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PLP Pulse: News from the Frontiers of the Legal Profession
July 2012
 

Legal Education

New Data Paints Dismal Picture of Law Market for Recent Graduates
Wall Street Journal

According to the Wall Street Journal, members of the law school class of 2011 had little better than a 50-50 (55%) chance of landing a full-time, long-term job (exceeding one year) as a lawyer within nine months of receiving a degree. Graduates’ chances of obtaining a job within that period were much more likely if they attended a top school: data shows that students from the top 14 schools had less difficulty landing jobs.

Pressure Mounts for US Law Schools to Adapt Curricula to Evolving Legal Profession
The ABA Journal

The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is preparing to release its most recent survey building on a 2002 study that examined changes in law school curricula from 1992 to 2002. The new survey extends from 2002 to 2010, and tracks those same changes in law schools. Preliminary results show that US law schools have increased their efforts to offer more clinical and professionalism programs while demanding that students focus more on pro bono work, improved legal writing and other “non-traditional” skills. The study found that 87% of ABA-approved law schools offered joint-degree programs in 2010.

New International Network of Law Schools Founded to Promote Global Discussion
National Law Journal

The Law Schools Global League represents the first formal, international network geared toward jump-starting legal teaching and research collaborations, according to the National Law Journal. Where law schools have traditionally focused on teaching exclusively national law, members hope that the league will operate as a forum for exploring projects of value to law students practicing in an increasingly global environment. Administrators from the 17 founding schools convened last month at Tilburg University in the Netherlands to form the group officially and hold a symposium on the globalization of law. The symposium focused largely on different approaches to legal education.

Yale Announces Nation’s First PhD in Law
National Law Journal

Yale Law School will offer the nation’s first PhD in Law to start in the fall of 2013. The degree is aimed at training individuals who already hold a JD from a US law school to become law professors. Approximately 10% of law professors currently teaching in the US received their legal education at Yale. Although other US law schools offer a PhD program that combines academic disciplines such as economics or social sciences, according to YLS Dean Robert Post, “[the degree] will offer a new, alternative route into a career in law teaching and legal scholarship.” Similar to many other schools, Yale offers a JSD and LLM degree but these are primarily targeted to students who received their basic legal education outside of the US.

Training Small Town Lawyers
Wall Street Journal

There has been a glut of lawyers and a slump in the legal industry since the 2008 financial crisis. The lure of small towns as target destinations to practice law is becoming more tangible given that jobs exist in small towns. Some Midwestern law schools are signaling to their students to look beyond high-paying, big-city law firms. The University of Nebraska’s law school has even created a special program of study that focuses on solo practice or working in small law firms. The shortage of lawyers in small towns in the Midwest has occurred because of educated young people fleeing to larger cities for cultural and financial opportunities.



Globalization

Foreign Lawyers May ‘Fly In, Fly Out’ of India
Wall Street Journal Law Blog

The Supreme Court of India has stated that while it weighs in on an appeal of a Madras High Court ruling, foreign lawyers visiting India are permitted to advise their clients on international laws although they still may not practice Indian law. The Madras High Court ruling from earlier this year states that “fly in, fly out” arrangements are permissible and that a ban would create “a manifestly absurd situation wherein only Indian citizens with Indian law degree[s]…could practice foreign law.” The Bar Counsel of India appealed the decision because of a conflict with a 2009 Bombay High Court Ruling that has been interpreted as a ban on foreign lawyers.

Legal Advice by Accounting Firms in India
Hindustantimes

A recent Supreme Court decision in India held that the expression “to practise the profession of law” under the Advocates Act, 1961 covers litigation and non-litigation matters that can be handled only by advocates. As a result, the Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF) has requested that major auditing firms in the country, including the big four—Ernst and Young, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte—stop providing legal advice to their clients. According to Lalit Bhasin, president of SILF and managing partner of Bhasin & Co., Advocates, “In case the accounting firms including the foreign ones continue to provide legal advice to their clients, the government too must intervene.”

Foreign Firm Mergers Appear Unaffected by Changing Times, But for How Long?
The ABA Journal

A recent Hildebrandt Institute MergerWatch Report suggests that foreign law firm mergers are actually climbing steadily beyond those of US law firm mergers. Comparisons across the last three or four years indicate that US firm mergers have slowed down considerably, whereas foreign mergers have continued to develop, creating massive foreign law firms of more than 2,000 lawyers. Though the number of mergers continues to increase, the stability of new large law firms raises concern.



Corporate Counsel

Challenges of the General Counsel
Harvard Law Bulletin

The complex role of the GC in corporations has changed dramatically over the past 25 years. According to Alex Dimitrief, vice president and general counsel of GE Energy, “no two days are ever the same.” Benjamin W. Heineman Jr., distinguished senior fellow at Harvard’s Program on the Legal Profession (PLP) and former GC of General Electric states, “As you go up the chain, the skills you need extend far beyond being a technician in the law.” “The speed of things you’re doing has definitely accelerated,” states Laura Stein, Clorox’s senior vice president and general counsel, who adds, “when you’re hoping to manage risks and ensure compliance, the world moves very quickly these days.” Heineman and Professor David Wilkins, director of Harvard Law School’s PLP, will co-teach a new course this fall entitled, Challenges of the General Counsel, to help law students learn about the challenges and leadership opportunities facing GCs.

To In-House Law Departments, Corruption is “Mission Critical”
Wall Street Journal

A study by Laurence Simons and the Association of Corporate Counsel found that 29% of GCs in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East named bribery and corruption as “mission critical” in 2011, just behind commercial law at 65% and competition and IP law at 33%. The survey of 114 corporate legal departments found that “these were also areas that teams reported having strong expertise in-house as legal departments focus on managing the key risks and opportunities for their businesses,” according to Jim Merklinger, vice president and GC of the Association of Corporate Counsel.



Law Firms & Practice Management

Dewey & LeBoeuf Sued by Former Partner over ‘Ponzi Scheme’
New York Times & JD Supra

As legal profession pundits and bloggers debate the future of law firms’ business model through the lens of Dewey’s downfall, a former partner is suing the firm’s management team. Henry Bunsow claims that Dewey & LeBoeuf grossly exaggerated revenue, internally and to the media, and pressured partners to make capital investments that the firm never intended to repay. Bunsow describes the firm’s business model as a “Ponzi scheme,” and says that he was forced to invest a large sum of money into the firm as a condition of his employment; the investments were paid directly to current partners enriching the top managers and hiding “the dire condition of the firm from the public.” 

Merger with America’s Largest Consumer Bankruptcy Firm
San Francisco Chronicle

Jacoby & Meyers, LLC, America’s largest full service consumer law firm, and Macey Bankruptcy Law, PC, a Chicago based firm that represents consumer debtors in bankruptcy, have merged to combine their resources and strike strategic synergies in their operations across the US. With the merger, Jacoby & Meyers will have more than 135 offices with a much larger footprint in the country. The firm has been at the forefront of exploring alternative business structures by initiating legal action to allow non-lawyers to invest in law firms. While Washington, DC allows non-lawyer investments in law firms, it is banned in all 50 states.

Europe’s Economic Woes Hit UK Law Firms
Inside Counsel

According to a Reuters report, the troubled European economy is reflected in two of UK’s largest law firms, Linklaters and Freshfields, both reporting plateaus in revenues and a decrease in profits per partner (PPP) for the fiscal year end of 2011. Linklaters’ revenues rose by only 0.6% last year and the firm’s PPP fell by 3%; similarly, Freshfield’s revenue was down 0.7% and PPP were down by 1%. Smaller London-based firms Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy reported better financial results, which may be related to their aggressive expansion into new markets such as Casablanca, Istanbul, and Australia. Overall, however, “the more mature European markets have been pretty terrible this year,” stated Tony Williams, a former managing partner of Clifford Chance.

Survey of Alternative Fee Arrangements
Wall Street Blog

In a report by ALM Legal Intelligence sampling 141 in-house counsel and 194 law firms on alternative fee arrangements (AFA), it was found that most law firms continue to rely primarily on traditional billing arrangements. Just 6% of law firms said they used AFAs for more than half their legal work in 2011, and 12% use them to assign work to outside counsel. For legal departments, the three major benefits of using AFAs include cost/predictability, costs savings, and increased efficiency, whereas the benefits for law firms include attracting or maintaining clients, simplified billing and operations, and increased billing realization. Legal departments and law firms agree that the top three AFAs are flat fee; blended rated (all lawyers on a matter charge one agreed-upon hourly rate; and capped fee.



Innovation & New Models

Alternative Models of In-House Telecommuting
Law.com

In a 2012 National Study of Employers, 77% of companies polled in a survey either permit or encourage flextime in one’s schedule. Some legal departments are exploring alternative workspace options. American Express implemented a program, BlueWork, that offers telecommuting, flexible hours, and job-sharing. Employees can negotiate space with their managers through one of four models: “Hub” (dedicated workspace in office); “Club” (split time between offices); “Home Office” (primarily from home); or “Roam” (frequent traveling between offices or on the road). According to Todd Miller, vice president of general counsel office operations, “we believe that it’s less about where employees work here; it’s about the role they play in driving results and how work arrangements can best fit their working style and personal needs.”

Axiom Outsourcing and the Legal Services Market
American Lawyer

Axiom Global Inc. is changing the legal services market with its introduction of a new division to do legal outsourcing work, established in 2010.  The company calls the work “managed services” and the unit is growing quickly, representing 25% of the company’s revenue in 2011—up from 10% only a year earlier. The outsourcing unit is part of a greater development where clients are beginning to embrace nontraditional providers of legal services. Legal process outsourcers take on more of the low-end but at times profitable work that some AmLaw100 firms do such as document review assignments. However, Axiom is also attempting to provide solutions to some legal challenges that rise above document reviews.

Computers Will Find the Pin in the Haystack
Wall Street Journal

Predictive coding, a method by which large amounts of electronically stored data can be quickly searched and analyzed for pre-trial discovery, shows promise of cutting lawyers’ costs. Landow Aviation was faced with the task of sifting through two million electronic documents to examine evidence of possible liability when roofs of three jet hangers collapsed under heavy snow destroying 14 jet planes in Virginia. Loudon County Circuit Judge granted the aviation company permission to use “predictive coding” to make the task easier and less costly. Although predictive coding reduces the number of lawyers needed to analyze vast quantities of electronically stored data, it does not eliminate the involvement of lawyers.



Diversity

Power Appears to Play a Much Larger Role in Women’s Careers
Harvard Business Review Blog Network & ABA Journal

In a Harvard Business Review blog post and white paper, Lauren Stiller Rikleen and Linda Bray Chanow discuss how learning to navigate strategically through power situations in the workplace can help to improve the careers of many women. Power dynamics in the office provide opportunities not only to be successful but also to pursue power and influence in the workplace. The gender gap in the legal profession remains large due to the lack of comfort by many women to pursue certain power positions and instead accept the status quo within their firms, organizations, and corporations. “A necessary first step to building power is to understand the source of your discomfort with power so that you can address the discomfort and move beyond it,” states Rikleen.

Ethnic Diversity Provides Opportunity for Firms’ Self-Reflection
Opinion 250

A recent report addresses the growing concern that law firms in British Columbia lack a level of ethnic diversity that would be expected given its population. Although Aboriginal peoples represent only 1.5% of the legal profession, they represent 4.6% of the total population in the province. The Law Society of British Columbia is encouraging law firms to consider the local population and minority groups to ensure that minority lawyers are represented in law firms. Diversity can be increased by raising awareness of unconscious bias, developing and improving bias-free performance evaluations and work systems, promoting flexibility, and creating a culture of mentorship within the legal community.



Professional Development

How to Move into Law Late, and Why it Might be Worth it
Independent.co.uk

The best path to a successful career in law may not always begin with work in law. In England, some individuals sign up for a one-year full-time graduate diploma in law (GDL) before moving onto a legal practice course (LPC) taken by all solicitors. Many individuals who began their professional or academic careers outside of law, and chose to move into law only later, report that their prior work informs their work as lawyers now. According to Sarah Gale, deputy course director of the graduate diploma at the City Law School, City University London, “We also have doctors, engineers, surveyors or vets who are seeking a career change. If you’ve given up a career to return to education, your level of focus is extremely high.”



Attorney Regulation & Ethics

Law Firms at Risk for Cyberattacks
Wall Street Journal

Law-enforcement officials are seeing an increase in cyberattacks against law firms through various types of malware to access lawyers’ phone calls, text-messages, emails and other sensitive files. According to FBI veteran Shawn Henry, who now runs the security firm CrowdStrike Inc., theft of highly sensitive and confidential information is on the rise and underreported. The ABA is expected to address the issue of cyber security, specifically whether guidelines to protect clients' information should be incorporated into the model rules of professional conduct. For now, security policies are left to law firms as they decide whether to use popular cloud services such as Dropbox while clients are demanding increased security.

Texas Takes on Barratry
Texas Tribune via New York Times

Barratry, or the incitement of litigation for harassment or profit, is on the rise in Texas according to Harris County prosecutor Wendy Baker. Texas lawmakers have attempted to slow the trend by passing a law that allows victims of barratry to sue lawyers who illegally solicit services. The action is targeted specifically at “ambulance chasers,” attorneys or case runners who offer legal services within 90 days of an accident, and other service providers such as chiropractors and telemarketers who work together to lure patients into frivolous law suits and insurance fraud by exaggerating injuries. The Texas Department of Insurance has hired two special prosecutors to enforce the new law.

 


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


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