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PLP Pulse: News from the Frontiers of the Legal Profession
February 2013
 

Legal Education

Law School in Two Years Gaining Traction
The National Law Journal, Law.Com, and The Economist

The proposal for a two-year law school program has attracted attention of judges, including Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman of the New York Court of Appeals, who is involved in making the rules for lawyers in New York. Last month, Lippman told a group of 100 legal educators, practitioners, and judges that the proposal “challenges all of us involved in legal education to…look at how we can do better.” In a recent article promoting bar eligibility after two years of law school, NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher proposed that law students should have the option whether to remain for a third year.

Law School Applications Continue to Decline
New York Times, National Law Journal, and Wall Street Journal

Law school applications are headed for a 30-year low, but you would not know it from the number of new law schools popping up around the country. As of mid-January, 27,891 people had applied for seats at ABA-accredited law schools. That marks a 20% decrease from a year ago and is 38% below the pace in 2010. Since 1983, the number of applications to ABA-accredited schools has never dipped under 60,000. Declining applications have been attributed to increased concern over rising tuition, heavy student debt, and diminishing prospects of lucrative employment upon graduation.

3L Practical Skills Training Gains Popularity
The ABA Journal

Law schools around the country are exploring and experimenting with courses that address practical training skills. As the theory-practice debate continues, Washington and Lee University—an early and robust proponent of such experiential learning—has found that offering such courses has actually increased its admissions to the point where they have offered financial incentives to defer some admitted students. Indiana University law professor William Henderson was quoted as saying, “A sizable number of prospective students really do care about practical skills training and are voting with their feet…we are entering a period of staggering transformation that will last decades. And transformation will be roughly equal parts creation and destruction.”

California Accreditation Standards Requires More Law Students to Pass Bar
The Daily Nexus

California law students entering law school in fall 2013 will be part of a group required to pass the bar exam at higher rates to ensure their school remains accredited. While few of California’s 21 law schools are in danger of not meeting the new 40% graduate bar examination passing rate, this new standard could affect the content of law school curricula. According to University of California Santa Barbara pre-law advisor Miguel Moran-Lanier, law schools have been focusing more on training students to operate successfully once they enter the working world and spawning more creative programs as the practice of law has shifted.

Business Boot Camp: Lawyers and Business
PR Newswire

Brooklyn Law School recently teamed with Deloitte Financial Advisory Services (FAS) and John Oswald, president and CEO of Capital Trust Group, to run a for-credit, free-of-charge business “Boot Camp” during winter break. The “mini-MBA” course is intended to enhance business law training and to inspire students to expand their business acumen. The course’s curriculum, which is modeled on a training program Deloitte FAS offers its first-year associates, tracks the evolution of a business from founding to initial capitalization to acquisition by another company. Professor Michael Gerber, chair of the faculty group who developed the course, noted that it is vital that students are able to reach outside their traditional “legal tool kit” and fully engage with business, finance, and economic issues.

Law Dean’s Pay Scrutinized
Boston Globe Editorial

According to the Boston Globe, John F. O’Brien, dean of New England Law, earns $867,000 annually in salary and benefits, more than three times the median pay for law school deans. While Rezendes earns considerably more than deans at prestigious law schools, New England Law is not even publicly ranked by US News & World Report as the school falls “below the US News cutoff.” In recent years, New England Law has doubled the number of accepted students while hiking tuition by more than 80%. O'Brien's salary has been linked to the 2007 appointment of board chairman Martin Foster, who voted to increase O'Brien's pay by $178,000 as well as awarding O'Brien a $650,000 loan that will be forgiven if O'Brien remains at the school for 10 more years.

Job Losses in January Wipe Out Legal Sector’s December Gains
Am Law Daily

The legal sector lost 2,400 jobs in January, only one month after the industry posted an increase of 1,900 positions. Even with the losses, the legal sector currently employs more than one million people, 6,500 more than at the same time last year. In 2012, it added a net of 7,800 jobs for a 0.7% increase but less than the general workforce’s 1.4% growth rate during the same period. The legal sector’s workforce is the largest it has been since May 2009, although its pre-recession ranks included 50,000 additional workers.



Globalization

Law Firms Explore New Frontier in Kenya
Business Daily

With recent oil and gas discoveries in East Africa, as well as the establishment of local operations by multinationals such as Pepsico and General Motors, legal business opportunities in Kenya abound. Advocates in Kenya must be citizens of Kenya, Uganda, or Tanzania, so many of the top global law firms are creating partnerships with the top corporate lawyers in Nairobi to gain a footing in the local market. DLA Piper has established a partnership with Kamau and Maema (IKM) Advocates, whose managing partner, James Kamau, says, “Africa is considered as the last frontier…These multinationals have law firms that service them in their country of origin and find it better to do business with firms in Africa that have forged working relationships with their main firms.”

Bar Council of India Chairman Discusses Challenges in the Indian Legal Profession
New York Times

Manan Kumar Mishra, chairman of the Bar Council of India, was interviewed by the “India Ink” column of the New York Times about the challenges facing the Indian legal profession and justice system. With millions of criminal cases pending, only 141 lawyers for every 100,000 people, and only 14 judges for every million people, there is a massive backlog in the overburdened Indian court system. When asked for an explanation for the “huge number of pending cases” Mishra cited the 50,000 vacancies in the judiciary in the lower courts, and says that cases can be delayed for as long as 15 – 30 years.

UK Firms Announce Job Cuts as Part of Restructuring Efforts
Financial Times

Eversheds, DLA Piper, and Allen & Overy announced that they will be undergoing restructuring and cost cutting measures, resulting in 450 jobs being affected. Eversheds will cut 3% of the firms’ total employees, from support staff to partners, as it closes its Copenhagen office and opens in Beijing. DLA Piper will also close an office in Glasgow and will sell its defendant insurance practice eliminating 4% of total employees. Allen & Overy will be transferring roles of support staff, with 43 positions moving to Belfast from mainland Europe and the US.

Canadian In-house Counsel Prefer Local Firms to Global Giants
The Globe and Mail

According to an anecdotal survey by the Canadian chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel, zero percent of in-house counsel believe that “global law firms can provide more cost efficiencies,” but 10% think that global firms “deliver consistency across jurisdictions,” and 24% believe that “conflicts are a potential problem for large global firms.” Among survey respondents, 52% “believe in using local firms that are best in their respective practice area or market.”



Law Firms & Practice Management

Lower Profits Call for Shifts in Business Models
ABA Journal

A recent report by the Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at Georgetown University and Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor found that partner profits at major law firms grew a meager 3.5% last year—a finding that helps explain the internal stresses witnessed within major law firms over compensation. The report found that the meager profit increases lead to decreasing morale, particularly among “homegrown” partners who perceive lateral hires as overpaid. To adapt to these new market realities, the report argues that law firms will have to differentiate themselves from each other via shifts in their business models.



Attorney Regulation & Ethics

Pilot Project to Train New Lawyers Practical Skills in Ontario
Canadian Lawyer Magazine

The Law Society of Upper Canada, the regulatory body for lawyers in Ontario, has approved a pilot project, the Law Practice Program (LPP), which could effectively replace the current articling process for new law school graduates. The Law Society released a request for proposal that would allow one or more third party organizations to design, develop, implement, and manage the LPP in order to provide transitional learning for new lawyers. A University of Ottawa law professor, Adam Dodek, calls the LPP the most significant reform in Ontario’s legal profession in 70 years The focus of the LPP would be to train new lawyers about the practical side of business.



Corporate Counsel

New Regulatory Challenges for Chief Legal Officers
Inside Counsel

According to a recent 2013 survey of chief legal officers conducted by the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), 87% of respondents indicated that ethics and compliance are important issues, followed by 82% for government and regulatory changes, and 75% for information privacy issues. According to ACC president and CEO, Veta Richardson, “fulfilling the dual role of business executive and legal advisor is the new normal for chief legal officers today.”

Cyber Attacks on Corporations
The Sacramento Bee

According to respondents from in-house legal departments in Consero’s 2012 General Counsel Survey, 30% of GCs state that their corporations are unprepared for cyber attacks. Approximately 28% reveal that they had experienced breaches in the last year. Given that the expected costs are high for GCs, especially in highly regulated areas, Paul Mandell, the founder and CEO of Consero Group calls for greater collaboration between GCs and chief information officers.



Diversity

George Washington School of Law Seeks Out LGBT Applicants
The GW Hatchet

The George Washington School of Law may end up being the next school to join four top 20 law schools in adding LGBT status to its applications. By tracking the number of gay and transgender applicants, law schools aim to better support these students on campus and throughout their careers. Some university administration officials have expressed concern, however, about asking such a question on applications in fear that it may add another level of anxiety to the application process.

White Males as Law Firm Partners
Think Progress

A study by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) found that the majority of partners in major US law firms are white men. When it comes to equity partners, 85% are men and 95% are white. Among all partners, the study determined that just 27% are women and 8% racial or ethnic minorities. They occupy the core leadership positions and heavily influence the types of arguments presented in court.



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


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