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

Law Firms & Practice Management

Lateral Hiring Slows Nationwide, but Not in New York
NALP

After two years of significant increases, the pace of lateral hiring in the US legal market dropped just over 6% in 2012. A significant portion of the decrease in aggregate lateral hiring came from declines in associate lateral hiring, although lateral partner hiring saw the largest percentage of decrease. In 2012, the 327 firms surveyed hired an average of 10.3 lawyers laterally. Regionally, the level of lateral hiring per office was highest in the Northeast and lowest in the Southeast and West/Rocky Mountain regions. In aggregate numbers, the Northeast was the only region to see an increase in lateral hiring for the year, with a double-digit increase in New York City.

Bullying in Law Firms
Lawyers Weekly

A recent survey in Australia asked lawyers “Is bullying a problem at your firm?” and found that 33% of respondents reported that partners bully junior staff and 29% stated that bullying is a problem at all levels of the firm. According to Joydeep Hor, managing principal of People + Culture Strategies states, “I think the whole issue as to bullying, and perceptions as to bullying, is of pandemic proportions in Australia at the moment.” Complaints are not always found to constitute bullying under the law, although there is still inappropriate conduct that can occur in subtle ways such as body language and pressure to work long hours and satisfy timesheets.

K&L Gates Seeks to Set the Tone for Legal Industry with Broad Financial Disclosures
New York Times DealBook and Wall Street Journal Law Blog

In response to the public downfall of Dewey & LeBoeuf, and in an effort to encourage transparency in the legal industry, law firm K&L Gates has released an “unusually” detailed disclosure of its 2012 financial results. Peter Kalis, chairman of K&L Gates, said that he was “embarrassed to be part of the same profession and industry as Dewey & LeBoeuf.” In an email to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Kalis wrote, “In these times, opacity is not our friend.” Large law firms regularly disclose specific financial information usually limited to revenue and profit; these results are compiled and published annually in the American Lawyer’s Am Law 100. K&L Gates has broadened their own reporting to include categories such as bank debt, cash balances, available lines of credit, and partner pay spread.

Dewey & LeBoeuf’s Liquidation Plan Approved after Resolution of Objections
Wall Street Journal Law Blog

The liquidation plan of the failed New York law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP has been approved by federal bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn. Prior to the February 27 hearing, some objections were filed and have since been resolved. These include a $500,000 settlement with group of retired partners who were unhappy that ex-partners were released from liability after agreeing to return some past compensation. The partners at Dewey’s UK office also reached to a $650,000 agreement.



Legal Education

Penn Law Offers Wharton Management Certificate Program
Philadelphia Business Journal

University of Pennsylvania Law School’s new Wharton Certificate in Management aims to provide students with management, leadership, strategic decision-making skills, and financial accounting literacy. “We think that as the practice of law is changing and evolving, our students need a new set of skills that I didn’t learn when I was in law school,” said Penn Law Dean Michael Fitts. The idea for the program originated with feedback from alumni now at law firms. “Whatever they choose to do after law school, they are likely to be working for an organization and will be required to demonstrate strategic thinking skills and accounting literacy…They won’t just be asked to work on cases or other legal representations,” added Fitts.

ABA Calls for Proposals to Ensure Accurate Data from Law Schools
The ABA Journal and the National Law Journal

The ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar released a request for proposals last month for a process to better monitor admissions and postgraduate employment data released by law schools. After several allegations, law suits, investigations, and fines of US law schools, the ABA has committed resources to working with the Law School Admissions Council and others to correct such misrepresentations. Barry Currier, the ABA’s interim consultant on legal education, says, “Eventually, we would like to get to a place where the data schools are giving us doesn’t cause us to sit back and say, ‘OK, what’s the new game schools are playing?’”

ABA Task Force Discuss Flaws in Legal Education and Possible Solutions
ABC News

At a recent meeting in Dallas, the ABA’s Task Force on the Future of Legal Education discussed various changes that may be necessary to fix the current system. Task force member Thomas W. Lyons III, spoke candidly about the problems facing legal education, including law graduates entering the profession not knowing how to prepare routine legal documents, the decreased demand for new lawyers, and high levels of debt among law school graduates. The task force criticized tenured law professors who are perceived as receiving high pay with low productivity and focus on theory rather than the practice of law. According to ABC News, Lyons feels that law schools exist more for the benefit of tenured professors than the students, stating “They’re among the most highly paid tenured professors in academia.”

Washington University School of Law to Participate in Semester-in-Practice Externship
Newswise

Beginning in Fall 2013, second- and third-year law students at Washington University School of Law will have the opportunity to participate in a Semester-in-Practice Externship, which gives students hands-on professional training in a nonprofit, government, or in-house corporate law setting. Participating students will work full-time at their placements in St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other cieties. “Having established our reputation as one of the highest ranked law schools in the nation in clinical education,” Dean Kent Syverud said that the new offering was “the next logical step.” Associate Dean for Clinical Education and professor of law Robert Kuehn stressed the popularity of law clinics and existing externship programs, stating “for the 2012–13 academic year, we were oversubscribed for the 70 available spots in our four existing US based out-of-town externships.”

BigLaw and the Education of Young Lawyers
Business Insider

Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado Law School, argues that the gluttony of new lawyers entering the profession is a result of both law schools and law firm market-driven practices. Citing a 2013 Georgetown report entitled the “Report on the State of the Legal Market,” Campos notes that the excess of new lawyers entering the marketplace, combined with a general trend of law firms cutting back on hiring, has created an environment in which firms have the flexibility to redesign their staffing models. This has resulted in an increase in the number of non-partner track associates, contract lawyers, and part-time attorneys.  The problem is, Campos notes, rather than offering new legal education possibilities these jobs are typically geared to specific services (e.g. document review) and not designed to train new lawyers in the practical skills they need to export to other jobs or to leverage for partner-track employment at another firm.



Globalization

Malaysia Set to Open Doors to Foreign Law Firms
Global Legal Post

Malaysia is set to launch new legislation that would allow foreign law firms to establish formal partnerships with local law firms and to establish stand-alone offices. The changes mirror those adopted by Singapore and South Korea, both of which recently took steps to liberalize their legal marketplaces. As many as five foreign firms are expected to obtain Qualified Foreign Law Firms (QFLF) licenses this year and to begin operating within Malaysia. In adopting these changes, the Malaysian Bar Counsel is keen to point out that in order to qualify for QFLF status all international firms operating in the country must have international Islamic finance abilities.



Attorney Regulation & Ethics

New York Lawyer Convicted of Fraud after Falsifying Credentials   
New York Times (stories from Feb 14, 2012 and Feb 16, 2012)

Soma Sengupta, a 1998 graduate of Georgetown Law School who passed the New York State Bar exam in 2000, was convicted of eight felony, forgery, and false instrument counts as well as one misdemeanor conspiracy charge by Justice Thomas Farber of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The fraud was uncovered when a clerk at One Inner Temple Lane, the British law firm where Sengupta was worked, noticed that the birth date on her application put her age at 29 although she appeared much older (and was actually in her late 40s). Upon close examination and verification of her application materials, it was discovered she submitted falsified academic records from Georgetown, overstating her achievements. She also submitted forged letters of recommendation from former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, a Georgetown law professor, and US Representative Robert F. Drinan.

Attorney Retains his Right to Blog — with Disclaimer
Wall Street Journal Law Blog

In 2011, the Virginia State Bar determined that Horace Frazier Hunter, a lawyer at Hunter & Lipton PC, violated attorney advertising rules by blogging about his clients’ concluded cases. The Virginia Supreme Court recently ruled that the blog, “This Week in Richmond Criminal Defense,” is speech protected under the First Amendment, but since Hunter’s “motivation for the blog is at least in part economic,” the court found that the Virginia State Bar can ask Hunter to display a disclaimer on his web site regarding attorney advertising. Hunter maintains that the blog is an outlet for his commentary and opinions about the criminal justice system and thus is protected political speech rather than commercial speech.

With Litigation and Regulatory Investigations on the Rise, More Companies Look to Outside Help
Claims Journal

After a one-year decline, international law firm Fulbright & Jaworski reports that litigation in the US and UK rebounded to 2010 levels in 2012. The survey of 392 in-house attorneys found that regulatory investigations hit a five-year high, leading more companies to retain outside counsel. “Ever since the financial crisis, our litigation trends survey has found respondents confronting increased regulatory scrutiny,” said Otway B. Denny, head of Fulbright’s global disputes practice. “As litigation rebounded in 2012, more companies, particularly in energy, health care, and manufacturing, experienced an increase in government and regulatory investigations.”



Diversity

New Program Trains Women to Re-enter Workforce
New York Times

“New Directions,” a program introduced in 2007 by the Pace University School of Law, aims at reintroducing trained lawyers who have been away from the legal profession back into the market. The 22-week program is split equally between classroom courses and an internship and offers its students, the majority of whom are middle-aged women who left their jobs to raise young children, the opportunity to become reacquainted with the legal field. The program costs $7,000 and is small in size with each of the two annual sessions including 12 to 18 students. With 150 people completing the program, approximately 50% have gone on to acquire paid jobs.

DLA Piper’s Drive to Increase Diversity
Amerinfo

DLA Piper recently launched the “Break into Law” initiative in several Middle Eastern states with the objective of increasing socio-economic and gender diversity in the industry.  The initiative involves a set of interrelated educational projects, ranging from training and delivery of a moot court competition to research workshops to an internship program for women.  At the core, the initiative is about increasing access to education and proving insights into the legal profession to those who might not otherwise be exposed to them. Abdul Aziz Al-Yaqout, regional managing partner for DLA Piper in the Middle East, states, “We understand that we have an important responsibility and moral obligation to change [the lack of diversity in the legal profession].”



Innovation & New Models

Increasing Law School Debt Inspires Michigan Law School’s ‘Debt Wizard’
The ABA Journal

The University of Michigan Law School has developed a new service known as the Debt Wizard that allows prospective and current students and new lawyers to input their expected occupation, debt load, and US city then calculates estimated monthly payments under four different repayment plans. This online tool aims to provide a clearer picture of what law school debt will look like depending on a number of factors, and according to the website “to clearly represent 11,000 possible repayment paths, which in turn can serve as a basis for exploration for law school and career choices.”



Public Interest Lawyering

Bronx Defenders Adopt a Holistic Model of Public Interest Law
New York Times

When you think of a public defenders’ office, the words “new” and “sunny” are probably not the first that come to mind. Yet, those are exactly the words people are using to describe the new reception center of the Bronx Defenders, a non-profit organization with 190 lawyers and an operating budget of $19 million. The organization, which was founded in 1997 and is funded by government money, foundation grants and private gifts, practices a holistic defense model. As the New York Times writes, it “seeks to help people not only with the criminal charges they face but also with other aspects of their lives, like fighting eviction and securing welfare benefits.” Its holistic model is being encouraged by the Justice Department, which since 2010 has awarded the organization over $500,000.



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


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