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March 2007
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May 2007

Using Technology (& a paralegal!) to Cut Legal Costs

Interesting profile of Mark Chandler, senior VP, general counsel, & secretary for Cisco Systems Inc. This technology company (based in San Jose, CA), produces Internet protocol-based networking services:

"Chandler is keenly focused on applying technology, some developed by Cisco and some that it has purchased, to lower in-house legal costs on repetitive but crucial work. 'If you are dealing with a compliance matter that will affect how the company is perceived, you have to get it perfect, but other times very good is good enough,' he said. 'There are areas where you want to make sure you are doing the best you can, but you also want to be very efficient at the way you do it.'

[snip]

"Outside counsel: TurboTax can replace the tax preparer and Travelocity allows anyone with a computer to become his or her own travel agent. The same forces are engulfing the legal profession. 'Fundamentally, service businesses like law are not dissimilar from any other industry,' Chandler said.

"For example, Fenwick & West of Mountain View, Calif., which does nearly all of Cisco's corporate, securities and mergers and acquisitions work, notified Chandler last year that its hourly rates were going up. He replied that he planned to pay Fenwick 5 percent less in 2007 than he had the year before.

"'To do that, I wanted them to figure out what was the 10 percent of their work that was the least value-added,' Chandler said. 'We found they had lawyers billing us $400 to $500 an hour doing fairly routine work filling out forms associated with some of our acquisitions.'

"Chandler and Fenwick came to an agreement. Cisco is adding a paralegal to fill out the forms and will save $400,000, but it is reducing its payments to Fenwick by just $250,000."


"Florida Supreme Court hears paralegal rule argument"

Paralegals working in Florida will want to keep an eye on the proceedings outlined in the Jacksonville Daily Record:

"The Unlicensed Practice of Law (UPL) program was established by the Supreme Court of Florida to protect the public against harm caused by unlicensed individuals practicing law.

"This program is a proposal only. It has been approved by the Board of Governors of The Florida Bar. The Supreme Court of Florida must now rule on the proposal.

"Monday, the Supreme Court of Florida held oral argument on the proposed Florida Registered Paralegal rule [PDF]. The Court gave no indication as to when it will rule or how it will rule. Updates will be posted on the Bar’s Web site."


"Rise of Paralegals"

Although you must be a paid subscriber to the Dayton Business Journal to read the complete article (& I'm not!), thought the part you can read was interesting:

"Betty White has worked as a paralegal for Sebaly Shillito & Dyer's Dayton office for 18 years and has held the managing paralegal position for the past 10.

"But White has spent the past two decades doing more than just sorting through legal documents. She travels with lawyers to meet with clients, helps clients prepare documents and helps decide what information is necessary for a case, among a slew of other tasks."

The photo sidebar includes this info:

"Helping out: Betty White is a paralegal with the Dayton law firm of Sebaly, Shillito and Dyer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that paralegal employment will increase 27 percent in the next seven years." [Emphasis added.]

BTW, the firm's website posts profiles of all its paralegals!


"Paralegal licensing is good news"

After a hard-fought legislative battle, independent paralegals in in Ontario will become a regulated profession on May 1. This Toronto Star article outlines why licensing is needed:

"In recent years, the need for regulating paralegals has been the subject of considerable comment by Ontario judges and in two Ontario government reports. The most recent comment occurred in a Superior Court decision of Justice Deena Baltman last October. It was published last month in the Ontario Reports.

"In December 2002, Pamela Elliot received an eviction notice from her landlord claiming rent arrears of $2,700. Shortly afterward, the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal issued an eviction order against her.

"Elliot contacted Vince Chiarelli, a paralegal, to stop the landlord's eviction. He promised her in writing that for a fee of $1,200 plus expenses he could file an appeal to Divisional Court and obtain a stay which would 'prevent or significantly delay the eviction proceedings.'

[snip]

"Eventually, Elliot sued Chiarelli in Small Claims Court to recover the money she paid him, based on professional negligence, breach of contract and alleged violations of the Business Practices Act.

[snip]

"'As a legal service provider,' Justice Baltman wrote in her decision, 'Mr. Chiarelli had a duty to provide good advice. Instead, Mr. Chiarelli advised Ms. Elliot to pay him nearly $1,800 so that he could postpone her eviction by what he knew could only be a matter of weeks. That was bad advice.'"


"Virginia Tech Tragedy and the Law"

A compilation of legal & factual issues surrounding this tragic event has been posted on Legal Blog Watch by lawyer & blogger Carolyn Elefant:

"As our nation continues to mourn the victims of the senseless Virginia Tech massacre, many bloggers' thoughts turn to the question of whether this tragedy could have prevented or whether others like it can be prevented in the future.  While now's not the time to assign blame (and indeed, without additional information, we really can't make any definitive judgments), here's a list of some of the issues that will be generating additional discussion in the weeks to come..."

Three such issues include Restrictions on universities, Gun Control Laws, & The Limits of Technology.


Website: Famous Trials

This admittedly bare-bones website was created & is maintained by professor Douglas O. Linder at the University of Missouri-Kansas Law School. Linder says:

"My vision was to create the Web’s largest collection of primary documents, images, essays, and other materials relating to famous trials from Salem to Simpson. Trials have long struck me as wonderful vehicles for exploring history and human nature. What better way to understand the 20s than reading about the Scopes, Sacco-Vanzetti, and Leopold and Loeb trials? What provides better insights into the nature of evil than reading the transcripts of the William Calley court-martial or the Nuremberg trials? Would not the Amistad, Shipp, Scottsboro Boys, Sweet, and “Mississippi Burning” trials provide an excellent launching point for a discussion of racism in America?  I wanted these materials to be made readily available, in an easily digestible form, for everyone from junior high students to law professors."

Professor Linder told The New York Times that "...the most important trial of our age occurred in a small courtroom in Dayton, Tenn., in the summer of 1925, when a jury was asked to decide whether a high-school biology teacher violated a new state law that banned the teaching of evolution." The Scopes "Monkey" Trial took place in 1925.

Being a baseball fan, my favorite event described (& richly annotated) is the Chicago Black Sox Trial (1921).

If you like history, you will definitely enjoy this site...


Editorial: "Gonzales v. Gonzales"

All politics aside, this is not the kind of testimony you want to hear from a witness on your side! Here's the opinion of the New York Times:

"If Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had gone to the Senate yesterday [4-19-2007] to convince the world that he ought to be fired, it’s hard to imagine how he could have done a better job, short of simply admitting the obvious: that the firing of eight United States attorneys was a partisan purge.

"Mr. Gonzales came across as a dull-witted apparatchik incapable of running one of the most important departments in the executive branch."


"Exterro Gets E-Discovery Down to Business"

Quite readable article about new litigation software -- "centralized management of litigation lifecycles" -- with helpful "show & tell" screenshots:

"Exterro isn't the first software vendor to apply a business-process-management approach to the legal discovery process, but with the launch of its flagship product Fusion, it is breaking new ground with a solution that combines BPM with collaboration capabilities and centralized management in an integrated environment.

"Aimed at law firms and corporate legal departments, Exterro's newly unveiled Fusion is essentially a portal for controlling the discovery process. However, Exterro's chairman and CEO, Bobby Balachandran, prefers to call it a litigation-support-management platform, from which his customers can monitor progress, track costs, set and manage schedules, and evaluate vendor performance.

"'During complex litigation, negotiations or time-intensive governmental investigations, the process of managing legal teams needs some automation, otherwise it all just gets away from them,' Balachandran says. 'We're trying to bring reliable management control and predictability to a process that is typically loaded with surprises and unexpected costs.'"

BTW, there's currently an open position for Litigation Support Consultant (scroll down; position is in Chicago or Portland with flexible work hours!).


"Improving Your Voice Quality Can Improve Your Career"

An article from LawCrossing that just might help advance your career:

"You have probably heard the cliché 'You get one chance to make a first impression.' You have probably also heard that while your words only communicate about 7% of what you are trying to say, nonverbal cues communicate the remainder of the message you are sending.

"While a large portion of this remainder category includes body language, a significant amount of your message is conveyed by your tone of voice [PDF]—the way that you speak. The manner in which you speak can contribute either positively or negatively to a listener's perception of you.

"In her book The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense, linguist Suzette Haden Elgin states that a lower-pitched adult voice is more acceptable in our culture than a higher-pitched voice. Another characteristic of tonality that is perceived negatively is pronounced nasal quality. So if you speak in a high-pitched, nasal voice, you may be in danger of projecting a less-than-professional image. In the words of Elgin, 'if you sound like a child, you will be treated like a child.'"

Another book by Elgin that's worth a look: The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense at Work (see 'Bully Bosses' post!).


Former Paralegal Now GC

This "New at the Top" profile of attorney Arleigh V. Closser will inspire those paralegals thinking about law school:

"Position: Vice president, general counsel and secretary, Multimax, a Herndon company that provides enterprise information technology, communications services and solutions to support federal military and civilian agencies and state and local government.

[snip]

"How did you get to where you are?

"I grew up near a small town south of Pittsburgh, as the sixth of seven children. My father passed away while I was young. So I have my mother, Sarah, to thank for somehow successfully raising seven children, all of whom are college graduates. I followed two brothers to Princeton. As a freshman, I made the varsity wrestling team and we won two Ivy League championships. This experience of having to succeed in an extremely demanding academic environment while competing in a Division I sport gave me the confidence to know that one can make and achieve demanding goals with hard work.

"My first job out of college was as a paralegal with the law firm of McKenna & Cuneo. This was fortuitous because the firm was the birthplace of the practice of government contracts law in 1939. So it was only a matter of time before I was assigned to work with a government contracts case -- the A-12, the stealth Navy aircraft that was never built -- which turned out to be the largest default termination of a government contract in history. The case is still in litigation today."