Study: Companies Want Smaller Firms, But Have Trouble Finding Them

Large companies increasingly want to work with smaller, more innovative law firms but have trouble finding them due to over-reliance on personal connections, according to a new survey reported by Courthouse News Service.

“Along with an increasing preference for smaller firms, the survey revealed the levels of dissatisfaction rated three times higher with bigger firms—19 percent as opposed to 6 percent,” writes Matthew Renda.

Renda quotes Joel Hyatt, CEO and co-founder of Globality, the company that commissioned the study:

“It’s clear clients are increasingly unhappy with larger legal providers. They’re expensive, aren’t as innovative, and don’t provide the same level of customer service smaller firms can offer.”

Read the CNS article.



Houston Firm is Now Wright Close & Barger With New Name Partner

Jessica Barger

Appellate and civil litigation law firm Wright & Close LLP has changed its name to Wright Close & Barger LLP, adding the name of partner Jessica Zavadil Barger along with the names of firm founders Tom Wright and Howard Close.

“We are very happy to recognize Jessica’s legal talents and business acumen through this name change,” said Wright. “She has been an outstanding leader for this firm and an outstanding fighter for her clients. Renaming the firm to include her is well-deserved.”

Barger has experience handling both trial and appellate cases, handling a variety of commercial disputes including insurance defense and coverage matters, product liability, premises liability and personal injury defense. She is Board Certified in Civil Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

Read the article.



Biglaw Firm Hit With $300 Million Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

Above the Law reports that Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart nonequity shareholder Dawn Knepper has hit her employer with a $300 million purported class-action suit alleging gender discrimination and unequal pay.

In her complaint, Knepper alleges: “Through formal policies and widespread practices, [Ogletree’s] male leadership interferes with, limits, or prevents female shareholders from receiving the appropriate credit for the business they bring to the firm and their hard work in running complex and demanding cases day-to-day.”

Kathryn Rubino writes that the complaint also alleges that on average, women shareholders make  to to $110,000 less than their male counterparts. And the complaint notes that while women represent about 58 percent of associates at Ogletree, a mere 32 percent of shareholders are women.

Read the Above the Law article.




Legal Blogging for Business Development

Legal blogs are a relatively low-cost way for lawyers to promote their expertise and demonstrate their knowledge to clients, prospective clients and referral sources, points out Amy Boardman Hunt of Muse Communications.

“Blogging is also an excellent way for solos and small firm lawyers with niche practices to spur business development and raise their profile in a competitive marketplace,” she writes on her firm’s blog.

She warns against posting content that amounts to thinly veiled self-promotion: “Not only will smart readers see through this ruse, most readers will quickly exit such a page. That kind of ‘bouncing’ isn’t good for your search engine optimization.”

In her post, she walks the reader through the nitty-gritty of writing compelling content that ranks high in online search results.

Read the article.




Trump’s Effort to Stop Publication of Scathing Book is a Break in Precedent

Legal experts and historians said the decision by President Trump to threaten “imminent” legal action against a publishing house, a journalist and a former aide represented a remarkable break with recent precedent and could have a chilling effect on free-speech rights, according to Slate.

The threats did not appear to work, at least as far as the scathing book by Michael Wolff. His publisher announced Thursday that publication had been moved forward four days to Friday because of what they described as “unprecedented demand.”


“Though several presidents — including Jimmy Carter and Theodore Roosevelt — have sued for libel after leaving office, it is uncommon and potentially damaging for a current occupant of the Oval Office to try to use the powers of the presidency to take on personal and political rivals, Brinkley said.”

Read the Slate article.




Citi Analysts Predict Law Firm Consolidation in 2018

Handshake -deal-merger - acquisition - M&AIn a 2018 client advisory released in conjunction with Hildebrandt Consulting, Citi analysts said they expect modest growth in law firm revenues and profits-per-equity partner, reports Bloomberg Big Law Business.

Reporter Stephanie Russell-Kraft writes that the analysts expect high variability in individual firm performance to continue to drive consolidation.

“In 2017, Citi analysts found that law firm revenue was driven primarily by rate growth rather than a growth in demand for services,” Russell-Kraft writes. “And yet, despite this slight decline in demand, firms added to their headcount at a 1.7 percent pace, driving lawyer productivity down 0.6 percent.”

Read the Bloomberg article.



Use Your Calendar for Legal Marketing Success in 2018

With a new year starting soon, now is a good time to consider the legal marketing opportunities through 2018, advises Bruce Vincent of Muse Communications.

“These upcoming events represent excellent fodder for blog posts, news releases, client alerts, media pitches and other methods to highlight your insights, ability and successful work for clients,” he explains in a post on his agency’s website.

The article outlines marketing opportunities keyed to calendar events throughout the year, starting with January, for “tax lawyers who can spotlight new regulations in their clients’ industries, to sports lawyers who know the compensation issues for college and professional athletes, to family law attorneys whose clients may face new child support rules.”

Other opportunities to publicize a lawyer’s expertise could include weather events in the spring, completion of the Supreme Court’s term, summer activities that result in litigation, the start of school in August, new sports seasons, legislative activities, and more.

Read the article.



Minorities are Still Scarce Among Law Firm Partners and General Counsel

Diversity - employmentMinority lawyers now make up 16 percent of law firms — a record high — but remain scarce at the top, where only 9 percent of law partners are people of color, according to new data collected by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association.

Put another way, The Washington Post reports, nearly half of their white counterparts make partner, while the vast majority of minorities remain associates.

Reporter Tracy Jan writes that only 11 percent of general counsel at Fortune 500 companies are black, Hispanic, Asian or Native American even though minorities make up a third of the legal profession as a whole.

Read the Post article.



To Help Bridge Gender Gap, Women Lawyers Should Get Comfy with Self-Promotion

A recent report by the Dallas Women Lawyers Association, titled Bridging the Gap: Practical Resources and Suggestions for Promoting and Retaining Female Attorneys in the Legal Profession, is a concise rundown of the challenges women lawyers face and how to address them, according to Amy Boardman Hunt of Muse Communications.

She says the report illustrates two important points:

1) the legal profession has a long way to go to reach anything close to gender parity, and;

2) it is incumbent on women lawyers to help close the gap, both by advocating for systemic changes in the profession and by engaging in the kind of strategic self-promotion that can position them to make those changes happen.

Read the article.




Law Department Operations Survey Report & Webinar

For 10 years, Blickstein Group, in cooperation with Consilio, has surveyed hundreds of law departments solely on the operations function to provide benchmarks that are useful to all law departments.

The written survey report is available now and may be downloaded at no charge.

On December 14, at 1 p.m. Eastern time / 10 a.m. Pacific, Blickstein will host a webinar to provide exclusive LIVE analysis of survey results by five industry leaders.

Those leaders are Brad Blickstein; David Cambria, Global Director of Operations – Law, Compliance and Government Relations at Archer Daniels Midland Co.; Joe Polizzotto, Senior Vice President, Strategy & Client Services at QuisLex; Kristin Calve, Publisher of Metropolitan Corporate Counsel; and Robin Snasdell, Managing Director at Consilio.

They will benchmark topics such as:

  • The role of Legal Ops
  • Change management
  • Alternative fee arrangements
  • Technology and tools
  • Metrics and reporting

Download a copy of the report.

Register for the webinar.



Law Firm Partners’ Battle: ‘Burn the Place to the Ground’

The scorched earth legal battle over the Cellino & Barnes law firm has escalated, with one of the partners threatening to “burn the place to the ground,” according to court papers.

The New York Daily News reports that Stephen Barnes argued that his estranged partner Ross Cellino’s effort to dissolve the firm spells “financial suicide” for both of them, according to documents filed last week in a Buffalo court.

The move, Barnes says in papers, would kill one of the most successful personal injury firms in the country,” writes reporter Stephen Rex Brown. “The Buffalo-based firm will earn Cellino and Barnes $12 million each in 2017 alone, papers say.”

Read the NY Daily News article.




Biglaw Firm Conducting Layoffs Among Partners, Counsel

Husch Blackwell has announced the firm is conducting layoffs among partners and counsel, reports Above the Law and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

No associates will be impacted by the cuts, sources tell the publications.

Greg Smith, the firm’s CEO, and Maurice Watson, the chairman, issues a statement:

“With retirements and other year-end transitions, approximately 40 attorneys, all partners or counsels, are expected to leave the firm. Such departures are offset, in part, by new attorney hires throughout the year, and our firm had a net increase of 12 attorneys for the 12-month period ending October 31, 2017. Given our firm’s size and scale, these attorney transitions are expected and normal.”

Read the Above the Law article.



Biglaw Firm Throws Partner Under the Bus After Fox News Appearance

Mercedes Colwin, managing partner of Gordon & Rees’s New York office and Fox News analyst, apologized for saying on a broadcast that women who claim to be victims of sexual harassment and assault usually do so for money, but she lost her management role anyway.

Newsweek reports that Colwin apologized on Twitter, saying she hadn’t meant to “trivialize or minimize the impact of sexual harassment on any victims. … I did not mean to imply, nor do I believe, that the victims of sexual assault within society are ‘very few and far between.”

Above the Law quoted from the firm’s statement: “The partner in question has voluntarily stepped down from all management roles within the firm and she is committed to rectifying the hurtful impressions created by her remarks.”

The firm’s statement also says:

[T]he organization in no way endorses or agrees with any statements which could even remotely be interpreted as minimizing or trivializing the seriousness and gravity of sexual harassment or similarly predatory behaviors, and we renounce them in the strongest possible terms – in fact, contrary to what may have been inferred from what was said during the telecast, the sad reality is that the number of women who likely have not been exposed to such repugnant conduct over the course of their personal or professional lives is, unfortunately, few and far between.

Read the Newsweek article.



Law Firms Jacking Up Rates, Demand Flat, Citi Survey Finds

Bloomberg Law reports that law firm performance dropped off in the third quarter, as demand softened and collections started to lengthen, according to a new report by the Citi Private Bank Law Firm Group.

The survey of 183 law firms found that revenue growth fell to 3.6 percent through the first three quarters, down from 3.7 percent at this time last year, writes Gabe Friedman. A Citi senior senior advisor said that the growth was driven by increased billing rates, and not demand or other factors, which may not bode well for law firms.

He also said that law firms increased billing rates by an average of four percent. That increase compares to a 3.2 percent rise at this time last year. It is more typical to see a 3 to 3.5 percent increase in billing rates, he said.

Read the Bloomberg article.



Stay Ahead of Best Lawyer Lists This Holiday Season

Bruce Vincent of Muse Communications offers some advice for law firms that want to stand out in the upcoming new compilations of  best-lawyer lists.

The advice is particularly relevant for lawyers and firms in Texas.

First on the list is Best Lawyers in America, which Vincent calls the dean of top attorney lists, having been published for more than 30 years.

He also discusses the process for being included in the Texas Super Lawyers list, the Texas Rising Stars list, and D Magazine‘s Best Lawyers in Dallas.

The article also offers some advice for spreading the word after being honored, and how to stay in compliance with State Bar advertising rules.

Read the article.



Dallas-Based Locke Lord Fined for Ethics Violations, “Acting Without Integrity”

Law firm Locke Lord has received the largest fine ever levied by the profession’s U.K. regulatory body, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, reports The Global Legal Post.

“The firm has to pay £500,000 [$654,632] after accepting four allegations of misconduct, including acting with a lack of integrity, the first time a law firm has admitted to this,” according to the report.

The firm failed to supervise a lawyer involved in transactions showing signs of irregular financial arrangements or investment schemes, the regulatory body alleged.

On its website, the Dallas-based firm says it has offices across the United States, as well as in Hong Kong and London.

Read the Global Legal Post article.



Super Lawyer Boies Entangled in Intrigue Over Weinstein; Times Fires His Firm

Image by David ShankboneThe sexual-assault scandal that brought Harvey Weinstein’s career to an abrupt halt and started a national conversation about the treatment of women has led to scrutiny of tactics used by his former attorney, David Boies, one of America’s most-famous litigators, according to Bloomberg Big Law Business.

Boies hired private detectives who sought to identify accusers and undermine news coverage of their claims. Reporter Erik Larson writes that a primary target was the New York Times, which published an article in which the Hollywood producer was accused of raping an actress. At the same time, Boies’ firm, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, was representing the Times in various legal matters, raising concerns about conflict of interest.

The newspaper fired the firm, and Boies admitted that he participated in the hiring of private investigators who targeted the Times‘ reporters.

Read the Bloomberg article.



Foley Looks to Texas, Mexico Markets with Gardere Merger Talks

Above the Law is reporting that Foley & Lardner is in merger talks with Texas firm Gardere Wynne Sewell.

“When you consider that Gardere just last month took on Bufete Hernández Romo, a Mexico City commercial arbitration and litigation boutique, it seems Foley might be very interested in moving into the hopping Texas and Mexico markets, both areas where the 19-office Foley has no presence today,” writes Joe Patrice.

The reporter points out that Foley has seen a couple of big-ticket merger attempts fail during the past few years.

Read the Above the Law article.



Akerman Once Again Distinguished by Chambers Latin America

Akerman LLP, a top 100 U.S. law firm, has been recognized by Chambers as being among the world’s leading law firms in Latin America, with lawyers handling complex disputes and transactions throughout the region.

The firm’s Cuba practice was again recognized among the six best in the Corporate/Commercial category for law firms based abroad, and among the top 13 law firms worldwide. Akerman was the first U.S. law firm to be recognized in this category starting in 2015. Pedro Freyre, chair of Akerman’s International Practice, and Augusto Maxwell, chair of Akerman’s Cuba Practice, were ranked as leading lawyers in Cuba Corporate/Commercial law.

Akerman’s Cuba Practice achieved the same distinction in the Chambers Global 2017 edition, and Maxwell also was recognized in General Business Law – Cuba. In addition, the Financial Times ranked Akerman among the top 20 most innovative law firms in North America for constructing a groundbreaking legal framework that enables its client Musicabana to launch the largest, most historic music event of its kind in Cuba.

Luis A. Perez, co-chair of Akerman’s Latin America & the Caribbean Practice, was ranked in International Arbitration: Latin America-wide. He was recently recognized in the Chambers Global 2017 edition in Arbitration (International) – Latin America-wide and in International Arbitration – USA (Foreign Expertise, Latin America-wide). Akerman also is ranked nationally in the current edition of U.S. News – Best Lawyers for International Arbitration – Commercial and for International Trade and Finance Law.

Chambers Latin America ranks the world’s leading law firms with practices and lawyers who work across the Latin America and Caribbean region to serve client needs. The listings are based on thousands of in-depth interviews with peers and clients to assess the reputations and experience of business lawyers around the globe.




Alternative Fee Arrangements With Outside Firms Level Off

The portion of Norton Rose Fulbright’s 2017 Litigation Trends Annual Survey that covers alternative fee arrangements presents a puzzling picture that probably reveals the challenges of bringing about changes in the way external counsel are instructed, the firm reports.

Last year, 37 percent of respondents predicted they were going to increase their use of AFAs.

“Those who have used AFAs over the year are almost universally satisfied with the quality of the work they have received,” according to the report. “But, despite this, the use of AFAs (56 percent) and their average spend under an AFA (28 percent) are largely unchanged since last year.

“The inherent unpredictability of many types of dispute could be placing a ceiling on the proportion of matters where both parties feel confident operating under an AFA. However, staged approaches to AFAs can help to overcome this. Predictions for 2018 once again show a rise in AFAs – it will be interesting to see if this materializes or whether inertia persists.”

The survey also looks in detail at other major areas of concern, including regulatory investigations; class actions and environmental disputes.

Read the survey report.


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