Monthly Archives: December 2008

Friday Fun: Setting the Record Straight

It seems that most of us have been operating under the assumption that we know the names of Santa’s reindeer. However, we would be wrong! According to The Donder Home Page, the name Donner actually appeared in 1939, and was not the name used in the original 1823 poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore.

Now we know…and we can lord it over friends and relatives at upcoming holiday gatherings.

Have a wonderful and safe holiday season!

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‘Alternative’ Billing? How About Information Resources ‘Alternatives’

There has been much talk lately about ‘alternative’ client billing structures. How about looking at some alternatives that will help the firm save money?

Cost Recovery
Information costs have typically been passed on to clients in three ways: retail charges, allocation and discount. All of these methods have had some success in the past, but will they work in the future? In this economy, law firms have to think outside of the box.

Information Resources
The Internet has leveled the playing field and created information alternatives that have grown in scope and functionality. The majority of legal research is conducted in primary sources; information that is created by courts, legislatures and agencies. This is government information that is free to the public.

Traditionally, publishers have taken this raw information and have added value in the form of indices, linking, annotations, etc., but at what price? What is the cost/value ratio to your firm for this content? Should you be comparing lower-cost alternatives for basic legal research?

Legal Research Skills = Cost Savings
Highly trained, confident associates are more cost effective and efficient when conducting legal research. A good legal researcher will need fewer bells and whistles to produce a superior work product.

Why not consider investing in an education program for your people, rather than sending all of your money to a vendor?

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Free Court Records?

Great article in Wired magazine about Carl Malamud’s latest project…posting court records from Pacer on his site. It will be very interesting to see who, if anyone, takes up the challenge of creating a better, free court records site.

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Vendor News and New Resources

Thomon Reuters

Reed Elsevier

Others

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LSAT and GMAT Registrations Are Up

It appears that law schools and business schools have nothing to worry about, and may actually see a silver-lining in the economic cloud. Registrations for the LSAT are up 6.2% and GMAT registrations are up 10.4%. For more information click here.

In the long run, law firms will also benefit. The biggest contributor to current high associate salaries, was the war for talent caused by flat law school admissions. Will that continue to be the case? It doesn’t look like it. Combine increased law school enrollments with lay-offs, and firms will be able to pick and choose who they hire and at what price.

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Doctors Trained Like Lawyers?

Does that question send chills down your spine? At a recent symposium on legal education, Professor David Chavkin of the University of Washington School of Law, put it this way:

“If the goal of medical school were to teach students not how to be doctors, but how to think like doctors, would you want to be a graduate’s first patient?”

Practical legal education has been a topic of discussion for at least the last 20 years, but the noise seems to be growing louder and louder. In today’s world of increased competition, the need to hit the ground running and be immediately productive, is extremely high. Those new lawyers who were exposed to the actual practice of law, are bound to be more successful than their counterparts.

While law schools continue to add more clinics and practice-based classes, I would argue that it is incumbent upon law firms to implement comprehensive training programs that address the needs of new lawyers, including legal research and writing. Surveys show that new lawyers will spend 80% of their time in the first three years on legal research and writing. If that is true, then sharpening those skills is even more important than almost anything else.

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Friday Fun

Are you a geek? Find out by taking The 50 Skills Every Geek Should Have test. I guess I’m not a geek, I only scored a 1 (#16 abstain from buying extend warranties). Oh well…I’m off to start building my fighting robot (#38)…

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Vendor News & New Resources

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AMLAW 2008 Law Firm Leaders Survey: The Results are In!

The results of the 2008 survey were published yesterday, and there are some surprises given what’s been in the news. First, 38% responded that they are “optimistic” about 2009. Second, 72% expect their firm headcount to increase over the next year. And third, 58% expect their 2009 first-year associate class to be the same as 2008 or larger.

However it wasn’t all good news, with associate retention still an issue.

How much of a problem is associate retention for your firm?
A major problem 7%
A minor problem 46%
Not a problem 46%

Additionally, most clients are showing continued cost-sensitivity to law firm billings.

What changes are you currently seeing in client behavior regarding billing?
More clients are requesting discounts 75%
Clients are paying bills later 65%
Clients are requesting deeper discounts 51%
Other 8%

Multiple responses were allowed.

There have been so many changes to the practice of law over the past five years, with the ubiquitous nature of the Internet being one of the most important. It looks like these changes could have a major impact on law firms in 2009.

Some high-profile general counsel have suggested that due to the advent of new technology and increased commoditization of legal services, many, if not most, Am Law 200 firms will have to change their business and billing practices. Do you agree?
Yes 69%
No 31%

The full results can be found here, and the article here.

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Generation “Watch Out”

I found a link to this intriguing article from Ad Week on the (non)billable hour blog. Although the article is focusing on graduates in the marketing field, the author’s observations apply to 20-somethings generally. We’ve been hearing about this generation for the past few years, but have law firms adapted? Are we ready for this generation and the next?  As Matt Homann points out on his blog…”love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re not just your children, they’re your future clients, employees and partners.”

Here are some interesting quotes from the article:

How they live has everything to do with how they work. They time shift. Favorite shows happen online on-demand. News is 24/7. There’s not much use for e-mail. Instead, they’re YouTubing, Stumbling, Digging, Twittering, blogging, updating. They’re Loopted and LinkedIn. Caffeine drives the day and night. In this world, wristwatches and alarm clocks are as necessary as rabbit ears. They grew up IMing, and the cell phone rules. Area-code identity is mobile but long lasting — a virtual network.

All this makes them, at their best, unbelievably creative and productive. On the other hand, they also think they have all the answers. Morley Safer wrote recently of this generation’s entitlement issues: They’ve grown up with everyone as winners, with inspired birthday parties and planned events, with middle-class privilege and opportunities at every camp, academy and take-your-kid-to-work experience. They expect careers, not jobs.

Buckle up. This group does not look or work the same as generations past.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.

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