"Biglaw Plods Towards Mastodon's Fate"

Goodness, gracious, this is a remarkable discussion about the future of big law firms! Thanks to lawyer, author, & blogger Robert J. Ambrogi for highlighting it in Legal Blog Watch:

"When the general counsel of a major corporation says that the current model of the large law firm is heading towards extinction, ears perk up throughout the legal industry. That is precisely what happened after Sun Microsystems GC Mike Dillon wrote on his blog last week that Biglaw is going The Way of the Mastodon. His thesis is that large law firms exist primarily as aggregators of specialized legal expertise -- by combining multiple legal disciplines, firms can provide 'one stop shopping' for their clients. That used to make sense, in the days before the Internet when it was inefficient for a company to hunt down all the specialized legal talent it might need. But with the Internet, the model is changed, Dillon says."

If you work for a big law firm, I strongly recommend reading the entire post!


"Delegation Day in the Law Firm"

Found this interesting post at the morepartnerincome blog which is sponsored by Juris,Inc.:

"Hildebrandt’s Rees Morrison passes along a simple but clever technique for encouraging attorneys to improve efficiency by finding delegable tasks for non-lawyer members of the team.  The idea comes from the corporate world but should work to everyone’s benefit in a law firm as well. The law department asked its attorneys collectively to identify 20 activities that the lawyers were doing but that could be handed off to paralegals, administrative assistants or other support persons.

"The panelist sharing the law department’s experience noted that staff members were energized by the initiative. What attorneys were happy to hand off was refreshing and challenging to others.  Given the results, the department expanded its goal and accomplishments well beyond the original 20 activities."

Recommend reading this entire post "about how to do things better" by author Tom Collins, founder & former President of Juris, Inc.


"She knows there's more to diversity than lip service"

Don't you just love it when someone puts her money where it counts? This Houston Chronicle story tells about that & more:

"Cathy Lamboley's epiphany changed both her wardrobe and the way some Houston law firms do business.

"Lamboley, who last week announced her upcoming retirement as general counsel of Shell Oil Co., used to wear corporate-issue business suits with those ubiquitous pouffy bow ties.

"Now she leans toward expressive buttery-soft leather jackets adorned with carefully chosen Mexican and Southwestern jewelry.

"Law firms in Houston that wanted lucrative legal work from Shell used to have to agree with the goal of diversity.

"Now they have to prove they are using more and more minority and female lawyers on Shell's multimillion-dollar legal business."

[snip]

"Carolyn Benton Aiman, a lawyer at Shell, said Lamboley's work at the company made it the kind of place she wanted to come to work. Aiman, an African-American, said it mattered to her that she could see people like her who were successful at the company.

"'Cathy changed the landscape here,' Aiman said. 'She opened opportunities, opened eyes and challenged presumptions.'"


"These women can buy or sell you"

Hmm, sounds like it might be a good time for women to explore new careers beyond legal in the corporate world. See this Small Business Times article:

"In recent years, many women have successfully climbed corporate ladders to become chief financial officers, commercial lenders, accountants and senior managers of financial companies.

"For the most part, however, the world of investment banking and mergers and acquisitions has remained a man’s game.

"That may finally be changing.

"In southeastern Wisconsin, a small circle of women who help buy and sell companies in Wisconsin, around the country and internationally is stepping to the forefront."

The "Meet the players" list at the end of the piece includes very interesting bios.


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."


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."


Survey Shows Strong Financial Support for Technology in Legal Budgets

Well, this is good news for legal organizations & tech-oriented paralegals!

"Gone are the days of pleading with law firm partners and in-house counsel about the efficiency and ease that computers bring to a legal practice. The 2007 Survey on Technology Budgeting and Spending [PDF], conducted at LegalTech New York, shows strong sustained support for technology in law firm and legal department budgets. Edge Legal Marketing, a premier provider of marketing and public relations expertise to companies targeting the legal market, today released the results from its 2007 attendee survey conducted at the conclusion of LegalTech New York. This year’s conference was held January 29-31 and attracted 12,000 attendees from New York and around the world, including law firm and corporate attorneys, their support staff, and IT professionals, in addition to hundreds of vendors serving the needs of legal professionals."


"Legal Departments Tell Firms: Get on the Tech Train"

Well, that sure sounds like a smart slap at not-so-tech-savvy firms, huh?

"When Aon Corp. slashed its outside counsel roster from about 400 to 23 law firms in 2005, it quizzed the firms about their tech offerings. 'We asked them about extranets, e-billing and litigation management,' says David Cambria, director of legal operations at the Chicago-based insurance giant.

"But Cambria says that he didn't really care whether firms had all of those products. He had another agenda: 'I wanted to know if [the firms] were playing in the same pool as me,' says Cambria. When they crafted the tech section of their request for proposal, Cambria and his colleagues started from the assumption that all the firms they were interviewing had experienced, capable lawyers. But 'we wanted to take it to a higher level, and the most successful firms were the ones that told us how they'd help us do what we do better, with technology,' he says.

"Aon isn't alone. Law departments, once the hardware and software stepchildren of the legal profession, are steadily, if gradually, adopting more sophisticated ways to aid their work, according to Corporate Counsel's 2007 In-House Tech Survey."

Sound like a big opportunity for techie paralegals to help "geekify" their firms!


"E-Discovery Survival Guide For Corporate Counsel"

Make sure you can do your part to help prevent "death by e-discovery." Here's the complete article by lawyers Jeanine Bermel & Art Smith:

"While no one course of action is appropriate for all corporations, there are some basic steps to prepare for that first e-discovery challenge, none of which guarantee success. On the other hand, failure to recognize the challenges of complying with the e-discovery rules is more likely to lead to disaster.

"Here are a few thoughts on recommended survival tactics to maneuver through the e-discovery minefield.

1. Update and enforce your records management policy.

"Prudence and good corporate management dictate that every business should have a records management policy [PDF]. Such a policy informs employees about the documents they are required to keep as a matter of law or regulation or business necessity. It establishes procedures for the maintenance of records, and equally important, it outlines when records may permissibly be destroyed either because the legal retention period has expired or the business necessity no longer exists."

Authors Art Smith and Jeanine Bermel are members of the Dispute Resolution Practice Group at Husch & Eppenberger in St. Louis and regularly advise their corporate clients on issues relating to electronic discovery.


"Classify paralegals as professionals, not administrative staff"

So, is this a welcome statement from Altman Weil & the Law Department Management blog? I think so!

"Classify paralegals as professionals, not administrative staff, so you can pay for appropriate quality

"A good point made by a consultant, James Wilber of Altman Weil, appears in InsideCounsel, Feb. 2007 at 54. Wilber has observed that 'often corporations classify paralegals as administrative staff, with salaries too low to attract highly trained professionals.' He makes the logical recommendation: redesign the salary structure so that paralegal positions – at least senior level paralegals – are in the higher salary band of professionals. Even a few thousand dollars a year more makes a big difference in the quality of paralegal you can then attract." [Emphasis added.]