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

Legal Education

Law Students Battle Increased Competition for Big-Law Summer Jobs
Wall Street Journal

According to the Wall Street Journal, fewer students are getting the positions they want through traditional channels. Among law school graduates from the class of 2008, 41% worked in a large law firm (one with more than 100 lawyers) one year after graduation; among the class of 2011, only 27% were employed by large firms. To compensate for the increased competition, many current 2Ls are getting creative by actively networking long before the traditional application season begins, paying their own way to travel to interviews, and seeking other alternative paths to the most prestigious and highly paid summer jobs.

Law School: Still a Good Investment for African Americans
The National Law Journal

Currently, only 4% of lawyers are African-American, and with the pool of prospective law students shrinking, this percentage could fall even farther. The rising cost of tuition, coupled with dwindling job prospects, are leading many to question whether entering law school is a wise choice. African-American students with few economic resources should focus their school search on programs that offer merit-based and need-based financial aid, according to the National Law Journal. If such students can keep their costs of living relatively low, obtain financial aid, and look beyond practicing law post-graduation, the costs of attending law school may be worth it.

Best Law Schools for Bargain Hunters
Wall Street Journal Law Blog

The National Jurist has compiled a ranking of law schools based on their value to students using metrics such as tuition, bar passage rate, and employment rate. The University of Alabama placed in first with tuition at $18,030, a bar passage rate of 95.5% and a weighted employment rate of 90%. Georgia State University came in second, followed by Louisiana State University, University of Nebraska, and University of Georgia. Due to high tuition rates, many Ivy League law schools did not make it onto the list, despite high weighted employment rates.

More Promotional Mailings Don’t Lead to Higher Law School Rankings
Wall Street Journal Law Blog

Law schools aim to improve their standings in the US News & World Report by producing expensive promotional materials such as magazines, postcards, and letters. But “most of this stuff is not making a difference,” according to Larry Cunningham, the author of a new study and associate dean for student services at St. John’s University School of Law. Although law schools that send promotional materials are more likely to be ranked higher than schools that do not, the number of pieces sent does not have a significant impact on overall rankings.



Globalization

Foreign Law Firms Seek Access to Lucrative Singapore Law Market
JD Journal 

Foreign law firms are lining up to apply for licenses that would allow them to practice Singapore corporate law and hire local lawyers. Singapore’s law ministry grants licenses for Qualifying Foreign Law Practice depending on the quality of applications. Without the license, foreign law firms can advise on Singapore corporate law only through joint ventures or refer clients to local lawyers or law firms. The benefits to getting a license appear significant: while mergers and acquisitions fell in Europe and the US, Singapore saw a 25% increase. Many of the foreign law firms that received licenses in Singapore back in 2008 have already doubled their revenues in the country.

European Firm’s US Office to Provide European Counsel
The Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal

A European law firm, Field Fisher Waterhouse, focused on IP and technology has opened its first US office in Palo Alto, California. The firm’s new US managing partner, Phil Lee, will spearhead generating business in the US and the firm will focus on advising Silicon Valley clients on European matters. With previously acquired clients in the US and many other future clients doing business in Europe, Field Fisher Waterhouse will be liaising with clients from the US with their European counterparts.

Landmark Case for Indian Arbitration Overruled
Legally India

The 2002 landmark case Bhatia International v Bulk Trading SA & Anr held that Indian courts had exclusive jurisdiction to test the validity of an arbitral award made in India even when the appropriate law of the contract is from another country. The constitutional bench heard the appeal of Bharat Aluminium Company against Kaiser Aluminium Technical Services—the test case relating to Bhatia International, where Bharat Aluminium Company argued that the seat of arbitration was not the basis on which the jurisdiction of the courts were defined under the Indian Arbitration Act. The Supreme Court has overruled the doctrine underlying the Bhatia case with the court stating that part 1 of the Arbitration Act does not apply to international arbitration and that the seat of arbitration will determine jurisdiction of the court.

US Firm Secures Strategic Paris Merger
The Wall Street Journal Blog and The Lawyer

Law firms from the US continue to expand globally, as DLA Piper has merged with a small French boutique firm located in Paris. The 26-person French firm provides a base for operations and work located in neighboring North Africa, Middle East, neighboring European countries and even Asia. The firm described the merger as “an illustration of DLA Piper’s commitment to expand its presence in the key global markets [which] is representative of its strategy to add quality and credibility in the G20 economies.”

Russian Legal Battles Mean British Pay Day
The Guardian

Thanks in a large part to new Russian business, combined profits at London’s top 100 law firms increased 8% last year, to £5.4bn. The legal battle between Roman Ambramovich and exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky is expected to carry legal fees of over £100m. And there is more to come; in a few weeks, the High Court will hear a case between Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska and Uzbek-born businessman Michael Cherney. Russians typically prefer to have their cases heard in the UK, which is thought to have “a fair playing field and…very good judges and lawyers,” according to Mark McAteer, national editor of Legal Business magazine.



Law Firms & Practice Management

New Report on Law Firm Information Governance
Law.com

Iron Mountain has released a 52-page report for the broader legal community on Law Firm Information Governance Framework “as a catalyst for strategic discussions at your firm on how to build an information governance program that fits your needs.” The report aims to help lawyers meet their professional obligation on how to handle client information. According to Rudy Moliere, director of information governance and records management at White & Case, “There are so many different definitions for information governance out there, but none that were very specific to a law firm environment” and “…[t]his will provide them with a road map.”

Some Former Dewey Partners Agree to Settlement Deal
New York Times

About half of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s former partners have signed an early settlement and will pay back more than $60 million of their 2011-12 compensation towards the more than $300 million owed to Dewey’s creditors. The amount of money to be returned to the estate by each former partner is “tied to their compensation [and ranges] from a minimum of $5,000 for retired partners to $3.5 million from the firm’s highest paid lawyers.” A group of retired partners has refused to sign on and others are calling for an impartial review of the situation in order to place more financial responsibility on the firm leadership at the time of the downfall. The bankruptcy team is also seeking $200 million from outstanding client bills.

Half of Washington State’s Lawyers Want Out of the Profession 
Puget Sound Business Journal

Thousands of Washington State’s attorneys are leaving the profession faster than they are replaced for both demographic and economic reasons. The Washington State Bar Association’s (WSBA) survey found that almost a quarter of the state’s practicing attorneys are considering retirement within five years; 32% are considering whether to leave the profession or cut back on their practice during the same period; and, between 2007 and 2011 there has been a 13% drop in the annual number of attorneys admitted to the state bar. This succession-planning crisis is a result of several factors including declining law school enrollments, attractive opportunities in the internet sector, and increasing desire for work-life balance. To facilitate the succession, the WSBA is creating a clearinghouse that matches older attorneys with young lawyers who are looking for entry-level positions.

Australian Law Firms Still Prefer Paper over Electronic Documents
IDM

A new study commissioned by Fuji Xerox Australia, and conducted by market research firm Colmar Brunton, finds that although 38% of legal professionals work remotely at least once a week, 80% of firms print some or all electronically received documents. While 43% report “force of habit” as the reason for the continued printing of electronic documents, 42% cite “legal requirements” and 31% cite “easier access.” Researchers interviewed representatives from more than 100 Australian law firms with 300 or fewer employees. According to Fuji Xerox Australia marketing programs manager Elizabeth Leslie, although more firms are embracing technology and mobile working, growth is hampered by “several significant challenges, including the continuing dominance of printed documents and a lack of integration between home, work and mobile devices.”



Attorney Regulation & Ethics

Foreign Lawyers Gaining Increased Freedom to Practice in US
The ABA Journal

The ABA’s Commission on Ethics 20/20 is drafting recommendations that would make it easier for foreign lawyers to practice in US jurisdictions. By October 2012, a decision will be made on section 5.5(d) of the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct on the issue of allowing foreign lawyers to provide legal services in the US. For example, this may allow state courts to admit a foreign lawyer to act as co-counsel with an in-state lawyer, or to serve in an advisory role in a particular proceeding. According to the draft report, “It is clear that as communications and commerce have become increasingly globalized so too have clients, their families, businesses, and other assets.”

Lawyers Fees at $35,000 per Hour
Wall Street Journal Law Blog

The Delaware Court of Chancery ruled 4-1 to preserve a lower court decision by awarding two plaintiff law firms one of the largest attorney fee awards in the history of shareholder derivative suits—$300 million. The fees were for legal work on a mining case where attorneys were awarded 15% of a $2 billion judgment. Lawyers from the opposing law firm argued that Chancellor Strine of the lower court abused his discretion by awarding fees that amounted to $35,000 per hour. Justice Holland wrote, however, “The challenge of quantifying fee awards is entrusted to the trial judge and will not be disturbed on appeal in the absence of capriciousness or factual findings that are clearly wrong.”

Canadian Firms Test Ad Restrictions with New Marketing Campaign
The Globe and Mail

The Personal Injury Alliance is a group of Ontario law firms who have joined a growing international trend to release new advertisement campaigns that feature high-quality television, radio, and online platforms. Some have found the degree of emotion in the advertisements controversial. One advertisement, for example, features the emotional story of a woman who credits her lawyers with helping her achieve a productive life after a spinal cord injury. The alliance believes that although the advertisements contain emotional content, they comply with the Law Society of Upper Canada’s advertising rules prohibiting “qualitative superiority to other lawyers” or testimonials “which contain emotional appeal.”



Corporate Counsel

Increase in Requests for Proposals from In-House Law Departments
Law.com

In-house law departments are formalizing their methods to identify, vet, and engage outside counsel in order to compete for corporate business. A recent LexisNexis RFP Activity Survey of 185 different law firms found that 42% have seen an increase in RFPs from in-house law departments this year. Both small and large law firms find the proposals time-consuming and the return on investment uncertain. The largest law firms in the survey dedicated 4,800 hours to law department proposals per year. As the GC’s approach becomes increasingly commodity-driven, some observers are concerned that law departments are using the process to shop for ideas and keep their existing firms from becoming complacent.



Diversity

UNC Study Examines Benefits of Law School Diversity
JDJournal

A new study, conducted over a 10-year period at UNC-Chapel Hill, has found evidence that a diverse student body offers numerous advantages to law schools. Participants were tracked from their enrollment to law school through to graduation with data taken from across 50 ABA accredited law schools. Researchers “identified race/ethnicity as a significant factor associated with differences of sociopolitical attitudes, experiences, discrimination histories, behaviors during law school, and professional aspirations.” The results of the study will be published in Rutgers Race & the Law Review.

Canadian Law Schools Reach Out For Diversity
Brandon Sun

Universities across Canada are taking a variety of steps to boost diversity among their law students. The University of Toronto, for instance, is currently offering free LSAT courses to low income students, attempting to remove a financial hurdle to law school admissions. Similarly, the University of Victoria has opened up twenty-five spots per year for students from indigenous or diverse backgrounds. Discussing the program, law dean Donna Greschner called her school’s approach to diversity “a holistic one. [We’re] not just looking at academics but what life experience do they bring? Have they overcome a challenge in their life?”

Energizing the Legal Diversity Movement
Corporate Counsel

Three years ago, General Mills GC Roderick Palmore was a founding member of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD), an organization aimed at getting GCs and law firm managing partners together to talk about and strategize on increasing diversity in the profession. As president of LCLD, Palmore has seen membership grow from 19 firms and legal departments to 209 today and has overseen the launch of several successful initiatives, especially the LCLD Fellows program designed to mentor high-performing minority attorneys. Palmore cautions against “diversity fatigue in the decades-long struggle” for greater minority inclusion and promotion.

Microsoft General Counsel Discusses Efforts to Increase Diversity in the Profession
Law.Com

In the context of the recent Leadership Council on Legal Diversity regional meeting in San Francisco, Brad Smith, GC of Microsoft Corporation and the chair of the organization’s pipeline committee discussed the council’s and Microsoft’s efforts to improve diversity. The council has over 200 members—law firms and companies seeking to build a pipeline that will make law firms as diverse as the nation's graduates by informing college students about opportunities for a legal career and coaching them on how to apply to law school and by matching practicing lawyers with diverse law students for mentoring. Microsoft also pays their outside counsel a diversity bonus that is equal to 2% of the fees they charge if they make quantifiable progress in diversity either in population or number of diverse representatives working on their behalf.

Work-Life Balance of Top Concern for Law Firm Employers and Employees
Inside Counsel

According to a 2008 survey with New York University Law School students, the number one priority was work-life balance. Recently, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association held a conference in New York to address the challenges of creating work-life balance for employers and employees. Although 40-50% of law school classes are female, only 15% of equity partners in law firms and 18% of top legal positions within corporations are held by females. For some, going in-house may seem to escape the billable hour but presents other challenges such as triaging emergencies. Some law firms have started to implement written work-life balance policies that apply to all lawyers in the firm.



Innovation & New Models

Law Students Study as ‘Virtual Apprentices’
US News and World Report

Students earning their JD are increasingly utilizing LawMeets.com, a website offering “virtual apprenticeships” created by Drexel University’s Earle Mack School of Law Professor Karl Okamoto. Students watch videos of fictional client scenarios and upload three-minute video responses. Website users vote on the most effective responses, with the ten most popular responses receiving critiques from legal experts. As transactional law becomes more prevalent, professors are interested in using the site to help their students gain hands-on experience in client interactions.

New Service Connects Small Firms with Part-Time Lawyers
The ABA Journal

A Maine lawyer, Nicole Bradick, founded Custom Counsel in January 2012 to provide small law firms who need the help with access to lawyers who are available for contract assignments. Although the service originated from a mother’s need to establish work-life balance, not all Custom Counsel’s part-time lawyers are parents. The lawyers often work between 10 and 30 hours a week and their pay averages $100 per hour to conduct research and writing and/or appear in court.

Cloud-Based Services and Rules of Professional Conduct
Wisconsin Lawyer

The American Bar Association’s (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct and state ethics rules were drafted at a time when the Internet did not exist, and may no longer provide adequate guidelines on the confidentiality and privacy issues that arise due to cloud computing in legal practice management. While storing a document on Dropbox can help a lawyer access it anywhere, making it a more efficient way of accessing, storing, and exchanging data, it continues to raise ethical questions of how to manage risks of unauthorized access and third-party storage locations.

E-Discovery’s Unresolved Questions
Corporate Counsel

Social networks, cloud services, and portable devices are likely to have an impact on e-discovery and pose complex legal challenges in the future. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are storehouses of information on members who use these media. Extraction, collation, and usability of information obtained from such media are fraught with problems because they may not meet criteria of admissibility in courts. Similarly, information stored in the cloud suffers closely related problems. The question of who owns information stored or transmitted from portable personal devices, such as personal computers, tablets, and smart-phones poses a third unresolved challenge for lawyers.



Professional Development

Training Lawyers with Business Skills
The Lawyer

Recognizing that changes in the legal market have made it necessary for lawyers to act as business consultants in addition to legal advisors, some law firms have started to require MBA courses for their lawyers. Simmons & Simmons recently decided to change its MBA in Legal Business course from voluntary to compulsory for all of its trainees, citing higher qualification scores for trainees who had taken the course when it was voluntary. Not everyone agrees that business courses are necessary early in one’s legal career. Other law firms offer similar MBA courses for their associates and high-level managers.

Mid-Level Associates and Happiness
The American Lawyer

According to the American Lawyer’s annual associate’s survey, midlevel associates in the country’s biggest law firms are happy with their jobs. The survey asks associates to rank their firms on a scale of 1 to 5 in twelve areas related to job satisfaction, including interest of work, training, and partner relations. Results reveal that, among other things, firms are making more efforts to be transparent regarding compensation and advancement, to provide alternative work schedules and options, and to create mentorship opportunities for younger attorneys.



Program Notes

Case Development Initiative: New Publication

Axiom (A): Getting Down to Business details the growth of Axiom Legal from a small team of entrepreneurs with big ideas to an international firm that has challenged law firms’ traditional “business as usual” model. It highlights the challenges faced by the entrepreneurial leaders of a firm as they sought to change the legal landscape with an innovative ownership structure, a unique employee proposition centered on flexibility, and a client offering that focused on providing valued legal services efficiently and economically. Could an investor-owned firm that provided its clients legal professionals on a contract basis compete effectively with the traditional, partner-owned and leveraged law firms model, for both for clients and highly qualified lawyers? The case allows participants to reflect on the challenges and opportunities of innovation in the provision of legal services. The case is available for purchase at the Case Development Initiative website.

Executive Education: Milbank@Harvard

During the 2011-12academic year, Harvard Law School’s Executive Education conducted focused programs for four cohorts of Milbank Tweed associates as part of an innovative, multi-year executive education program. Starting at the end of their third year and continuing through their seventh year, Milbank associates will participate in this annual stepped program offered by HLS Executive Education. All the programs offered during the academic year were enthusiastically received by the participating associates, and the HLS and HBS Professors who taught in the programs enjoyed the experience. HLS Executive Education looks forward to the upcoming academic year with anticipation and excitement. To learn more, visit the Executive Education website.

Executive Education: Emerging Leaders in Law Firms

Harvard Law School Executive Education will host Emerging Leaders in Law Firms, an intensive, five-day program specially developed for attorneys who have entered equity partnership within the past two years. As partners, this group of lawyers is taking on larger managerial responsibilities and is expected to exert greater leadership. The program offers them leadership and managerial perspective and skills to transition to partnership successfully. The program will be held at Harvard from March 10 – 15, 2013. To learn more, visit the Executive Education website.

Executive Education: Leadership in Law Firms

Harvard Law School Executive Education recently hosted approximately 50 participants from the world’s top law firms in our September 2012 Leadership in Law Firms program.  The program brought together chairmen, managing partners, practice group heads, office heads, and other law firm leaders to discuss the challenges they face in leading these organizations and developing the skills and perspectives necessary to lead in an increasingly competitive environment.  For information on the upcoming Leadership in Law Firms Program scheduled for May 2013, please contact Karen Travelo or visit the Executive Education website.

Executive Education: Leadership in Corporate Counsel

Harvard Law School Executive Education recently hosted its fourth cohort of Leadership in Corporate Counsel, the first executive education program tailored specifically to general counsel and chief legal officers. General counsel from the world’s leading corporations, such as Tata Consultancy, GE Energy, Honeywell International, Ameren, US Foods, Hindustan Unilever and SanDisk attended the program. Participants developed a holistic understanding of the challenges facing, and the skills and perspectives required of, effective corporate counsel leaders. For information on the June 2013 Leadership in Corporate Counsel program please contact Shironda White or visit the Executive Education website.



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


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