporate Counsel

Due to constant changes in Chinese laws and regulations, M&A lawyers must engage Chinese counsel at the earliest stages of transactions to prevent deals from collapsing, according to Harvard Law alum Lan Lan, a Senior Partner at one of China’s top law firms.
Comment


Diversity

Five Year Low for the Number of Women Lawyers
National Law Journal

The National Law Journal’s annual ranking of the nation’s largest law firms has revealed that the percentage of women partners and associates this year fell to its lowest point since 2006. Five years ago women comprised 32 percent of the lawyers at such firms; today they represent 29.2 percent. The percentage of women has declined each year since 2006, even as firms increased in 2006, 2007 and 2008. The recent economic downturn—and related structural and operational changes within law firms—appear to have negatively impacted women more than men.
Comment


Law Firms and Practice Management

D.C. Firm Leaders Discuss “Fundamental Changes” in the Industry
Legal Times Blog

In a recent meeting of D.C.-area managing partners, consensus emerged that the “big law business model has fundamentally changed and the industry is just now starting to figure out what the new environment is going to look like.” Law firm leaders agreed “that 2009 was an unprecedentedly bad year, both in terms of drops in revenue and in the reduced headcounts,” and that improvements in 2010 were modest, at best. Increased legal activity did occur, however, in some surprising and unexpected areas, such as food safety and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Comment

Some Lawyers Let Their Fingers Do the Walking Away from the Yellow Pages
Wisconsin Law Journal

The changing economy is forcing some attorneys to reconsider advertising, including the traditional phone book. While such advertising can still “make[ ] the phone ring off the hook,” today only about ten percent of those calls translate into paying clients. As one lawyer explains: “I could pull out of the Yellow Pages today and not feel any pain. I couldn’t have said that five years ago.”
Comment


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