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Decorative Scales of Justice in the Courtroom

The recent case of Brown v. Tellermate Holdings Ltd. is noteworthy for its imposition of near-terminal evidentiary sanctions, and order directing counsel and defendant to jointly pay plaintiffs’ cost of bringing motions to compel. But its important lesson is that counsel must stay abreast of continuing changes in information technologies, and critically assess client information about electronically stored information if they are to meet their duties to courts and clients.

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I spent ten hours in a deposition on yesterday in the office of a large law firm in Los Angeles. Just looking around the room, I noticed two things: 1) they were better dressed than we were, and 2) our computers were so much better than theirs. I stepped out into the hallway and noticed that a lot of their hardware was stuff that a public school would auction off. It reminded me of the first few years of my legal career when I worked in a large law firm. We had all the amenities you could want. All of our legal pads were branded with our firm’s logo, and we wrote on them with pens that had our firm’s logo branded on them. I ate lunch every day in our break room that looked over the ocean. But, when lunch was over, I would go back to my desk and work on Office ’97 on my bulky CRT monitor. This is because large law firms are very big, slow-moving beasts, especially when it comes to technology.

My fellow columnist Nicole Black wrote an article last week about how a small firm is using technology to keep up with Biglaw firms. This is not a fantasy. When I was working at the aforementioned large law firm, my boss told me a story about a solo practitioner. By way of background, we represented a Fortune 500 company, had an army of Ivy League attorneys, and almost unlimited resources. Despite all that, this solo practitioner was able to run circles around us. He was better organized and was able to do things more efficiently. The case we had against him was before my time, so I had no idea if it was true, but the important thing was that, having seen how the sausage was made there, I knew it was absolutely possible.

Here’s why:

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Trade-ins happen all the time. Texas lawyers trade in their Lexuses (Lexi?) for newer models. Law firm partners trade in their wives for newer models too.

Today’s Biglaw layoff story involves a trade-in of sorts. A prominent law firm restructured its IT department, resulting in double-digit departures. But then the firm turned around and posted some of those positions to a job board.

How many positions, and which law firm?

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Just because a firm is a great place to work doesn’t mean people get to work there forever. Our most recent law firm layoff story involved a firm that has been recognized by Fortune magazine and Crain’s New York Business as a top workplace.

Today’s Biglaw layoff story involves a firm that’s even more impressive. This firm has been recognized as a great place to work by Fortune, Crain’s, and Above the Law. In fact, it topped our list of the 12 top rated firms for 2013.

Which wonderful law firm is parting with some people, and why?

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Of all the different Biglaw constituencies, legal secretaries have probably suffered the most in terms of recent layoffs. In this technological age, lawyers do their own typing, don’t give dictation as much, and can use voice-recognition software when they do. Shorthand isn’t as valuable a skill as it used to be.

So what should a legal secretary facing a voluntary buyout or an involuntary layoff do with himself? Assuming he’s not ready to take the money and run (or retire), he should find new employment. And that might require obtaining new skills, ones that are in greater demand in 2013.

Some might tell a displaced legal secretary, “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Technology.” If technology taketh away jobs, it can also giveth, right?

Well, not so fast. Even techie types are getting laid off, as the latest layoff news demonstrates….

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One Liberty Plaza: a tower of dark secrets?

It’s official: Cleary Gottlieb is no longer boring. The elite and esteemed firm is now exciting as well.

In the past few months, Cleary has generated enough drama to fuel a law firm soap opera — think “All My Associates” or “The Biglaw and the Beautiful” (on second thought, save the latter title for Davis Polk). Cleary has witnessed a mysterious partner departure, support staff vanishing into the ether, and a summer associate dismissed due to his disturbing past.

Yesterday, the drama at One Liberty Plaza continued. A terminated employee rose from the cyber-grave to haunt the living — before he was electronically exorcised by the powers-that-be….

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I work in the IT department of a law firm and I set up conference rooms for meetings. A few of the rooms I set up are right across the street from a brand new apartment building that’s almost 50 stories tall. Most of the time you can’t see into people’s living rooms because the glass is reflective. But between 8 and 9 a.m., because of the angle of the sun, you can see right into people living rooms and bedrooms. One woman gets up around 8:30 a.m. and likes to strut around her bedroom naked.

“Accidental Peeping Tom,” who recently sought the counsel of Slate’s Dear Prudence advice column. Check out his query, and her response, over here.

(If you have an idea about which law firm this person works at, feel free to drop us a line. We might want to schedule some morning meetings there….)