Over the last two weeks, we have heard from an In-House Insider, an opinionated source of insight into Biglaw-client relations — see here, here, and below. As with the two prior installments, the only changes I made to the Insider’s words were those done to protect their identity, and Insider was given the opportunity to revise their points once I added the questions and commentary. Again, I thank Insider for the candid observations and thoughtful opinions on these core issues.
AP: How firms are viewed from a value perspective is often very difficult to gauge from the outside. What criteria do you use to determine if a firm is delivering services to your company appropriately from a billing perspective?
* Everybody is entitled to a competent defense. It’ll make justice possible. I’m just so thankful I don’t have to defend people like this. [CNN International]
* In other terrible rape news, make no mistake, we need more people prosecuting rapists than we need defending the few falsely accused. [Slate]
* More news that fewer people are taking the LSAT. Somebody better tell Dean Lawrence Mitchell that it’s time to fire off another op-ed. Maybe he can tell people that getting a Case Western J.D. comes with a chance to enter a drawing to attempt a half-court shot for a million bucks. [Faculty Lounge]
* If you want to put a billable hours requirement on your bonuses, things like this are bound to happen. [The Volokh Conspiracy]
* Law graduate makes fun of “sloppy” recruiters. I hope his loan officer doesn’t end up making fun of a sloppy payment schedule. [Legal Cheek]
Now that bonuses, year-end collections, and holiday parties are behind us, it is helpful to remind ourselves (early on in the new year) that it is (paying) clients that make everything possible for Biglaw firms. A few months ago, I was the fortunate recipient of some illuminating correspondence from a Biglaw refugee turned in-house counsel, offering a “customer’s” take on what is both right and wrong with the “current law firm service delivery model.” Because I truly believe in the importance of this column offering an anonymous outlet for informed discussion of Biglaw-related topics (see my posts detailing my conversations with OldSchoolPartner and Jeffrey Lowe), I offered to make my correspondent the resident In-House Insider.
Agreement was not long in coming, together with yet more astute observations about Biglaw. For our initial “discussion,” I have (similarly to how I handled the Lowe interview) added questions and some brief commentary to our Insider’s points, and share this written interview with you. The only changes I made to the Insider’s words were related to their identity, and the Insider was given the opportunity to revise their responses once I added the questions and commentary. I hope we can continue to benefit from this In-House Insider’s perspective in the future. For now, I definitely appreciate when I get contacted by Biglaw-related personalities looking to discuss the issues raised in my column, and share their thoughts with this audience. Without further ado….
* Following yesterday’s hearing, Kleiner Perkins may be able to get a second bite at the proverbial apple after a judge tentatively denied the firm’s bid to arbitrate Ellen Pao’s gender discrimination suit. [The Recorder; Bits / New York Times]
* Ogletree Deakins has allegedly got 99 299 problems, and a b*tch ain’t one billing errors are all of ‘em. Arizona’s Maricopa County wants a refund, and it plans to debar the firm from additional work for the next three years. [ABA Journal]
* Not everything’s bigger in Texas: attorneys for Lance Armstrong have refiled a shorter version of his lawsuit against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency after suffering a brutal benchslap at the hands of Judge Sam Sparks. [Los Angeles Times]
* Screw your ban on non-lawyer investors, we’ll expand anyway! Jacoby & Meyers merged with Chicago’s Macey Bankruptcy Law to create a 300-attorney adventure in awful lawyer advertising. [National Law Journal]
* “I don’t care what the law says, you’re getting a summons.” Sorry, officer, but you don’t mess with a Brooklyn Law student’s booze, because he’ll challenge New York’s open-container law. [City Room / New York Times]
Last week, we asked our associate readers to tell us how their billable hours were shaping up in 2012 so far. The results are in, and partners and associates alike may be glad to learn that things seem pretty normal.
It’s June already. Can you believe it? Time sure flies when your wife is pregnant and you have just a few more months to completely reorganize your life into something resembling “serviceable.”
As we approach the midway point of the year, we figure it is a good time to check in on how our readers’ billable hours are looking. Given how low the Cravath bonuses were, and the fact that most firms decided to not pay spring bonuses, one would expect that associates in Biglaw have responded by working as little as possible. Nothing says “you did not share the wealth” like a few months of bare-minimum billing!
I’m joking, of course: associates couldn’t band together to organize a work slowdown any more than a herd of stray cats could go wildebeest hunting. In fact, one of the reasons firms can low-ball bonuses with impunity is because associates are more afraid about losing their jobs to the masses than they are about competing for the highest compensation.
We expect associates are still busting their tails in 2012. But let’s share some horror stories, and take a poll to confirm those suspicions…
Over the last few years, the legal market has changed dramatically. We live in a buyer’s market in which the clients hold the upper hand and can demand financial concessions from their attorneys that go beyond lower hourly rates.
This good news for clients might sound like bad news for lawyers. If lawyers can’t charge as much, they likely won’t make as much. But although greater price competition might lower revenue for some firms, it surely presents an opportunity for others. Small law firms often compete with bigger firms on price, and increased client sensitivity to legal fees can be a marketing boon to firms that can undercut their competition (with the familiar caveat, of course, that the smaller firm must be able to provide the resources and quality required by the particular matter).
The changing market invites, if not demands, lawyers to offer concessions for clients. Happily, many of the concessions have relatively little impact on the firm’s bottom line, but can garner significant goodwill with clients. For example….
Years ago, I handled a pro bono case for a client unable to afford legal services. (I actually handled a fair number of pro bono cases, but I’m choosing to describe just one here.) The client was a very nice guy, and he desperately needed legal services. But he had no idea how to use a lawyer cost-effectively and, because he wasn’t paying for my services, he had no incentive to restrain himself. The guy called incessantly, asked endless questions, and was always trying to schedule meetings with me. I mentioned the situation to one of my senior colleagues, and the colleague’s reaction was immediate: “What that client needs is a bill.”
During the decades when I served as outside counsel representing clients, I noticed that some of my clients permitted me to do their work efficiently and others affirmatively obstructed that effort. Now that I’m an in-house lawyer, I’m thinking about the other side of that coin: What should I, in my role as client, do to permit outside counsel to represent me efficiently?
Last week, we asked you to report on how many hours you were on track to bill in 2011. Well, the results are in, and damn, people out there in Biglaw have been working like dogs.
I hope there is a big bonus payoff for all the hours people have been billing.
I also hope that people are still finding time to live their life. One commenter disturbingly said, “I’m currently at 2650 for the year. I was hoping to get to 3000 by year-end, although it will be a stretch.”
I think that this commenter is bragging that he’s on pace to kill himself. But all around Biglaw, people are putting in time…
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