Impact of the Trump Administration’s Decision to Terminate DACA

On September 5, 2017, Elaine Duke, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), issued a memorandum rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program. The DACA program, instituted in 2012 under the Obama administration, defers deportation and provides work authorization for individuals who were brought to the United States as children and who pass criminal and national security background checks. The DACA program was designed to assist individuals who were raised in the United States but who do not possess lawful status in the United States. These individuals are often referred to as “Dreamers.”

Citing a recent 4-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which in effect allowed a lower court injunction of a program providing similar relief for undocumented parents of U.S. citizens to stand, the Trump Administration determined that the DACA program should end on March 5, 2018. Effectively, this provides Congress with six months to provide a legislative solution for the nearly 800,000 individuals impacted by the DACA program rescission.

For individuals eligible or currently enrolled in the DACA program, this will have the following impact:

  • Currently valid DACA benefits, including Employment Authorization Documents (“EAD”s) and Advance Parole documents (I-131 applications, authorizing beneficiaries of DACA to travel) will remain valid until their expiration. These documents remain subject to termination or revocation under the existing DACA program rules.
  • No new DACA applications (I-821D applications) will be accepted as of September 6, 2017.
  • Currently pending initial DACA applications and extensions will be adjudicated.
  • USCIS will not accept any new advance parole applications where the basis of that application is an approved I-821D.
  • Currently pending advance parole applications will be administratively closed, and I-131 filing fees will be refunded.
  • Individuals whose DACA benefits expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 will be allowed to file an extension of their DACA benefits until October 5, 2017. If approved, we anticipate that extensions will be valid for two years, and not end on March 5.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”, the agency that oversees administration of the DACA program) will not affirmatively provide information regarding DACA recipients to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”, the agency in charge of interior immigration law enforcement) or U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”, the agency in charge of border security) unless the DACA recipient meets existing deportation enforcement guidelines.

Once an individual’s DACA benefits expire, that individual will no longer have work authorization, and his or her deportation will no longer be deferred. This does not mean that individual will be automatically deported by ICE. However, it does mean that the individual will no longer be protected from deportation. In essence, without congressional action, Dreamers will once again become subject to potential removal from the United States.

A lawsuit has already been filed challenging the DACA program’s termination. It is hard to know whether the case will succeed, however. In the meantime, Dreamers plan to press Congress to pass a legislative solution before March 5.

A DHS memorandum outlining rescission of the DACA program is here. An FAQ is here.

 

This post was written by David J. Wilks of Miller Mayer LLP. All Rights Reserved. © Copyright 2013 – 2017
For more Immigration legal analysis go to The National Law Review

Building a Book of Business and Advancing to Law Firm Leadership: Women who Have Navigated the Course Discuss Core Elements of Success

law firm leadership

At a time when only 4 percent of the 200 largest U.S. law firms have women in firm-wide leadership positions[1], only 19% of the equity partners at the “50 Best Law Firms for Women” are women and 96% of AmLaw firms report that their highest paid partner is male[2],  it seems opportune to see what women in leadership roles have to say about advancing to firm leadership, strategies for building a book of business, mentorship, and ways they have found and nurtured success. The National Law Review connected with attorneys Ann Zucker[3] and Anthoula Pomrening[4] at this year’s Managing Partner Forum’s Leadership Conference in Atlanta, GA.  We recently had the opportunity to speak them, as well as attorney Paula Fritsch, regarding their leadership roles at their firms.

Communication, Transparency and Trust Building at all Levels of the Firm

Navigating a leadership role can be a challenge, but communication and transparency go a long way.  Zucker, of Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey LLP, points out that “Trust among the lawyers in our firm is based upon predictability, transparency and forthrightness….the leadership team can foster that atmosphere by modeling those traits.”  Along those lines, Fritsch of McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP[5] says ” Communication is key . . . I’ve seen the biggest strides when the partnership can have open and frank discussions about an issue.  Issues that are decided through back channel and closed door discussions can result in division.” Zucker agrees, saying “Communicating with the partners and employees frequently about what is going on at the firm encourages an atmosphere of trust.”

But, trust building and effective communication doesn’t happen overnight; it is a long, strenuous process.  points out that it is not too early to begin building the trust, even if you aren’t in a position of power in your firm.  She says, “The trust building process is long term, it doesn’t begin when you start work on the Executive Committee.” Earlier leadership positions help build the trust, but being a presence at the firm and having relationships with colleagues, no matter where you are in the firm or where your career is at the moment is important.  As Pomrening,  of McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP, points out, “I began as a law clerk 19 years ago; I have known many of these people for almost 20 years.”

In any leadership role, however, being able to tune into what is best for the firm as a whole is crucial.  Zucker says, “decisions in a law firm are tough because sometimes there are conflicts among what’s best for the client, what’s best for the firm and what’s best for the individual lawyer.  I think some of the blurriness disappears if you can identify the answer to each of those questions.”  Pomrening agrees, saying, “You have to think about the whole–what’s the best thing for the clients and the firm, rather than an individual attorney?  I try to stress that in whatever I do on a daily basis.  Whether it’s a pitch or identifying a leadership position for somebody else, I’m always looking at it in terms of what is best for the whole.”

Own Your Destiny – Build a Book of Business

One important thing for all attorneys and success in a law firm environment is being able to find ways to nurture and build your own book of business.  Being able to successfully generate new matters for the firm is an important step in finding success, wherever your career takes you.  Fritsch says, “You have to get yourself out there and make yourself visible.  Pick an area that interests you and become an expert in that area, and if that is in a niche space, even better.”   Ann Zucker emphasizes that the best way for individuals to generate business is to do what they like to do.  She says, “You have to do what you are comfortable doing.  If you do something you are not comfortable doing it’s going to show and it’s not going to be useful.  For example, if your thing is talking on panels on a specific topic, then do that. If you like to write articles, then focus your time on that. You don’t have enough time to do things that you don’t like or that you are not good at. But you need to figure out what’s best for you, where do you shine and focus your efforts there.”

Find Someone or a Group of Someones Who Can Help You Through the Process – Keep up Your End of the Relationship

Mentorship is also important when establishing yourself in a law firm, both in honing legal skills and building the relationships that are so crucial to generating business.  Though it can be tricky for some younger female associates to develop such relationships as the vast majority of practice groups leaders and other law firm management members are older males.  Zucker says, “A good mentor puts you in a position where you can grow and learn, and they are always going to be cognizant of that–if it’s taking you to court, bringing you to a client pitch, taking you along even if you are not necessarily needed–so you can develop relationships.  These are opportunities to develop legal skills, but also business–Clients get to see you and you have to get out there for people to get to know you.”  In order to make a mentor relationship work, it takes effort on both parts.  Paula Fritsch says, “A mentee should be open with the mentor about what they want out of the relationship, and the mentor may have different ideas for the relationship.”

As with everything, communication is key.  Zucker points out that the relationship requires time and effort, saying, “Both the mentor and the mentee need to take time to nurture the relationship.  Whether official or unofficial relationships, you need to spend time–lunch, cup of coffee, to check in to see how things are going, what opportunities they are looking for.”  As with any meaningful relationship, sometimes things need to be said that are hard to hear.  Fritsch suggests, “as a mentee, be prepared to take some criticisms from your mentor – they may have some things to share that are hard to hear, but a good mentor shares the good and the bad to help you grow.”

Another strategy Anthoula Pomrening suggests is to have a group of trusted colleagues as a sounding board.  These are individuals you can run ideas by, and try things out on to see how they sound or how to approach a problem.  By trying different approaches–out loud, you can get a sense of what resonates and perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t. Pomrening says, “This group can help you address certain situations that you aren’t sure how to approach, and it is very useful.”

Even though women and men enter law school in equal numbers, and work next to each other as associates in equal numbers, a huge disparity in leadership positions and income still exists at law firms. Women who have moved up in the ranks despite the odds, build trust and relationships early in their careers and as they advance. Young female law firm associates who want to advance and prosper generally do best when they find not only a mentor, but a sponsor or community of advisors who can help them navigate the hidden rules of advancement in their firm’s hierarchy and discover the tools necessary to build a book of business.

It’s been noted in numerous surveys and articles that female attorney’s median billable and total hours generally lag male attorneys at all levels.   However, for nonbillable hours, women above the associate level record significantly more hours than male attorneys.[6]    Many thanks to the women who took the time to contribute their thoughts, suggestions and nonbillable time to this article.

Copyright ©2016 National Law Forum, LLC

[1] Large Law Firms are Failing Women Lawyers, the Washington Post, February 18, 2014

[2] Catalyst.org March 3, 2015 Women in Law in Canda and U.S.

[3] Ann Zucker is the Managing Partner of Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey LLP,  a  Connecticut-based business law firm.

[4] Anthoula Pomrening is an Intellectual Property partner with McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP.

[5] Paula S. Fritsch, Ph.D. is an Intellectual Property partner with McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP in Chicago.

[6] National Association of Women Lawyers and NAWL Foundation Releases Seventh Annual Survey, ABA Young Lawyers Division, October 22, 2012

Audience Polling Results from MPF 2016 Leadership Conference: Building for the Future

MPF Leadership ConferenceOn May 5, 2016, more than 100 managing partners and law firm leaders gathered in Atlanta for The MPF 2016 Leadership Conference. During the opening session, we distributed audience polling devices and asked participants to weigh in on a variety of issues important to leading a successful mid-size law firm. The polling technology is fun, and the results are anonymous and instantaneous. Looking at the data, here are a few highlights from this year’s Conference:

  • Ten percent (10%) of firm leaders report that their firms use psychological assessment tools as part of their hiring and recruiting process. With few exceptions, Fortune 1000 companies use these instruments routinely as they onboard and assess talent. Given the importance of recruiting and retaining top legal talent, shouldn’t your law firm be using them as well?
  • Thirty-eight percent (38%) of firm leaders say their law firms provide leadership training to junior partners and associates. Sixty percent (60%) say their firms provide training in marketing and business development. To be competitive in the long run, law firms must invest in the “soft skills” of their young lawyers.
  • Seventy-three percent (73%) of firm leaders report that that their firms are doing a “fair” or “poor” job when it comes to grooming future leaders. Just two percent (2%) say “excellent.” If your firm’s owners care about succession, here’s an area where most firms can improve.
  • Forty percent (40%) of firm leaders say their law firms are proactively dealing with underperforming equity partners. Fifty-nine percent (59%) report that they want to act, but have yet to do anything about the situation. Healthy and successful law firms recognize the importance of dealing with partners who aren’t pulling their weight.

As always, this year’s MPF Audience Polling Results provide great benchmarking data to share with your colleagues. Click here to see the full results of the MPF Audience Polling presentation.

Copyright 2016 The Remsen Group

Lawdragon: Celebrating Ten Years Of Captivating Legal Journalism

For ten years, legal media company Lawdragon has been telling great stories about the law and lawyering.  Lawdragon embraced the power of the internet early on, creating content open to all who were interested in stories about the law.  Lawdragon has shown their commitment to high-quality legal journalism by crafting feature stories, a popular Question and Answer series, and an annual Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America devoted to attorneys, what they do, and what is possible with a law degree.

Lawdragon was founded by Katrina Dewey as a platform to tell stories about lawyers and lawyering.  Dewey began her career as a lawyer, but in her words, “I quickly discovered that I wanted to write about lawyers instead of practicing the law myself.”  She left her law firm associate job and “I did what I could to get hired as the lowliest journalist at the Daily Journal in California.” The “lowly” journalist position became Editor in 1996, a move that  Dewey describes as “a huge and lucky break.”   In 2005, with a desire to work more in the emerging online journalism market, Dewey founded Lawdragon. Daily Journal reporter John Ryan joined her and continues to serve as the company’s editor-in-chief.

Looking back at the first issue, Dewey describes the publication process as like  “giving birth.”  They wanted to kick off  the magazine in an edgy, interesting way, and one of the first stories was on the idea of term limits for Supreme Court justices.  Dewey remembers, “the week after we shipped our first issue, Justice Rehnquist passed away.”  Another memory of the beginning was Hurricane Katrina.  That disaster hit the same weekend the first publication went out, and it lingered as a sort of ghost each time Lawdragon has published an article that showcased the aftermath of the storm and the various legal issues that followed afterwards.  Looking back, Dewey describes the early days by saying, “we saw ourselves as an intrepid band of journalists, taking on larger lawyer outlets that were a little slow on the digital uptake.”  And that has been part of Lawdragon’s success.  Dewey saw the writing on the wall about how the media landscape was changing–and she wanted to create a place for features and profiles of lawyers with a company that had “digital in its DNA.” After ten years, the company has grown into a marketing and branding platform packed with fascinating tales of the law, using the power of the internet to allow anyone who is interested access to their stories. In fact, the content had become so popular among firms and lawyers that Lawdragon created a new “Lawdragon Press” division that provides paid content, marketing and branding services for firms.

Along those lines, when asked to describe Lawdragon’s audience, Dewey says, “We write for everyone who can read and has an interest in the law.”  The goal is to create intelligent, wide-ranging, eclectic content that shows what an attorney can do with a law degree.   Dewey says, “The goal is to write stories that everyone can access, but are still interesting enough to appeal to attorneys.”

And true to the mission, reading Lawdragon provides perspective on just how far-reaching a law degree can be.  With features on everyone from David Tolbert, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice, Adam Streisand of Sheppard Mullin, who litigated the trial that paved the way for the sale of the LA Clippers to Jodi Westbrook Flowers at Motley Rice, who has worked for over a decade for the victims of the September 11 attacks against  the financiers and and supporters of Al Qaeda, the subject matter is an abject lesson on just what the law can accomplish.

“We’ve tried to cast a wide net on our coverage of interesting lawyers and legal matters, which is why we’ve done original reporting on justice issues in places like South Africa, former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, The Hague and most recently Guantanamo Bay,” Ryan said.

One essential element of Lawdragon’s philosophy is an unwavering optimism about high-quality articles and reporting.  Dewey says, “We are optimists about good content; we believe there is a place for good content in the world.”  With an intrinsic belief that the law has the power to change people’s lives, right wrongs, and inspire as well as an understanding that lawyers who practice law have compelling reasons to do so, over the ten years of its existence Lawdragon has demonstrated a commitment to showcasing those stories.  Dewey says, “We are about the power of story, generally.  We want to show the individual stories of these attorneys who are advocates of the law, who all have their own perspective and ways of contributing to justice. ”

A natural outgrowth of that philosophy is the Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers.  This feature  highlights some of the most captivating attorneys and the work they do across the nation. While the Lawdragon 500 is probably the best known element of the publication, it is not a ranking system.  Through a careful process balancing editorial research by Lawdragon staff, law firm submissions, and an open online nominations form, the 500 are carefully curated, but not ranked.  Instead, the guide is a way for Lawdragon to showcase attorneys and their perspectives, how they contribute to justice, and how they use the law as a tool to advocate.

As a result of the commitment to quality content and great stories, Lawdragon articles have strong SEO content and can be a great platform for the attorneys who are featured. One thing Lawdragon provides for the attorneys that are featured is objective, third party, independent recognition of their skills and reputation.  Additionally, Lawdragon publishes an annual print publication, giving attorneys and their clients something to hold, beautiful pictures to see, and amazing articles to read. As Carlton Dyce of Lawdragon points out, “Our print publication is great for attorneys to have in their offices, handy for their clients to read while they are waiting.  It’s a great way to showcase the attorney they are about to see.”  ​

The tenth edition of the Lawdragon 500 will be released soon, an exciting milestone for the company.  Over the years and after many compelling stories, Lawdragon remains excited about its core mission–telling stories of lawyers and lawyering. With millions of lawyers doing captivating work in many fields there is no shortage of stories, and Lawdragon remains committed to telling them.

Article by Eilene Spear of the National Law Review
Copyright ©2015 National Law Forum, LLC

Rainmaker 101: 3 Tips from a Top Producer at a Law Firm [VIDEO]

One of the most interesting elements of my job as a business development coach for attorneys is interviewing top rainmakers to better understand “How they did it.” While every attorney knows a rainmaker or high-level business developer, you might never get the chance to hear how they actually accomplished their goals, what it really took to do so and how to avoid the pitfalls they’ve encountered. One of my first interviews occurred with the Managing Partner and co-founder of Stahl Cowen, Jeff Stahl. He put everything on the line when he went out on his own.  As he stated in our interview, it was “a combination of need and fear,” to begin developing his book of business. Here are Jeff’s top three tips for success in building his legal practice, followed by some of my own thoughts on the subject.  Jump to the end for the full interview. Enjoy!

Jeff’s Tip #1: Helping versus Selling

Jeff’s first and most important revelation as a business developer was to really want to help people, not to sell them legal services.  He says quite empathetically that it’s imperative to, “Recognize when someone is in need of service and then be there, and be creative to help them. Then it isn’t perceived as a sale, but as assistance that usually has greater receptivity than somebody who is hard selling.”

From my point of view, he is touching on one of the critical turning points for attorneys as it relates to sales and being viewed as a “salesman.” I don’t know too many lawyers who like or want to be seen as a salesman. What Jeff explains so clearly in his interview is that you need to switch off that mindset and turn on the idea that you are in the unique position to help people with real problems. The key here is to try not pitching and selling, but rather try asking and listening.

One of my favorite mantras is, “Prescription before diagnosis is malpractice.” Think about that. If you walked into a doctor’s office with a migraine and he suggested amputating your head, I’m sure you’d move pretty quickly to the nearest exit. The same rule should apply to prescribing legal services in the form of a pitch meeting. Just don’t do it! At least not until you’ve fully diagnosed the issues, needs and pains the prospective client is dealing with.

Jeff’s Tip #2: Market Yourself When You’re Busiest

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it 1000 times, “I’m too busy to market myself.” One of the best take-aways from Jeff’s interview was his statement, “Too many people go out and market when they’re slow. You need to market when you are busy, because when you market when you’re slow, you often appear desperate. That comes across and people realize that.” Even when you’re working 60 hours a week, it’s imperative to find ways to market. If nothing comes in right away from the effort, at least you’re building your pipeline which will pay off when things do slow down.

In my experience, the key to success here is to find the time to market by getting organized with your day and opening up gaps of time for business development. A few suggestions I typically offer include:

  • Time blocking- Get into the office at 6:30 am once a week and spend an uninterrupted hour emailing clients, strategic partners and new people you’ve met to schedule a coffee or lunch sometime in the next few weeks. This one hour block of time each week will help ensure that you get meetings set every week without fail.
  • Delegating more- Do everything in your power to delegate administrative tasks to others at a lower billable rate. If you are billing $300-600 an hour, why are you making copies or doing filing? Try making a list of every administrative task that you do and add up the hours in a week. You might be shocked at how much time you’re wasting on activities that can be done for under $50 an hour by someone else. This “found time” can be better used for business development activities or even going home for supper with your family once in a while.
  • Never eat lunch alone- It’s the title of a great networking book for a reason. Schedule lunch at your office and invite someone to join you. Utilize a conference room so that it’s quiet and you can focus the conversation on your guest. If you did this with two of your existing clients or strategic partners every week, you will be delighted to the results you might see. Working during lunch might be helpful to get things done, however it doesn’t have to be your routine every day.

Jeff’s Tip #3: Be Impressive!

“When a client tells you what their issue is, it isn’t always their issue. Through effective listening you may recognize things that they may not even realize themselves.” Effective questioning and listening is not only important as a way to best service the client, but also as a way of differentiating yourself from other attorneys who aren’t focused on the clients story, needs and issues. From Jeff’s perspective it’s more important to be perceived as impressive and knowledgeable, than to beat your chest regarding your prowess as a successful attorney.

Jeff’s  hit on something really critical here. Perception is reality and belief stronger than fact. The concept is simple if you think about it. By asking relevant, probing and open ended questions, the prospective client will perceive that you are an expert based on the way you are managing the conversation and your bedside manner. A great example here would be observing two psychologists. The first spouts off about why she is so good at what she does and her advanced degrees. The other, warmly welcomes her patient onto the couch and begins building rapport. Then the second psychologist begins asking questions about the patients reason for being here today. The patient’s response is followed up with additional questions which open up the dialogue to reveal the actual issues being faced.

If you are working diligently to find new business opportunities, and a prospective client finally agrees to meet with you, try to act like the second therapist by asking questions and being an expert listener. You will not only build greater credibility as a lawyer, but also uncover issues that your new client didn’t even know he had. A win-win outcome is inevitable.

I’d like to thank Jeff Stahl for his rainmaking insights. The reality is that there is always a way to find balance in work and in life. For many of you, it’s a matter of having the proper mindset. For others it’s obtaining new strategies and tactics to accomplish the goals you’ve set. Check in monthly for a new installment of Rainmaker 101 for more tips from the business development superstars I’ve interviewed.

Article By Steve Fretzin of Sales Results, Inc.
Copyright @ 2015 Sales Results, Inc.

Next week! Join NAWL at their General Counsel Institute – November 5-6 in NYC

nawl general counsel institute new york GCI national association of women lawyers

Register today!

The last several years have brought significant changes to the General Counsel position and for many, a rise of greater prominence within their companies. Large-scale forces are transforming the economics of corporations as they face challenges related to accelerating competition, cost controls, technology development, reporting transparency, and Wall Street’s focus on short-term profit maximization.

As a result, the General Counsel increasingly has a broader scope beyond being strictly a legal advisor to also being a C-suite executive, senior counselor to the Board, the CEO, and the CFO, and the ultimate guardian of the company’s integrity. The General Counsel and her in-house lawyers are expected to understand the full spectrum of their company’s business and provide expert legal advice, business strategy input, and ethical guidance.

At GCI 11, you will explore ways to create and promote your legal department as a key business partner, develop and employ critical business relationships, and strategically advance your expertise and skills to bolster your prominence within the company. Through powerful personal stories, substantive legal workshops, and GCI’s unique open exchange of ideas, you will soar to new heights as you develop practical solutions to stay relevant in today’s evolving corporate legal and business environments.

Responding to a Hyper-Competitive Legal Market: 2015 and Beyond

The results of Citigroup’s 2015 Law Firm Leader’s Peer Monitor Report were examined by a highly informative panel[i] at Thomson Reuters’ recent 20th Annual Law Firm Leaders Conference in New York. The detailed discussion outlined overall marketplace trends and reviewed the strategies of law firms who are profitably navigating today’s turbulent legal market.

pic1articleState of the U.S. Business Law Marketplace

Market conditions for law firms are stabilizing in 2015 but a fragile global economy / geopolitical climate, and changing legal department purchasing behavior are leading to continuing flat demand for purchasing legal services. Current marketplace conditions include: more work being done in-house or by non-law firm outsourced providers and law firms coming in from other markets who are competing aggressively on price and / or who are buying business growth by lateral attorney hires.

Lower demand for law firms’ services is also being driven by a decreased appetite for costly litigation and developing technology which performs more cost effectively commodity type legal work.[ii].  The most common reasons for moving work in house is more control over costs and increased efficiency.[iii] In a 2015 survey of over 300 in-house counsel from 22 industries over 47% of the companies surveyed reported an increase in the number of law department lawyers employed.[iv]

Larger Business Trends Lead to a Less of an Appetite for Litigation and a Push for More Cost Effective Service Delivery

General Counsel manage their departments in tandem with the overall goals of the business.  Unresolved legal issues can have a negative impact on a company’s stock price and reserves set aside for lengthy litigation could be deployed for other business activities. Accordingly, there is an ongoing trend of companies settling earlier than before, and being more open to pursue alternatives to expensive and drawn out courtroom trials.[v]   Also, the increased cost of conducting complex litigation due to e-discovery, is also causing companies to think twice about how hard and how long they want to fight.

legal dept tech spend crop
A Look Inside: 2015 Thomson Reuters Legal Department In-sourcing and Efficiency Report

Since the great recession many law firms have become adept at trimming administrative overhead costs but seem to forget that corporate law departments are corporate overhead.   In a 2013 survey of 238 managing partners and law firm chairs, over 44 percent indicated that their firms had taken steps to improve the cost effectiveness of legal service delivery, mostly in the form of changing project staffing models to include part-time and contract lawyers and outsourcing an increasing number of non-lawyer functions at their firms. [vi] Alternative service providers in the legal arena cover functions such as discovery management, document creation, dispute resolution alternatives to litigation, and talent management services. Legal process out sourcing (LPO) through alternative service providers has a predicted growth of 30% in 2015 and it is estimated that there is currently $20 billion of outsourceable legal work in the U.S. legal marketplace.[vii]    It is estimated that the LPO market has only captured 5.5% or $1 billon of the estimated $437billion U.S. legal market.[viii] 

legal dept outside counsel spend cropped
A Look Inside: 2015 Thomson Reuters Legal Department In-sourcing and Efficiency Report

Practice Areas Where Demand Is Consistent or Growing for Law Firms

While businesses may have less of appetite for costly litigation, demand remains strong in certain areas due to more domestic regulatory investigations and U.S. lead examinations stemming from cross-border activities. [ix]  In a survey released this month, 48% of law departments predicted an increase in regulatory work in the next year.[x] Other growth practice areas include:  Intellectual Property/Patent; Cybersecurity/Data Privacy; Bankruptcy; Healthcare/Pharmaceutical, Financial Services and Mergers/Acquisitions. [xi]

Common Features of Underperforming Law Firms in Today’s Marketplace

To address the buying needs of corporate clients, firms which are surviving are becoming more efficient and predictable in their pricing and service delivery.  Firms who are underperforming tend to have:

  • The lowest overall leverage rate (partner to associate) and less cost effective use of leverage;

  • A higher reliance on income partners, and a declining income partner contribution;

  • A high use of Other Lawyers but the use of these lawyers make a negative contribution to the firm’s bottom line;

  • A lower overall equity partner productivity and a decline of equity partner equity during 2009-14;

  • The lowest realized rates and lowest growth in those rates during 2009-14;

  • A heavier litigation reliance;

  • Less rocket science work and more commoditized work; and

  • Firm brands that are not as sharply differentiated or recognized.[xii]

What a Hyper-Competitive Legal Market Marketplace Means Operationally

General Counsel are generalists, who manage the legal needs of a company but are limited in the legal tasks they can and should do on behalf of their client, the company.  Accordingly, there is always a set group of work that won’t be done in-house or for which third party specialized expertise is advisable.   Outsourcing of ‘rocket science’ work and going to law firms who have established reputations for certain types of work are easier sells for in-house counsel who have to sell their outsourcing decisions to company management. Marketplace trends are resulting in more of a concentration of high end work in a smaller group of law firms.  Notable legal market predications / observations made by the panel:

  • Clients will further segment the market (“financial and reputational tiering”);

  • Firms will further consolidate;

  • Lateral activity will remain high; and

  • Brand differentiation will help attract the right laterals and grow market share in a flat demand environment.

With continued cost pressures, the panel commented that profitable law firms will:

•           Use systems and processes to improve:

  • Matter management;

  • Practice management;

  • Workforce management; and

  • Partner performance measurement.

In order to demonstrate a concern for efficiency, successful law firms need to facilitate better collaboration between the firm and client.  In order to leverage internal resources and grow deeper, more stable and more profitable relationships with clients, law firms need to improve or better communicate their client service offerings and share information about legal developments. The panel identified the following ways to stay or become known for expertise and to demonstrate concern for law firm department budgets:

  • Knowledge sharing;

  • Client relationship teams, strategic and well thought-out cross selling; and

  • Developing associates and younger partners to ensure a sustainable business and cost effective service delivery structure.

Take-Aways

You have to have a brand – “We’re cheaper – but still really good and can do whatever you need, especially the easy stuff” isn’t working.  Established brands make law firms an easier sell for in-house counsel to their management or management may even advocate for well know legal brands to their law departments.  Company management does suggest particular law firms and attorneys and they pass on to the law department relevant thought leadership that they were sent by law firms or that they have come across. Executive management approves the law department’s budget.  The general counsel should not be your only contact point. If you want to be considered for the less than 10% of litigation work that’s considered bet the company, shouldn’t management know you and feel comfortable that you know their needs?

According to David Cruickshank of Edge International, 96% of firms say lateral hires are part of their growth strategy[xiii].  Great legal brands help recruit great associates and laterals, as well as clients.   How do you keep the attention of attorneys at regulatory agencies, high potential law grads and star attorneys with established practices?  Share your knowledge.  Many legal recruiters scour publications as a starting point for finding lateral candidates in niche practices.  Your knowledge and service are your brand. How do you build or maintain a brand? Share your knowledge, write, speak, repeat.

How do you convey to clients and potential clients that you mean what you say – that you have deep expertise, that you can manage things in a cost effective manner, that you collaborate, that you are committed to technology – you show them. Jay Hull, Chief Innovation Partner at Davis Wright Tremaine mentioned during the conference that you go for wins on small projects with name brand clients, for proof of concept.  Per Jay if you want to show a commitment to technology and innovation, you bring a legal technologist to a pitch meeting.  Don’t drag your client into inter partner quarrels if you want to build confidence in your ability to manage complex multi-jurisdiction litigation. Want show deep expertise, include multiple authors on articles, rainmakers should bring along associates or new partners to speaking engagements or networking events – be a team and grow and show your depth.

Article by Jennifer Schaller of the National Law Review

Copyright ©2015 National Law Forum, LLC


[ii] Citi 2015 Law Firm Leaders Survey.

[iv] 2015 HBR Consulting Law Department Survey – the Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at the Georgetown University Law Center and Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor.

[v] 2015 Client Advisory 2014: Great News for Some, Mixed Results for Others Citi Private Bank and Hildebrandt Consulting.

[vi] 2013 Law Firms in Transition: An Altman Weil Flash Survey, Thomas S. Clay Altman Weil, Inc., May 2013

[viii] Revenues estimated using AmLaw 200 data, Peer Monitor, Hackett Group Report and New York Times; Expenses from Peer Monitor Corporate Legal Dept is based on internal spend on legal matters.

[ix] A Look Inside: 2015 Thomson Reuters Legal Department In-sourcing and Efficiency Report.

[x] 2015 HBR Consulting Law Department Survey.

[xi] Citi 2015 Law Firm Leaders Survey.

[xii]2015 HBR Consulting Law Department Survey – the Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at the Georgetown University Law Center and Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor.

[xiii] 7 Thoughts About The Lateral Hiring Process, Above the Law, April 15, 2014.