November 2010

Here’s the 2010 report from the National Association of Women Lawyers.  Law firms will come up with great excuses and explanations, but at some point, the numbers are what they are.  And what they are suggests a problem that isn’t changing and isn’t being fixed.

All of this brings to mind Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. 

Women (and diverse lawyers too, based on other statistics) are eventually going to have to make a choice.  Do they want to continue to fight "the man" or do they want be in the place they deserve to be?  If the latter, I suggest that women will find a much more comfortable home in firms that are embracing "the new normal." 

Does anyone else get a feeling of deja vu all over again?  Law.com is reporting (sub. req.) that Morgan Lewis is scrapping the idea of merit based advancement for associates, and will return to paying "market" levels of compensation to associates.  I mean, wasn’t this what clients were complaining about in early 2008?

Seriously, there is only one way a client hears this kind of news: "the firm wants me to continue to pay more and more for each year an associate has been working since graduation, regardless of the skill, competency or value they bring to the matter."  And they they wonder why firms resist so mightily the idea of linking compensation to performance the way it is in, oh, say, the rest of the world.

My friends at Edge International, in my view the leading international legal consultancy have released the latest Edge International Review.  The entire issue qualifies as a "must read", at least in my view.  The issue contains an article by Pam Woldow on project management and a related article by Doug Richardson on how to get lawyers to work together more effectively, an article by Gerry Riskin on fast tracking toward your preferred future and some advice for law firms from Ed Wesemann on regaining control of pricing.  Jordan Furlong also weighs in with some terrific thoughts on innovating in your space.  Kudos to the Edge team on a great issue.

The 2010 ACC/Serengeti Managing Outside Counsel Survey Report is out.  Westlaw Insider does a nice job of summarizing the critical findings of this survey of General Counsel:

Some of the key trends of the past 10 years:

* More work retained in house. There has been a noticeable shift of work from outside to in-house counsel as corporate law department budgets have stopped growing.
* A renewed focus on spending. Although compliance is still a key focus, controlling outside legal spending has returned to the top spot during the past two years, similar to the start of the decade.
* Record-low rate increases. Due to the weak economy and a greater willingness of in-house counsel to assert their bargaining power, we are witnessing the smallest increase in hourly rates in the past 10 years – and in-house counsel anticipate similar record-low increases for the coming year.
* New demands on outside counsel. The need to drive efficiency has also led to a notable rise in policies requiring project budgets, client consent for firm staffing, early case assessments, the use of alternative dispute resolution, client ownership of work product, and technology requirements.

Nothing terribly surprising here, but certainly there is no good news for those pining for the good old days.  And another year of record-low rate increases?  OMG, how are firms going to fund their insatiable thirst for higher PEP? 

The report contains other findings on the use of project management, the increasing importance of using experienced lawyers, and the rising importance of alternative fee arrangements.  All moving the profession to the New Normal.
 

 

It seems like every day that I am forced to listen to a radio spot in which Otis Wilson, “linebacker for your Super Bowl champs,” tells me that he hired attorney Jeffrey Leving because he is a “credible attorney.”

Every time I am forced to listen to this ad, I wonder what idiot created the copy for Otis to read.  Who the heck hires a “credible” attorney?  Does somebody believe that is good advertising?  Does Otis’ description help distinguish Leving from all of the “incredible” attorneys out there?

Remember, I’m from the state that gave the world Rod Blagojevich, so “incredible” can really have both positive and negative connotations.  But since I think about the choice of adjectives every time I hear this spot, I thought I would share my pain. And my fond hope that you will think about your choice of adjectives.

Above the Law is reporting that Foley & Lardner is raising the starting salaries of first year associates in all of their offices to $160,0000.  The firm will address the lagging salaries of older associates at year end. 

What conclusions can be drawn from Foley’s action, which is identical to many other large firms?  Here are a couple of possibilities:

1.  The outcry from clients complaining about the high compensation paid to associates who do not provide commensurate value has ended, and clients are again willing to pay exorbitant amounts disproportionate to value provided.

2.  Recruiting pressures are trumping client concerns.

3.  Recruiting pressures are causing this action, and the partners will respond to the client demands by funding the increased associate compensation out of firm profits.

Increasing the cost of production at a time when clients willingness to spend is at an all time low and interest if making prudent make vs. buy decisions is at an all time high likely will not go down in history as an example of great decision-making.

What is the College of Law Practice Management? Here is its mission:

The College of Law Practice Management was formed in 1994 to honor and recognize distinguished law practice management professionals, to set standards of achievement for others in the profession, and to fund and assist projects that enhance the highest quality of law practice management.

The College and its Fellows inspire excellence and innovation in law practice management by:

* Honoring extraordinary achievement
* Developing, exchanging and disseminating knowledge
* Stimulating innovation in the delivery of legal services

It is my great honor to have been included in the 2010 class of Fellows inducted into the COLPM.  My fellow honorees are as distinguished group:

Aric Press– Editor-in-Chief of ALM

Caren Ulrich Stacy–Principal of Lawyer Development Strategies

Stewart Levine–Founder of ResolutionWorks

Stephen Dempsey–Director of Administration, Sidely

Susan Saltonstall Duncan–President, RainMaking Oasis

Jeff Reade–Principal, Cole Valley Software

Elonide Semmes–President, Right Hat

Jeff Flax–President, Jeff Flax & Associates

William Freivogel–President, Freivogel Ethics Consulting

Norman Letalik–Managing Director of Excellence, Borden Ladner Gervais

Vedia Jones Richardson–Attorney, Olive & Olive

Susan Manch–Principal, Shannon & Manch

The induction culminated with a wonderful black tie dinner.  My great thanks to Mark Robertson for his generous comments on my behalf and to Karen Rosen for her tireless efforts in putting the event together.

 

Noted author Simon Tupman, whose previous works include Why Lawyers Should Eat Bananas, has just released his latest book, Legal Eagles.  The book is described this way:

Simon Tupman’s latest book Legal Eagles profiles sixteen visionary lawyers from around the globe who are changing people’s lives and making a difference in the world. Interviewed by Simon, they offer candid insights into their careers and share the secrets of their success. Their stories dispel many myths about the legal profession and prove that lawyers can, and do, make the world a better place.

I am deeply honored to be one of the sixteen lawyers featured, including lawyers from the UK, Australia, Africa, New Zealand and fellow Americans Christopher Marston and Gregory Kim

My friend Gerry Riskin refers to Legal Eagles as "a masterpiece of legal journalism."  Richard Susskind, author of the acclaimed work The End of Lawyers? says:

This is a fascinating collection of insights and anecdotes, skilfully edited by Simon Tupman. He has done a great job of gathering together a formidable range of legal luminaries and mining the jewels from their heads. I warmly recommend this compelling book to all lawyers who like a feel for the leading edge.

It is so very exciting to have been included as part of this project.  I am forever grateful to Simon and join the advance reviewers (see what they say here) in recommending Legal Eagles.