Mergers a Threat or Opportunity for Law Firm Nonlawyers?

The 'good, bad, & ugly' of law firm mergers is described quite well in this article:

"For top lawyers at big-name firms, a prestigious megamerger can look like the beginning of happily ever after.

"But for professional staff like paralegals, legal secretaries, administrators and law librarians, merger news may prompt a serious case of wedding-night jitters. Largely left out of the loop and fearful of having changes imposed, nonlawyers often view mergers as a threat rather than an opportunity.

"'There's fear of chaos, fear of losing their jobs, fear of dramatic changes that make their jobs no longer desirable,' says Andrea Hunolt, branch director at the Robert Half Legal staffing company's San Francisco office.

"'Mergers are not a good thing for support staff,' adds Hunolt, 'at least in the short run. I know a lot of people who have stuck through it and found great success, but they have to be prepared for a period of uncertainty and the change with that. It's scary.'"


"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 and will run transparently to automatically trigger notification alerts. Common events which can act as triggers in event-driven software include new clients, cash receipts over or under limits, vendor payments, new matters, unbilled time and/or cost write-offs, missing time, check processing, aged open vouchers, delinquent accounts receivable and hours-worked budgets on matters."

And here's a handy list of vendors from the article:

Cronacle, Redwood Software Inc., www.redwood.com.
Elite Extend, and Elite 3E Business Monitoring, Thomson Elite, www.elite.com.
Expert Notifications, Aderant, www.aderant.com.
EDA Suite, Oracle Corp., www.oracle.com.
MyJuris, Juris Inc., www.juris.net.
Omega Legal, Omega Legal Systems Inc., www.omegalegal.com.
Rainmaker Platinum Suite, Rainmaker Software Inc., www.rainmakerlegal.com.
RollCall and DTE, Advanced Productivity Software Inc., www.aps-soft.com.
TABS3, Software Technology, Inc., www.tabs3.com.


Law firm "American as apple pie"

As much as I like pie (really, who doesn't?), I did not realize there was an actual day to celebrate pies:

"FREDERICK -- Attorneys, law clerks and paralegals flowed in and out of Conklyn & Associates' law office Tuesday with little mention of court cases or settlements.

"A cheerier goal brought them to the West Patrick Street family law practice -- a pie party.

"For the past six years, Beth Conklyn and her staff have been carting in pies on Jan. 23 to celebrate National Pie Day.

[snip]

"Pie is doing its part in Frederick by providing legal professionals a chance to meet under more pleasant circumstances, Conklyn said.

"They come in with a smile and leave with a smile on pie day,' paralegal Mimi Bellanti said."

Oh, don't forget Great American Pie Month in February!


"Check Your Lawyer's Credentials"

This story about a paralegal masquerading as a lawyer gets even more snarky:

[snip]

"In a 2005 litigation case, [Brian T.] Valery told a court in Stamford, Connecticut that he was a lawyer in good standing. Last week, Connecticut authorities arrested him, and he faces two month for the impersonating-a-lawyer charge and up to five years for perjury (the claim of being a lawyer in good standing).

"What's great is how clients explain Valery's 'unimpressive' skills; one Valery client told the NY Times, 'All first- and second-year attorneys are pretty terrible.'"


"Corporations Decry Official's Detainee Screed"

So far, corporations aren't following Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Stimson's suggestion that they boycott firms representing Guantanamo detainees:

"It’s a rare day when law firms get called out for their pro bono work.

"But that’s exactly what happened when Pentagon official Charles “Cully” Stimson rattled off a list of firms representing Guantánamo Bay detainees — such as Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw; Jenner & Block; WilmerHale; and Covington & Burling — predicting that businesses would shun their outside counsel for making the companies foot terrorists’ legal bills.

“'I think, quite honestly, when corporate CEOs see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEOs are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms. And I think that is going to have major play in the next few weeks. And we want to watch that play out,' said Stimson in an interview with Federal News Radio Jan. 11.

"And it has played out, but not in quite the way Stimson expected. Instead of Fortune 500 companies such as Microsoft, DaimlerChrysler, and Pfizer dumping their outside counsel in a fit of political protest, firms have largely gotten support from corporate America and from within their partnership ranks."

You can find a list of firms & detainees represented in this same article. Scroll down to table titled "For Detainees, a Load of Legal Firepower." a Load of Legal Firepower


"LAWYERS ARE FROM MARS, PARALEGALS ARE FROM VENUS"

Hmm, pretty right-on discussion from law firm coach Cheryl J. Leone:

"Having learned one thing during my 42 years of law office management simply is this: Lawyers and paralegals don't talk the same language and they don't think the same way. They live on different planets, breath different air, and they even have different customs. Yet, if there is ever a time and a place and a need for both people to be on the same page, it is with the relationship and communication skills that exist between lawyers and paralegals.

[snip]

"Lawyers tend to under-estimate the project, tend to assume that the paralegal understands what needs to be done, doesn't allow time for questions, doesn't give information, and then when the project is not delivered as the lawyer thought tends to judge the paralegal on lack of performance. It all started with the message.

[snip]

HOW TO CHANGE A NON-WORKING RELATIONSHIP

"You might start by asking your lawyer to read this article. At the very least it tells the lawyer you want a new tomorrow - a good professional working relationship. There are always exceptions to the rule but I tend to find that lawyers want to be good leaders, good employers, and want to improve the process so they become efficient. Paralegals need to stop being enablers and be leaders with their lawyers."


"Manager Minute": How to Manage a Law Firm

The legal administrator profiled in this article says his "job is to bridge communications between employees":

"...[A]s legal administrator for the Fort Lauderdale bankruptcy law firm of Rice Pugatch Robinson & Schiller PA, Jimmy Allen also 'wears a lot of hats in this job,' he said. He is responsible for overseeing payroll, benefits, scheduling, vendors and other day-to-day duties for the firm, while serving as liaison between staff, associates and lawyers.

"Allen joined Rice Pugatch in 2002 as a paralegal and credits his training in the Air Force for his focus and organizational skills. 'It can be a very high-stress job,' said Allen, 40, who earned a law degree from St. Thomas University in Miami. One effective way to handle all the firm's activities, he said, is to be an active listener and make sure the right person is in the right job.

[snip]

"Management lesson learned: Nothing runs on autopilot. No matter how big or how small the project, follow up without micromanaging."


"Law firm employees walk to lunch, get fit"

Sounds like a very good idea to me. Does your firm have a similar program?

"If a Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone PLC employee invites you to lunch, it's a good idea to wear comfortable shoes.

[snip]

"This late December walk was one of the monthly 'mystery walks' taken by co-workers at the firm. Those who take the extended stroll get to eat on the company dime when they arrive at the destination.

"These calorie-burning outings allow attorneys, paralegals and support staff to bond and socialize, often fostering discussions that likely wouldn't occur in the office.

"The firm enlisted the help of Ken Holtyn, a nationally recognized corporate fitness expert, to help employees shape up."


Five Law Firms Make 'Best Companies' List

No, really, it's true!

"Five law firms made Fortune magazine's list this year of the best 100 employers to work for -- one less than last year.

"Alston & Bird, Arnold & Porter, Nixon Peabody, Perkins Coie and Bingham McCutchen held their ground. But Morrison & Foerster, the only California-based firm to make the 2006 list, dropped off the chart.

"'It's a brisk competition,' said Keith Wetmore, MoFo's chairman. 'We find engaging in the competition improves our workplace policies because we can see where we don't rate as well.'"


"Five IT Blind Spots That Shut Lawyers Out"

Oh boy, doesn't this sound like an all-too-familiar story?

"In a world where even the most senior of partners can now be found typing away on a laptop, an observer could mistakenly believe that personal computing is as straightforward as using the average toaster. Unfortunately for attorneys, computer software is mostly designed or implemented by computer people for computer people and not for legal professionals.

"What exacerbates the problem: IT's steadfast adherence to flawed beliefs we'll call 'The Five Grand Assumptions.' In order to transform your technology department from good to great, eliminate these five blind spots and open up the door to a better relationship with your users."

Author Tom Ranalli is technology services manager at the Los Angeles office of Kirkland & Ellis. BTW, the firm curently has some legal assistant openings.