Why Paralegals in Traditional Law Firms Won't Stand a Chance in Hell

Will the traditional law firm survive? If " traditional" encompasses the status quo -- incentives that measure and reward billable hours, a pyramid structure where large numbers of associates are hired, weeded out and then promoted to the partnership by doing really good work and putting in excessive hours, where client matters are each approached in a bespoke manner -- the answer to the title question is "no." Read more →

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U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Paralegal Fees Case

Paralegal fees are once again up for discussion in the U.S. Supreme Court with the Court's Nov. 12 decision to hear the Richlin v. Chertoff case. This is an important case for law firms and paralegals in promoting the further utilization of paralegals. The issue before the Supreme Court in the Richlin case is pretty straightforward: Under the Equal Access to Justice Act, can a prevailing party be awarded fees for paralegal services at the market rate for such services or should such reimbursement be limited to the actual cost incurred by the attorney? After prevailing on the merits, Richlin... Read more →

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"Commentary: A Career Not Measured in Billable Hours"

Author Debra Bruno (Special Reports Editor at Legal Times), ponders some interesting questions in this Law.com article: "I grew up the child of teachers. Besides learning the obvious lack-of-privacy lessons ('Does your father know you left the house in that outfit?' my high school history teacher once muttered to me), I also internalized the idea that in the working world, people get home every day at 4 p.m. and have summers off. To this day, it feels to me as if spending a beautiful summer afternoon sitting in an air-conditioned office goes against the natural order. "I'm getting a sense... Read more →

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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... Read more →

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"Firms Predict More Work, Less Equity"

What does this news mean for paralegals? I'm guessing higher required billable hours & maybe higher salaries too: "Although law firm leaders at a recent conference publicly pooh-poohed predictions that industry profitability would stumble, in a new survey they say increasing expenses will cut into their bottom line this year. "Lawyers can expect to be pushed for more billable hours while facing a harder struggle to make equity partner. And the ranks of associates and nonequity partners will rise much faster than any increase in equity slots, law firm leaders said. "The first managing partner confidence index [be sure to... Read more →

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"Time and Billing: Be Trigger-Happy"

I love how "trigger" reminders work: "Does your current time and billing software help you manage your law firm's workflow? Does it identify key 'events' that trigger paperwork? If not, it may be time to upgrade. [snip] "By simply defining certain conditions, or rules that must be met -- such as the payment of an invoice, the generation of a specific type of document or even billable time that does not meet minimum amounts -- event software integrates with your time and billing program. [snip] "Once rules are established and thresholds are set, these systems are designed to be self-maintaining... Read more →

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"11 Time Management Tips"

Yes, the challenge of smart "time management"! How do you control work time? "Do you feel the need to be more organized and/or more productive? Do you spend your day in a frenzy of activity and then wonder why you haven't accomplished much? "Time management skills are especially important for small business people [& paralegals!], who often find themselves performing many different jobs during the course of a single day. These time management tips will help you increase your productivity and stay cool and collected. [snip] 2) Find out where you're wasting time. "Many of us are prey to time-wasters... Read more →

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"Compensation Survey Shows Lofty Rewards for Firms"

What do law firms bill their clients? You might be surprised; then again, maybe not: "Miami attorney Eugene Stearns may prove true the old cliche about getting what you pay for. "The plaintiffs attorney is credited with taking a teetering case against ExxonMobil and turning it around to win his clients a $1.1 billion judgment. "After the verdict, Stearns and other firms who worked on the 15-year-old case brought against the oil company by gas station owners battled over what they should be paid. "Stearns asserted his firm was instrumental [PDF link] in winning a case that was bogged down... Read more →

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"Temporary Solution"

Must read this article! "The $16 billion merger of SBC Communications Inc. and AT&T Corp. represented a high-water mark in the legal cattle call known as document production. Some 600 contract attorneys converged in Washington, D.C., to work on the SBC side of the deal, where the telecom giant's antitrust counsel, Crowell & Moring and Arnold & Porter, ran a massive antitrust regulatory review. A few hundred more in Chicago labored for Sidley Austin at AT&T's behest. [snip] "Crowell's use of an army of temps for document review is hardly unique. In an age when law firms spend huge amounts... Read more →

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Time Billing 'The Perfect Crime'?

Must-read post on the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog: "William Ross, a professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Ala., calls it 'the perfect crime.' NYU legal ethics guru Stephen Gillers says there’s a 'general consensus' that the practice is on the upswing. The practice? Law-firm billing fraud, and the WSJ’s Nathan Koppel takes a look [subscription req'd] at the issue through the lens of a series of incidents that allegedly took place in Holland & Knight’s Chicago office. "After Matthew Farmer, a 42-year old junior partner with the firm, suspected that his own hours on a... Read more →

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