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May 2007
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September 2007

Possible layoffs for corporate paralegals in the near future?

An article this week by the Legal Intelligencer citing possible associate layoffs in the corporate, mergers & acquisitions and securities arena failed to mention the trickle down effect on paralegals.  Surely, anyone with just a few years of experience recalls the nasty era of 2001-2004 or so of deep purges and scourages affecting thousands of corporate transactional paralegals. 

With this dip in the economy and a potential credit crunch, some law firm leaders are predicting layoffs in what have been the most lucrative practice groups over the past four or so years -- structured finance, real estate and corporate mergers and acquisitions.

Others say an economic downturn is an opportunity for bankruptcy and litigation practices and corporate attorneys will just adapt.

So could the effects of this economic downturn -- including the thousands of layoffs in the subprime lending market -- mean future layoffs of law firm associates? Well, it's a touchy topic.  The article, posted on law.com failed to mention future layoffs for associates also means future layoffs for paralegals.  While the Pollyannists who in the last downturn predicted an opportunity for bankruptcy and litigation practices predicted the same opportunity for this upcoming downturn, no one seems to realize that those corporate paralegals trained in M&A are most likely NOT trained in bankruptcy or litigation.

It would seem that what we preach at Estrin LegalEd ad nauseum - Get thyself cross-trained and save thyself some heartache - needs to be screeched from the mountain top yet one more time.  No one wants a repeat of the past recent downturn.  If you are a corporate paralegal resting on the laurels of the gold rush of the past 4 years, it's time to get yourself cross-trained in a recession proof practice specialty.  Trust me.  Waiting for the other shoe to fall could mean months and months with no shoes at all.  Start reviving those skills outside of corporate and start now!


Fashion Sense? Major Firms Capture Boutique Biz - New Opportunities for Paralegals?

Here's a great example of new opportunities opening for paralegals:  The Daily Report (Atlanta) ran a story today that talks about Loeb & Loeb (my old alma mater) and other major Los Angeles firms that have opened a new fashion and luxury items practice group.  Daily Report 

While fashion law in Los Angeles isn’t an original, the new groups hail from midsized firms rather than the traditional boutiques that have dominated the field.

“Fashion and apparel has kind of exploded across all spectrums on its own, and for professional service providers, because so much money has come into the industry from private equity, and because the larger apparel conglomerates are making acquisitions,” said James Williams, chairman of Loeb & Loeb’s fashion and luxury brands industry group. “It’s a changed industry.”

Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, which announced its fashion apparel team about a year ago, lured top fashion designer lawyer Ted Max from Boston-based Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo to its New York office. Sheppard Mullin also began publishing a blog that covers legal aspects and legislation in the fashion world.

For those of you who would like to follow your passion and desire to work in the fashion industry but can't sew, design or walk a runway, this may hold a solution for you.  If money is a factor for you, bear in mind that larger firms often pay more. Now is the time to create positions in an industry that holds an interest for you.  Just a few of the specialties firms will need paralegals in the fashion industry:  IP, copyright, trademark, litigation and corporate come to mind immediately.  And to think I flunked sewing class in middle school.  Who knew?


No billables for 1st Year Associates - Why Not Paralegals?

The billable hour is now dead for Harrison & Ford's 190-attorney firm, according to law.com's blog, Newswire.  The full-article from The National Law Journal, states that Harrison & Ford does not expect first-year associates to bill time.

Wow.  This innovative idea should filter on down to brand-new paralegals.  Think about it:  Paralegal schools cannot teach absolutely everything a paralegal needs to know just as law schools cannot teach new lawyers the practical aspect nor on-the-job expectations.  Clients are savvy enough to know that first-year associates train on their dime and frankly, are tired of it.  Law firms continuously adjust and write-off new associate and paralegal time in an effort to get these entry-levels trained.

Why not give paralegals entering law firms for the first-time a six-week period where they have no billable expectations?  The first six-weeks should be dedicated to enhancing their schooling. Law firms, most likely, will experience less turnover and get a better-prepared, better-trained paralegal.  The six-week investment should pay for itself.

I like it.  Any thoughts?


Best Law Firms for Working Mothers

Working mothers still struggle with promotion and partnership issues according to a new survey conducted by Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers.  While the survey was intended to show how many large law firms are "tolerant" of working mothers, the fact that a survey needed needed to be conducted in the first place seems to indicate that being a working mother is still and may always be, an issue for success in the workplace. 

The survey was given to major law firms throughout the country and seems to indicate that there are a number of large law firms that do not penalize women who are on a Working Mother track.  Apparently, the magazine and the temporary contract attorney agency does not recognize that large firms are only 10% of the law firm population.  The balance includes mid-size and small firms, government agencies and in-house legal departments.  Not everyone seeks to work at a large law firm and bill 2300 hours per year.

I'd be interested in knowing if these law firms are as "tolerant" with paralegals as there is no partnership in the offering and for many, no move up the corporate ladder.  Any feedback out there?