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PLP Pulse: News from the Frontiers of the Legal Profession
November 2011
 

Diversity

Gender Bias Found in Performance Evaluations of Lawyers
The Careerist Blog and Social Psychological and Personality Science and ABA Journal

A recent study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science compared numerical ratings with narrative evaluations in employee performance reviews at a Wall Street law firm, and found that while men were generally given higher numerical scores than women by their male supervisors women were given higher praise in the accompanying narrative sections. The authors of the study found “subtle patterns of gender bias, in which women were harmed by not meeting gendered expectations of interpersonal warmth but were less benefited than men by meeting masculine standards of high technical competence.”

Ashurst Implements Female Management Quota to Boost Diversity
Law.com and Legal Week Law

Looking to fill one quarter of its management positions with women over the next three years, UK firm Ashurst has decided to implement a quota system to reach the goal. The target and resulting quota were derived from recommendations of a committee created at the beginning of 2011 to improve retention of female lawyers. The quota will apply to all leadership positions, including practice group heads, regional heads and the firm’s management board. Ashurst estimates that women currently occupy about 14% of management positions within the firm.

Federal Bench Lacks Gender Diversity
The Gazette

Despite the growing number of women in the legal profession, the federal bench lacks significant gender diversity, with 328 women compared to 442 men according to the Federal Judicial Center. This imbalance in court diversity is even more pronounced in Iowa where there are no women on the state Supreme Court, none in the Southern District, and only one in the Northern District. Additionally, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Iowa, only has one woman on the bench who happens to be the only one ever appointed according to the Gazette. Despite the gender disparity, there is hope for aspiring female justices as New York and Arkansas recently confirmed three women to federal court seats. Advocacy groups like the Infinity Project in Minnesota have emerged to champion the candidacy of female judges for open seats.

Judge Rules Blind Law School Grad Allowed to Use Tech Aids on Bar Exam
The San Francisco Appeal

A blind UCLA law school graduate, Stephanie Enyart, has won what is hoped to be a final judgment from a San Francisco Ninth Circuit judge allowing her to use technological aids when taking the bar exam. Enyart began experiencing macular degeneration during high school, and has since lost most of her vision to the point of becoming legally blind. She will be allowed to complete the exam using a combination of computer screen magnification and text-reading software. Enyart has already passed portions of the California Bar exam using such aids. Judge Charles Breyer states in his ruling that the “standard to be used in interpreting the law was which technology would best ensure that her performance on the test reflected her knowledge.”

Survey Reports that Legal Secretaries Prefer to Work with Men
The New Lawyer

The New Lawyer reports on a survey of legal secretaries conducted by Chicago-Kent law professor Felice Batlan that reveals women prefer working for male partners over female partners. The survey examined firms with more than one-hundred lawyers and 95% of the legal secretaries who responded were female. According to the survey, 35% preferred working for a male partner, 15% preferred working for male associates, 3% preferred working for female associates, none reported preferring female partners, and 47% had no opinion. Some of the potential reasons proffered by the author were the passive-aggressive behavior of female partners, their desire to prove themselves and put extra pressure on their assistants as a result, and an increased tendency for female partners to demean or downgrade their secretary.



Globalization

Allen & Overy in Merger Talks with Singapore Firm Allen & Gledhill
Business Times Singapore

Allen & Overy is in talks with Allen & Gledhill, one of Singapore’s largest firms, about a possible merger that has been presented to Singapore’s law minister. If the merger proceeds, it will be the first time a foreign law firm can practice all aspects of Singapore law as a new entity with a local firm. Allen & Overy has been in Singapore as a Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) since 2008, but QFLPs are restricted from engaging in local dispute resolution and real estate work. According to the Business Times Singapore, the other Big Four firms in Singapore, along with some mid-size firms, are also not averse to pursuing mergers with other firms.

Australian Mallesons and Indian Integreon Sign Legal Outsourcing Agreement
MarketWatch

One of Australia’s top law firms, Mallesons Stephen Jaques, signed a preferred supplier agreement for legal process outsourcing (LPO) support services with Integreon, the leading provider of LPO services. While LPO is already becoming a common practice elsewhere in the world, Mallesons is the first top Australian law firm to adopt it signaling a watershed in how legal services in corporate Australia are provided.

Regulating Foreign Law Firms in London
Financial Times

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has put forth proposals whereby overseas law firms with offices in London can choose the supervisor for lawyers in England and Wales as their main regulator. According to the Financial Times, the consultation paper reads, “Our aim should be to ensure […] that clients and consumers can be sure that any legal services delivered by a ‘brand name’ associated with the English and Welsh system comes with clarity about how they are regulated.” The SRA consultation paper, which was developed to recognize the increasing importance of economies such as China, also allows firms’ foreign lawyers who practice in China to become full partners. “We would not be looking to investigate every misdemeanor; firms would still be subject to local regulation,” states Alison Hook who worked on the consultation paper.

Lack of Profitability in Hong Kong Litigation
The Asian Lawyer

Though interest has increased for US and European law firms to expand into Asia, specifically Hong Kong, the incentives do not seem to be as clear. Even the AmLaw 100’s most profitable litigation firm, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, surged into the Hong Kong market only to retreat earlier this year due to near non-existent litigation opportunities. Several firms have grown their litigation practices in the region, but most have focused on international arbitration or US litigation on behalf of Asian clients. Actual litigation in Hong Kong courts has so far not been a draw for Americans. The fact that big institutions or companies are not willing to spend money on litigation, and Hong Kong courts are viewed as not being “plaintiff-friendly,” only further discourages big firms from entering the market at this time.

Lawyers Reluctant to Move to Seoul
AmLaw Asian Lawyer

Now that the US Congress has ratified a free trade agreement (FTA) with Korea, and given that Korea ratified a FTA with the European Union in July 2011, international firms might be expected to be lining up to relocate to Seoul. It appears, however, that several lawyers of Korean heritage have expressed personal concerns about relocating for a diverse set of reasons. These include not wanting their children to study at a non-international school, cultural differences between Hong Kong and Korea, and language barriers with business English. As one law firm partner stated, “That’s the number one hold up of relocation to Seoul. My kids go to international school. Until they go to college we’d have to stay in Hong Kong.”

South Korea Launches Pan-Asia Legislative Conference
ALB Legal News

South Korea is bringing together lawmakers from 33 countries for the Asian Forum on Legislative Information Affairs. South Korea’s model of economic success has been made possible by Korea’s legislation on economic development, and the government wants to showcase Korea’s legislative system, share experiences, and pro-actively promote the advancement in its legislation to other Asian countries. The forum is envisioned to build a networking platform for all countries and its motto is “One Asia with Legislation.”

Globalization Opens Doors Abroad, but Lawyers Find Many Doors Still Locked
ABA Journal

Globalization of the legal profession has allowed the practice of law to become an industry that is open, cooperative, and increasingly inclusive. Yet, some of the most restrictive policies toward foreign lawyers exist in four of the world’s largest and fastest-growing national economies, known as the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China. One question being asked by academics and the ABA regarding global lawyers who straddle traditional jurisdictional boundaries is which legal rules apply and whether a jurisdiction’s ethical regulations are binding. Although the exclusion of foreign lawyers does not exist in places such as the UK or Australia, obstacles still remain as to how the globalized legal profession will operate.

International Law Firms Continue to Grow in Turkey
Legal Week

Europe’s fastest growing economy has attracted another international law firm in Turkey. Baker & McKenzie has entered into a cooperation agreement with Turkish law practice Esin Attorney Partnership. The partnership will be governed by Turkey’s bar rules that allow foreign law firms to practice in the country only in cooperation with Turkish law firms. According to Baker’s global executive committee member, Beatriz Araujo, “Turkey is one of the major success stories in the global economy at the current time and its importance as a hub for global business only looks set to grow.”

Dubai’s International Financial Court Opens to Cases from Abroad
Financial Times

Dubai is trying to reverse a trend under which companies operating in the Gulf region choose overseas courts or arbitration to settle their legal disputes. As a result, Dubai International Financial Centre’s (DIFC) court has now opened to cases from anywhere in the world and offers English-style common law dispute-resolution conducted in English. This move seeks to establish Dubai as a global legal centre and build on its advantages like its geographic position between Europe and Asia and its status as an Islamic country, which could make it more attractive to some Muslim litigants. Skeptics note a number of potential challenges including untested enforceability of legal awards; court independence in a hereditary autocracy; infrastructural demands for extra bandwidth; the sustainability of having a twin-track legal system operating in two languages; and the uncertainty of investment into courts amidst spending cuts in the country.

Ethiopia Considers Ban on Foreign Lawyers
Nazret.com

There is a political debate in Ethiopia around barring foreigners from practicing as lawyers. The proposed new bill “Advocacy License & Administration Proclamation” specifically requires an advocate to be an Ethiopian national and raises the minimum experience requirement to apply for a license from two to five years. One of the issues in the debate is the treatment of professionals with dual citizenship—the new bill would repeal the law that the Ministry of Justice used to refuse lawyers with dual citizenship licenses to practice.



Legal Education

ABA Wants Law School Statistics
Wall Street Journal Law Blog

According to its website, the American Bar Association will create rules that list consequences for law schools who falsify jobs data, which can include the possibility of fines or loss of accreditation. According to the ABA the aim is to increase “clarity, accuracy, and accountability.” The ABA recently censured Villanova Law School for reporting inaccurate grade-point averages and LSAT scores, yet they will remain an ABA accredited school. Law schools will be required to report placement data directly to the ABA Section on Legal and Education Admissions to the Bar rather than only to the National Association of Law Placement.

Prospective Law Students Affected by Dismal Outlook for Graduates
The National Law Journal and National Jurist

A recent survey conducted by Veritas Prep, a law school admissions consulting firm, reveals that only 68% would apply for law school if they knew a large number of graduates would be unable to find jobs in their field, which is down from 81% in 2010. Though location and prestige of the school are still top priorities for potential students, an overwhelming majority looked to career placement and affordability as major factors in their decisions. The number of students who anticipate requiring loans has risen more than 10% from last year and students remain fearful of not finding work to repay the loans.

Law School Dean: Jobs Are Out There for “Go-Getters”
U.S. News and World Report

In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, Dean Paul Schiff Berman of George Washington University School of Law expressed the need for innovation in law schools’ curriculum design, particularly by allowing students to focus and specialize in their courses while working on a “capstone project” with a faculty advisor. Berman suggests that law schools should provide more access to law practice opportunities, while students have a responsibility to seek out pro bono and small firm work experiences to better prepare for entry into the workforce. In response to questions about concerns of current students including uncertainty in the market, massive student loans, and increased outsourcing, Dean Berman suggests looking at law school as a long term investment, leading to a decade’s long career and earnings over a lifetime.



Attorney Regulation & Ethics

Changes in Rules to Invest in Law Firms
New York Times

Now that groups other than lawyers can own and control law practices in England, some major retailers have started to offer legal services in stores and online. The chief legal officer in the US intends to propose a plan permitting law practices to have limited outside ownership. The ABA is expected to circulate a draft proposal allowing the ethics rules to be amended and professional service providers—such as accountants, economists, and social workers—to partner with lawyers and own up to 25% of a law firm. Andrew Perlman, Professor of Legal Ethics from Suffolk University Law School expresses some skepticism stating, “the idea is that nonlawyers might not have the same codes of ethics…They might not be bound by the same sense of professional responsibility and might push the lawyers to do things that they should not be doing to chase the dollar rather than abiding by the rules of professional conduct.”

Code of Ethics for Legal Profession in United Arab Emirates
The National

The legal profession in the United Arabs Emirates (UAE) will receive a new code of ethics to govern lawyers’ conduct, according to Minister of Justice Dr. Hadef Al Dhaheri, who made the announcement at the International Bar Association in Dubai. As foreign law firms and international investors begin entering the UAE, and the Dubai Government widens access to the Dubai International Financial Center, some local practitioners are concerned that too many lawyers are unfamiliar with local law. The code of ethics is intended to be a starting point in developing regulations to catch up with rapid growth of the legal environment.

Winning Advertisements of Law Firms
New York Times

Scare tactics used in law firm commercials are being replaced by humor and emphasis on winning outcomes. Tough talking lawyers who promise vengeance do not make compelling advertisements. Instead, law firms who are able to sway potential clients through advertisements are those who highlight their ability to “win” adversarial cases. Professor Stephen Gillers of NYU law school cautions that “winning” a case, in the sense that the opposing side has lost, should be distinguished from “winning” in settlement suits where both sides “win.” If law firms represent their “wins’ they need to be careful about how they portray the records of those “wins” in advertisements so as not to be misrepresentative.



Corporate Counsel

The Changing Role of In-House Counsel and Outside Counsel
Financial Times

As in-house counsel become experts at developing metrics to examine the contribution of lawyers to their businesses, they have focused on managing external counsel and reducing legal spending. Cost pressures mean that in-house teams are switching to alternative fee arrangements that are changing the client-lawyer relationship dynamically. IBM, for example, used to hire lawyers who spent their early years at law firms, but as general counsel Robert Weber says, “it became apparent that bringing in people after 5-8 years, they are not only disproportionately overpaid but they didn’t have the skills we needed.” IBM, along with other companies such as Sunoco and Pfizer, began to recruit law students from law schools. The Pfizer Legal Alliance abolished the need for itemized bills and controlling costs through an annual fixed-fee arrangement with external law firms.

Companies Looking Inward Rather Than Outward for Legal Services
ABA Journal

Last month, at a conference held at Chicago-Kent Law School on the future of the legal profession, the global real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle general counsel, Mark J. Ohringer, discussed how he now spends 75% of his budget on non-law firm resources. According to the ABA Journal, Ohringer has become tired of the outrageously high rates charged by outside firms for standard legal work and has chosen to build Jones Lang’s in-house department instead. A survey report from Chicago-based HBR Consulting found that companies spend 6% more on their own in-house legal departments in 2010, which was up from a 1% increase in 2009.

Government Regulation Creates Work for Lawyers
Wall Street Journal Law Blog

According to a recent survey by Fulbright & Jaworski, general counsels and other corporate law officials predict that the greatest number of legal disputes for businesses in 2012 will involve government regulation. Survey data collected from 275 legal officials at US companies suggest that tighter regulation is the main cause of litigation. According to the survey, 30% of respondents chose regulation as the reason for the increased number of legal disputes, 26% to company growth, and 21% to the poor economy. Fulbright & Jaworski partner Saul Perloff explains that the increase is likely due to regulation enforcement and future uncertainty over the application of new rules.



Innovation & New Models

Cloud Computing Under Scrutiny by Clients
Marketwatch

Storage and processing of information away from the physical location of “clients” or end users are issues at the heart of cloud computing. Law firms are increasingly concerned with security reasons associated with cloud computing. As per the annual survey published in November’s issue of the American Lawyer, 65% of law firms who depend on cloud computing reported that they use it for non-core functions such as e-discovery and human resources. Discerning clients may begin to demand increased security than what certain forms of cloud computing currently offer.

“Tweeting Lawyers” and Social Media
Daily Business Review

An increasing number of law firms are developing policies around how lawyers use social media such as tweeting and blogging within a legal culture that has traditionally favored discretion. New York lawyer, Frank Acquila states, “The key from my perspective is that lawyers should not be tweeting or saying anything in social media or blogs that they wouldn’t otherwise be saying or writing in any other environment.” Kevin O’Keefe, CEO and publisher of a Seattle-based legal social media company, says that many law firms are grappling with how much control they should exert over lawyers’ social media behavior.

Non-Traditional Online Interview Skills Critical to New Class of Law Graduates
The San Francisco Chronicle

Online recruiting service JD Match has released a series of tips for law students to prepare themselves for non-traditional interviews as they seek employment. More and more firms are moving to Skype to conduct interviews as a means of keeping interview costs down and initially screening candidates. Being able to interview effectively through this medium is critical to obtaining a job in the current market. Among the Skyping tips included are ensuring a neat and professional backdrop for the interview; use of natural light instead of fluorescent bulbs where possible; full professional dress even if only your head will appear on the screen; looking directly into the camera and not the screen to facilitate eye contact; and ensuring that the internet connection is reliable.



Law Firms & Practice Management

Deregulating Law Firm Ownership
The Globe and Mail

Removal of regulations forbidding non-lawyers from having ownership in law firms in Britain has fueled a global debate on the subject. The New York personal-injury firm Jacoby & Meyers Law Offices LLP has launched a lawsuit against the state judiciary around whether law firms should be allowed to raise capital on the stock market as other businesses do. Britain and Australia have relaxed the rules, and the Canadian legal profession has initiated discussion on the debate. Professor Adam Dodek of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law explains that “loosening the rules could help new Canadian law firms raise capital from investors needed to launch new, more innovative, legal services.”

Corporate Clients Unwilling to Pay First-Year Lawyer’s High Salaries
Wall Street Journal

Yearly salaries of newly hired lawyers at many of the largest firms start at $160,000. Traditionally these lawyers have performed entry-level tasks and the cost of their training, at $200-300 per billable hour, is passed along to clients. In the wake of the financial crisis, corporate clients are reluctant to have young attorneys trained “on their nickel.” A September survey by the Association of Corporate Counsel found that more than 20% of the 366 in-house legal departments who responded refuse to pay for the work of first- or second- year attorneys, in at least some matters. Almost half of the companies, which have annual revenues ranging from $25 million or less to more than $4 billion, said they put those policies in place during the past two years, and the trend appears to be growing.

Washington Law Firms “Going Green”
Washington Post Capital Business

Law firms in Washington DC are moving into buildings that are more environmentally friendly and in the process earning the highest rating for green construction and design, known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum. Squire Sanders Dempsey is one of several firms among the top 100 firms in Washington that has completed recent moves or is planning to relocate to refurbished or new LEED-certified buildings, which measures a building’s square footage, energy efficiency, and amount of natural light, among other factors. According to the Washington Post, about half of the Am Law 100 firms have some type of environmental program, and 11 of the top 100 firms have achieved LEED certification. Squire Sanders managing partner John Burlingame says, “We also recognize that increasingly, businesses themselves are concerned with efficiency and being environmentally friendly.”



Professional Development

Lack of Articling Positions in Ontario
The Windsor Star

The number of graduates without articling positions in Ontario rose from 5.8% in 2008 to 12.1% in 2011. An articling position refers to a 10-month period where graduates conduct research, prepare legal documents, review case law, and represent clients in small claims court before being called to the Bar. Tom Conway, an Ottawa lawyer who is leading the Law Society of Upper Canada’s task force on this shortage states, “Students coming out of law school these days have very significant debtloads (often reaching six figures), many have dreamt for years of becoming a lawyer and they run into this hurdle.” According to The Windsor Star, the shortage of positions is attributed to the growing number of graduates who want to become lawyers in Ontario, and not necessarily to firms doing less hiring.



Public Interest

Graduates of “the University of John Grisham” Likely to Cause Anxiety in Britain
The Guardian

A budget cut of £350m of legal aid in Britain in 2013 is likely to increase the number of “DIY [do it yourself] lawyers.” There is a sense of dread that the legal profession is feeling due to the increased possibility of litigants-in-person representing themselves. Acknowledging the distinct possibility of chaos if litigants-in-person represent themselves in court, a forthcoming report will set out measures to mitigate potential adverse effects on the smooth functioning of the courts. Measures that include public legal education and assistance from experienced legal volunteers, law students, and retired lawyers are identified as possible solutions to the likely problems caused by litigants-in-person.



Editor: Daniel L. Ambrosini
Managing Editor: Nicola Seaholm
Contributing Editors: Amanda Barry, Nathan Cleveland, Hakim Lakhdar, Pavan Mamidi, Mihaela Papa, Erik Ramanathan


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