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

Diversity

Saudi Female Lawyers to Practice Law
Al Arabiya News

The Saudi Ministry of Justice will now allow female lawyers to obtain licenses to practice law, and they will have to meet the same conditions as men. The Ministry is preparing a database of licensed female lawyers and installing a fingerprint system in all courts so that their identity can be verified without showing their faces. Women who graduated from law schools were previously allowed to work as legal consultants in companies or banks, but could not represent clients in court, open law firms in their names, or be officially considered lawyers. Several factors motivated the policy change: female legal consultants could not be held accountable in case of violations; women lawyers intensified a campaign on social networking websites; and some Saudi women expressed discomfort with hiring male lawyers especially in personal status lawsuits.

Gender Disparity in Law Firms in Old Blighty
The Careerist

Only 9.4% of equity partners in UK law firms are women. This is significantly less than the stagnant 15% of partners in American law firms who are women. Reasons for the low rates of partnership have been attributed to a slow pace of change in the legal profession by Suzane Rab, a partner at King and Spalding. She thinks that the “all boys” network is a superficial reason. The legal profession changes slower than society, and unless something makes business sense, things will not change. The Times reported that the law firm Hogan Lovells is aiming for 25% female partners by 2017 and 30% by 2022.



Globalization

Foreign Law Firms in Malaysia
The Lawyer

Foreign law firms can now practice law in a controlled manner in Malaysia after the Legal Professional (Amendment) Act was passed in June of this year. They may practice as qualified law firms or in partnerships with Malaysian law firms, and are allowed to practice in prescribed areas. While it is difficult to predict the effects of the new legislation on market conditions and on local firms, there is a view that, like in China, Japan, and Singapore, the entry of foreign law firms need not be detrimental to local law firms.

Canadian Firms Enter the Global Market
Wall Street Journal Law Blog

In February 2013, the Canadian firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP will broaden its presence in South Africa by merging with Bell Dewar Inc. of Johannesburg. Fasken Martineau represents major Canadian banks and specializes in mining and project infrastructure as well as work in the oil and gas extraction industries. According to Fasken’s managing partner David Corbett, “our firm’s philosophy has been to look for opportunities internationally…[and we] see Africa as a very natural place for us to be.” The move follows the January 2012 merger of the Canadian wing of London-based firm Norton Rose with Calgary-based Macleod Dixon, with offices in Venezuela, Colombia, and Kazakhstan.

Permission to Speak in EU’s Top Court
Wall Street Journal Law Blog

If advocates before the European Court of Justice want to make oral arguments, they will now have to convince the court of their necessity. This new measure was designed with the aim of saving time and decreasing the backlog of cases. The court took on 688 cases last year, up from 581 in 2007 and primarily hears competition cases. The change, “will allow the court to concentrate its resources on those hearings which will bring added value to the handling of a case.”



Legal Education

NYU Law Revamps the 3L Year Encouraging Specialization and a Global Focus
New York Times (also see this related article)

In response to guidance from law firm leaders and the debate over whether a third year of law school is necessary at all, New York University School of Law is revamping its 3L curriculum by focusing on several themes or “professional pathways.” Students will have the opportunity to work on specialized studies, and more importantly, to choose from several off-campus opportunities including studying abroad or working at a government agency. The new programs are optional, and students may still choose a more traditional 3L experience, but NYU Law Dean Richard Revesz hopes they will be popular, and says that “students will not maximize their final year if they just take a random set of courses.” In response to the move toward a more specialized legal education, Dealbook’s Victor Fleischer goes one step further arguing that “law schools should play matchmaker, guiding students toward specialties that are likely to endure [including] bet-the-company litigation,…mergers and acquisition and securities work.”

Marketability of the LLM Degree
The Guardian

As the market for junior lawyer jobs has tightened in the UK—and as firms no longer view an applicant with a masters degree in law (LLM) as intrinsically better than one with a year of industry experience—prospective LLM students are demanding more “bang for their buck.” Universities are augmenting traditional LLM courses with options that reflect shifts in the professional marketplace. For example, many are combining their LLM programs with language training requirements—a direct indicator of the increasingly international legal marketplace and demands of their students to be competitive in it. Others, such as Northumbria University, are broadening part-time options to complete the LLM so that participants can combine in-classroom knowledge with practical work experience.

Too Many Lawyers with Too Much Debt
The Washington Post

As concerns continue to mount for recent graduates and their futures as lawyers, so does the amount of debt being accumulated by unemployed law school graduates. Law schools like University of California at Irvine tout a whopping $77,000 as their average annual cost per student, yet claim that students pay for quality that will allow them to beat out other graduates for positions as lawyers. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it was estimated there would be 73,600 new jobs for lawyers between 2010 and 2020, yet three years into the decade there have been 132,757 new lawyers in the job market.  



Public Interest Lawyering

All Lawyers in Singapore May Need to Provide Community Legal Services
Today Online

The Singapore Academy of Law has proposed that all lawyers who hold practicing certificates, including those who work in foreign law firms, provide Community Legal Services (CLS) to low-income and disadvantaged Singaporeans. It proposed that lawyers contribute a minimum of 16 CLS hours per year and those who do more can carry forward a maximum of eight hours to the next year. The Law Society of Singapore’s Pro Bono Services Office will administer the CLS, which will initially comprise criminal and civil legal aid, community mediation, and legal advisory work to institutions and charities.

Public Interest at Harvard Law School
The Crimson and ABA Journal

Even if law school graduates can afford to take lower paying public sector jobs, there may not be enough legal positions to fulfill demand in this sector. Harvard Law School’s hiring rate only fell 4.3% during the downturn, indicating the relative ease in which HLS students can obtain private sector positions. The effects of the downturn on the public sector have hit more gradually than for the private sector, and the recovery is slower. HLS has made efforts to encourage students interested in the public sector, including the creation of the Holmes Public Service Fellowships in 2009, the Redstone Fellowships in 2010, a new program of study entitled “Law and Social Change”, and Dean Martha Minow’s Public Service Venture Fund. HLS sees this support as essential in order to cultivate and maintain students’ interest in public sector work in the face of external obstacles.

Are Public Interest and Public Sector Careers Worth the Cost of Law School?
ABA Journal

The National Association for Legal Professionals (NALP) released a study indicating that salaries in public interest and public sector careers have kept pace with inflation; the increase in cost of law school education has far exceeded the rate of inflation. According to NALP, the median entry-level salary is almost $43,000 for legal services attorneys, $45,000 for public interest lawyers in groups with issue-driven missions, $50,500 for public defenders and $50,000 for local prosecutors. With 11-15 years of experience, these salaries increase to $65,000 for legal services lawyers, $75,000 for public interest lawyers, $78,600 for public defenders, and almost $76,700 for local prosecutors. NALP Executive Director James Leipold notes, “Despite favorable changes in the federal loan repayment options available to law school graduates working in the public interest, there are still significant economic disincentives at play as law students consider whether or not to pursue public interest legal careers.”



Law Firms & Practice Management

Law Firms Used Technology to Take Care of Business during Hurricane
The Connecticut Law Tribune and Reuters

Connecticut law firms used technology to keep deals on track and clients happy amidst a natural disaster that closed roads, flooded homes, and left millions without power. One firm implemented a text messaging system among the team to keep business going as usual. Another firm utilized an offsite server, cloud-based appointment calendars, and e-mail calendars. Some firms gave staff a USB WiFi generator that does not require electricity. In New York City, many top firms were forced to evacuate their buildings but lawyers nonetheless worked remotely. Cadwalader, for example, provided attorneys updates via email and an emergency telephone hotline; calls and faxes to the New York office were rerouted to the Charlotte, North Carolina office.

UK Firms Serving Overseas Markets
Bloomberg

The distribution of revenue for legal services in the UK is highly skewed in favor of the 10 largest law firms. They account for almost 50% of the revenue for legal services among the top 100 firms. A sizeable 40% of this revenue comes from providing services in growing overseas markets. While investing in international markets can bring higher revenue, it has not yet offset the downturn in revenues since the financial crisis began in 2008.



Attorney Regulation & Ethics

Keeping Client Information Confidential
Lawyers Weekly

An Australian survey was conducted among 80 risk professionals from 30 of the largest law firms in the country with approximately two-thirds of respondents reporting that information about clients is openly accessible to all staff. According to Andrew Fisher, Clayton Utz’s national manager of technology/infrastructure services, “We are increasingly being asked by our clients to be ISO 27001 certified and that hasn’t been something we have been asked for in the past.” Several firms have started to offer their staff additional training in order to avoid commercial conflicts of interest and meet increasingly stringent regulatory requirements.



Corporate Counsel

GCs’ Regulatory Expertise Leading to Executive Presence and Higher Salaries
Wall Street Journal

With regulatory developments including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank financial law, and the unfamiliar cultures and laws in emerging markets, highly sophisticated in-house attorneys must navigate complex laws and assure compliance—and more frequently, they are now joining the ranks of top executives making business decisions and setting goals. GCs are leading teams specifically designed to monitor compliance issues and prevent violations. The need for increased expertise has fostered highly competitive salaries, with pay for GCs increasing 12.8% in 2011, a rate twice as high as that of CEOs, whose pay grew 6.2% in 2011. According to a recent poll of 48 executives conducted by Consero Group LLP, nearly 50% reported adding compliance staff in 2011.

Survey Shows Chief Legal Officers Reducing Costs
Philadelphia Business Journal

A survey by Altman Weil of more than 200 chief legal officers reveals that they are taking steps to control costs without waiting for law firms to change their business models. According to the survey, 71% negotiated price reductions with outside counsel, 47% shifted work from law firms to in-house lawyers, and 41% shifted work to lower priced firms. Furthermore, 39% of law departments decreased their outside counsel budget in 2012. The top factor in selecting outside counsel appears to be “demonstrated understanding of your business/industry” followed by colleagues, personal contacts, and written material showing a lawyer’s expertise.



Innovation & New Models

UK Law Firms Concerned about Private Equity Investment
Reuters

Since UK law firms have been allowed to seek external investment by converting from partnerships into Alternative Business Structures (ABS), private equity firms have shown interest in the legal industry that is worth nearly $40 billion a year in fees. Yet, according to a recent Thomson Reuters Sweet & Maxwell survey, 88 of the 100 largest law firms thought that raising money by selling shares on the stock market was inappropriate for them; only one out of 20 law firms that have converted to an ABS so far has taken private equity investment. Law firms have been concerned that pressure from shareholders to deliver short-term returns would radically alter the firm culture, and allowing fee-earners to cash in their stakes in the business could be a disincentive to others.



Program Notes

Linklaters India Internship

This year, Linklaters India Internship, the Program on the Legal Profession’s J-Term research program for 2L and 3L students, has accepted 15 interns. These interns will spend three weeks in Mumbai conducting original research while interning at prestigious law firms, general counsels, and courts. The placements include Amarchand & Mangaldas, AZB, the chambers of Justice Chandrachud, Khaitan & Co, Nishith Desai Associates, Talwar Thakore Associates, and the Tata Group. Interns’ research proposals cover a broad range of topics, including energy development, Bollywood and intellectual property, the All India Bar Exam, slum revitalization, sentencing for gender-based crimes, and India’s conception of freedom of speech.

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 Law School from March 10 – 15, 2013. To learn more, please visit the Executive Education website.

Executive Education: Leadership in Law Firms

Our flagship program, Leadership in Law Firms, offers law firm leaders insights into the challenges they face, and provides concepts and skills to be effective leaders. Participants in previous cohorts of our programs have been leaders of highly regarded law firms from around the world, holding executive positions such as senior partner, managing partner, chairman, practice group head, and office head. The program will be offered twice in 2013 at Harvard Law School, May 19 – 24 and September 8 – 13. For information, please visit the Executive Education website.

Led by the world’s top law school faculty, Harvard Law School Executive Education will host one-day colloquia in New York and London on critical topics for law firm and corporate counsel leaders. The upcoming Colloquia for Law Firm Leaders are designed for leaders of law firms worldwide (including managing partners, senior partners, chairmen, chief executive officers, chief operating officers, executive directors, executive committee members, office heads, practice heads, and sector heads) and will be held on January 8, 2013 at the Harvard Club of New York, and January 24, 2013 at the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn in London. For more information, please email Karen Travelo.

The upcoming Colloquia for Corporate Counsel Leaders are designed for leaders in corporate counsel offices who currently have or will assume the role of general counsel or chief legal officer in their corporations and have teams of professionals—in particular specialties, sub-functions, practice areas, geographies, divisions, or the entire corporation—reporting to them. These events will be held January 9, 2013 at the Harvard Club of New York and January 25, 2013 at The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn in London. For more information, please email Shironda White.


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


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