Re: The Billable Hour Is What I Blame This On. And, Of Course, The Breakdown Of Society.

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So there's an incentive to higher as many associates as you can afford, because you make money on billable hours, rather than just restricting your hires to a number that your workload can support? That is screwy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 6:35 AM
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OTOH, if the partners all go solo so they don't need to encumber themselves with associates, where do the associates get the necessary experience to become the next generation of partners?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 6:43 AM
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1. As an accomplished practitioner of the homonym typo, I'm in awe of higher/hire. Not one that ever even occurred to me.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 6:45 AM
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For any specific BigLaw partner reading this who hasn't recently jumped ship with great success, that is.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 6:51 AM
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My friend just did this, with a couple of other partners from his fancy DC firm. In fact, I will now RTFA to see if he's in it.


Posted by: Oudemia | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 6:57 AM
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Wow, it's not often that I read something that makes me think my opinion was not low enough.

This does help to explain why the group of young lawyers I spoke with some time back were so very wet behind the ears. It seemed implausible that people could be trained lawyers, working among more experienced lawyers, and still so ignorant of the nuts and bolts of lawyering. (E.g., why people sometimes need a lawyer to tell them if they need a lawyer -- that is, whether the question or problem they have is a legal one.)

I wonder too whether any of it has to do with elite office design. Most of the useful training I got was by the strategically overheard phone call. If you're sitting in a cubicle you can pick up all kinds of practical knowledge about how to pitch to clients, how to handle angry clients, how to bluff your way through an information inquiry when you don't know what you're looking for....but I guess you can't do that if your cube-mates are equally inexperienced and the partners are all miles away in their private offices.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 7:04 AM
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So you're blaming the breakdown of society on the billable hour. Makes sense.


Posted by: Earnest O'Nest | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 7:11 AM
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that is, whether the question or problem they have is a legal one

When I was in PA recently, there was a stint where I could get only AM radio stations and I listened to some law-advice call-in show. My take away was that the answer to most people's legal questions includes the words "hire one of the lawyers we recommend" and "small claims court".


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 7:14 AM
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At my old firm there was a definite generational shift between people who started before the advent of electronic discovery and those who started after. I started before and felt like I got good experience -- writing and arguing motions, taking and defending depositions, working with experts, plus some grunt work.

But the people who started later, pretty much all they do is manage document reviews, do privilege logs, and maybe once in a while do a client interview or some legal research. That's not busy work -- it needs to be done. But it has nothing to do with preparing you to be a partner or to handle a case on your own.

Not long before I left, I was working on a pro bono case with some junior and mid-level litigation associates, and they didn't even know how to respond to interrogatories. It was pretty shocking.

And they were pretty demoralized -- that work is pretty boring, and there is no way to really excel at it, but there are huge penalties for messing up (i.e. accidently producing a privileged document).


Posted by: tulip | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 7:29 AM
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AM radio, argh. I listened to about ten minutes of a "senior advocate" show a few weeks ago when I got the time of a Phillies game wrong. Some genuinely good advice about financial advisors' tactics for getting your money (e.g. offering "tax prep" services so they can see your 1040 and figure out how big your nest egg is) but mostly just fingernails on a chalkboard.

But otherwise, my experience is that people often have no idea what kind of expert can answer the question they have. They want to know how to set up a guardianship arrangement so their crazy, abusive ex-spouse doesn't get custody when they die of HIV/AIDS, or why the police closed down their restaurant for being open "too late" but didn't bother their cousin's restaurant on the next block, or how they can start reporting the cash income from their small business that they've been underreporting. They want to know what kind of paperwork you need to start a business driving around in your tricked-out van taking glamour pictures of people's pets, or how to set things up so their disabled adult child will have a financial guardian after they die. They want to know how they can get divorced, or pay for college, or adopt a child.

And they either have no idea if they have a legal question or (more likely) they waste money and time going to a lawyer and then it's a crapshoot of whether the lawyer is going to be kind enough to point them in the right direction if s/he can't answer it.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 7:31 AM
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The WikiAnswers post to 10.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 7:35 AM
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Ah, this was the lawyer call-in-show dude. I had never heard of him.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 7:44 AM
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But the people who started later, pretty much all they do is manage document reviews, do privilege logs, and maybe once in a while do a client interview or some legal research. That's not busy work -- it needs to be done. But it has nothing to do with preparing you to be a partner or to handle a case on your own.

You know, it's not busy-work, but not nearly as much of it needs to be lawyer work as is handled by junior lawyers in big firms. I spent a summer once (more like four months) creating an index of all the correspondence between an industry organization and any government agency: my office was filled with dozens of boxes of one or two page letters, and I set up an Access database, and filled in the obvious data fields and a summary of each document. I'll accept that someone needed to do that, but it didn't have to be someone billing 175/hour.

(Actually, I found out halfway through that a paralegal had done a different index of the same documents, but the partners wanted it redone because they didn't think it reflected a good enough understanding of the documents. (A) I didn't know anything about the case either, so if mine was better (which I have no reason to believe that it was), it was purely aptitude rather than all my expensive training) and (B) they could have at least given me the old index to edit so I didn't have to retype all the names and Bates numbers and so on.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:06 AM
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I have to say that my experience as an associate, and as a partner, was emphatically not like this at all. Maybe tulip's comment at 9 provides some of the explanation, although the fact that we were only leveraged at about 1.1 to 1 the whole 18 years I was there provides plenty as well.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:07 AM
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What did you think of, say, your fifth year associates, in terms of their capacity to function as lawyers? Would you have felt comfortable sending them into court for you on something important?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:10 AM
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Is it actually common to refer to Nth-year associates, for larger values of N? I would have thought that after 2 or 3 years of something like a structured apprenticeship they would blend into the general pool of "associates".


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:28 AM
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15 -- Well, I like going to court. And always learn a ton about the judge, and hope to teach the judge about my client and my case. Still, I did send them down, when it was the right thing to do for the case.

I made commercial associates go to court now and again. They actually learned something about how the law really works.

I argued a couple of circuit appeals as an associate, but never got a chance to send one to do so.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:30 AM
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Yes. At lots of (most?) big firms, pay goes in lockstep with year-by-year increases, and status as between two or more associates on a case is set by seniority.

I would have thought that after 2 or 3 years of something like a structured apprenticeship they would blend into the general pool of "associates".

Structured apprenticeship? Man, that sounds like an excellent idea. Someone should try it sometime.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:33 AM
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17: I wasn't asking about whether you personally did all the available court appearances or not, but whether you generally thought that your firm's fifth year associates were competent to function independently. The firms I worked at, the partners wouldn't have assumed that, and given the work that a fifth year had generally been doing and they training they'd had, they'd have been right.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:35 AM
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16 -- IME up to 8.

Further to 15/17, we were always very actively encouraging associates to take pro bono cases to get them trial experience. I tried a couple of bench cases as a 4th year.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:36 AM
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IME up to 8.

There was a transition at sometime right around my law school class that relates to this. When I graduated from law school, and I think for at least a couple of decades before, the big NY firms had a 7-8 year partner track. Seven or eight years after you graduated, you either made partner at a big firm or you didn't, and if you didn't you had a year or two to make plans and then get lost: they wouldn't fire you, exactly, but you couldn't stay on long-term. A tenth-year associate was someone who'd been passed over, or with some weird story. As I got more senior, that 7-8 track started stretching: by the time I left my last firm, I was working with 15th year associates, who didn't seem to be planning to go anyplace, and the very few associates who made partner tended to be past their tenth year.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:41 AM
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19 -- Oh, sorry. Varies by practice group, I guess, and by individual. As you may recall, I sat on the committee that hired/fired/judged associates, and we were certainly looking for some court experience by then. And I told them to get it if they didn't have it.

In my old firm, you couldn't get to be an 8th year in lit without knowing how to do a whole lot of things.

That said, we didn't do the kind of micro-matters that Witt is talking about, and I don't even now, so I'd be asking her for advice in these areas not answering anything competently.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:41 AM
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Further to 15/17, we were always very actively encouraging associates to take pro bono cases to get them trial experience.

we were certainly looking for some court experience by then. And I told them to get it if they didn't have it.

The post may not look familiar to you, but both of these look fairly familiar to me: you seem to be describing an environment where there's not enough courtroom work (and IME this held for other classes of lawyering work) to go around that an associate doing their job would naturally end up needing to do it -- they'd have to fight for scraps. Doing the work you're assigned as a big-firm associate isn't going to make you a lawyer.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:49 AM
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One more and I'll stop. My old firm has very strong federalism: things like the content of training, assignments, and substance of work are managed at the practice group level. We had separate litigation groups for construction, bankruptcy, personal injury defense, IP, labor, and general commercial. Some groups are better run than others (all very idiosyncratically), and some have good esprit, and very comprehensive training.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:49 AM
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Seven or eight years after you graduated, you either made partner at a big firm or you didn't, and if you didn't you had a year or two to make plans and then get lost: they wouldn't fire you, exactly, but you couldn't stay on long-term.

I wonder: is the similarity of this to the tenure system an accident of convergent evolution, or was one designed to parallel the other?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:51 AM
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I threw an angry rant masquerading as a legal query in the HP Broken Arm thread, if you legal types are interested in the pretext.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:51 AM
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25 -- Ok, one more. 'Fight for scraps' isn't at all how I'd describe it. I'm working on a case with an associate. There's a discovery dispute. She gives me a draft brief, I revise it and file it. I presume that I'm going to go argue it, if the judge calls us in, because that's what I like to do. She can come to me and say 'hey, I'd like to argue this one' and I might well say yes. Or I might have a schedule conflict, in which case I'll want the associate to take the one where I think I'd make less of a difference in winning the case.

In DC and MD, you don't argue motions all that often. By a pretty long margin they do things on the papers. (It's not like, say, NJ, where you're arguing consent motions).

The point of the law firm isn't giving associates interesting work. It's winning the client's cases.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:01 AM
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The point of the law firm isn't giving associates interesting work. It's winning the client's cases.

Not arguing that associates need to be amused.

I'm arguing that the work associates do in big firms is mostly not the work senior lawyers do, or that independently functioning lawyers outside big firms do, and that the work associates are paid to do in big firms doesn't train them to do the work of an independent lawyer unless they get lucky enough to have a senior lawyer throw them enough bones to get some training.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:05 AM
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Who am I kidding. Two cases I worked on in my last year at the old place (one of which I continued here) settled this spring. One had gone for 3 years, another for 2. Both D.Md. No one ever set foot in a courtroom in either case. The longer one had survived X-motions for sj, the other had discovery close, but no sj briefing yet. Plenty of discovery, and plenty of motion practice in both cases.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:06 AM
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And yet, somehow, senior lawyers emerge.

I'm not suggesting that a highly leveraged NY firm is a good place to learn lawyering. I'm sure it's a great place to be paid as a partner, though.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:09 AM
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I'm not suggesting that a highly leveraged NY firm is a good place to learn lawyering. I'm sure it's a great place to be paid as a partner, though.

Comity.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:11 AM
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13: I think that for ethical/unauthorized practice of law reasons, a lawyer needs to be the one to make the final call re whether a document is responsive/not responsive and privileged/not privileged. Certainly, a lot of indexing can be done by non-lawyers, and we actually used vendors located in other countries (mostly the Phillipines) to do "objective coding" of documents (to, from, date, subject). My old firm also hired a bunch of non-partner track lawyers to do a lot of the initial stages of document review. But associates are still the ones managing the process and making the final calls.


Posted by: tulip | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:11 AM
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31: That was me, don't know where my name went.

I'm actually interested in where the generation of big firm partners around my age will have come from -- I'd bet that many fewer of them will have been big firm associates continuously since law school than in earlier generations.

I'd also bet that it'll be a much smaller group of people, proportionately, than you'd expect -- that while historically maybe 1/10 starting big-firm associates made partner, that fraction is going to shrink a great deal.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:15 AM
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On the OP, it really depends a lot on the practice area. My old firm did a lot of internal investigations and SEC enforcement matters. You need a lot of bodies to throw at those cases. (Yes, that's how they talked about it.) You really couldn't handle, say, the Enron case with just senior lawyers.

Whereas, I know that for certain regulatory and transactional areas, partners struggled to find meaningful work for junior people that the clients would actually pay for.


Posted by: tulip | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:19 AM
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32: Certainly, that's right. I'd still say that if you look at the way big firms do document review, it appears that they're not immune to the incentive to maximize billable lawyer hours rather than devolving the things that can be done by experienced paralegals to paralegals.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:19 AM
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I've told this story before, in a thread about the indignities LB suffered as an associate in a big firm:

I had a lawyer friend (public interest type) who was at the kind of D.C. restaurant that tends to be full of wankerish lawyers and was bitching to her non-lawyer girlfriend about how all anyone in the restaurant was talking about was "billiable hours! billable hours!" Her girlfriend asked, "Who's Bill Blowers?"


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:24 AM
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I don't disagree that it's not ideal training for becoing a "real" lawyer, but it's very hard to feel bad for the big firm associates. They're very well paid (overpaid). Most of them won't become big-firm partners, but almost all of them will move on to other prestigious, well-paid jobs (the majority of which will, rightly or wrongly, be available to them only by virtue of their big-firm experience--an important factor to consider before you write off their years of doc review as "useless"). And notwthstanding 31, I strongly suspect that a big-firm associate has a much higher likelihood of one day becoming a big-firm partner than the average occupier of just about any other possible entry-level legal position.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:44 AM
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Ah what a lovely thread to read as I pack for my move to law school tomorrow.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:49 AM
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notwthstanding 3133


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:51 AM
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21: I was working with 15th year associates, who didn't seem to be planning to go anyplace,

As I understand it there has been a significant rise in "of counsel"s and non-equity partners (we've talked about that before though, right?) in the last decade.


Posted by: a dramatic rise in "of counsel | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:59 AM
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partners struggled to find meaningful work for junior people that the clients would actually pay for.

You'd almost think that they should just relax or abolish billable hour minimums. Maybe they could pay their associates less then too.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:59 AM
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41: Me.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:00 AM
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41 was not you and you know it, JP. I know you know it because I know 41 was me.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:04 AM
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I'm Spartacus.


Posted by: "Spartacus" | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:06 AM
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43: Right, I meant 40 ...


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:16 AM
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38: Never fear, Bave. You don't have to earn $150 K for doing nothing your first year out of school. At the prestigious but small firm where I paralegaled (and where I did research in books), even the summer associates did boatloads of critical work for far less (but plenty).

Also, it was up or out. If it was clear by the 3rd or 4th year that an associate wasn't going to make partner, they were (usually fairly gently) shown the door, a kinder system in my book.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:16 AM
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but it's very hard to feel bad for the big firm associates. They're very well paid (overpaid).

Certainly, no one should ever sympathize with a big firm associate. They're well paid, work at a non-dangerous job that won't injure their health, and will probably work at good jobs for the rest of their lives. Anyone criticizing law firm management on the basis that big firm associates are unjustly ill-treated would be much better off focusing their sympathy on people with real problems.

Sorry, did the sarcasm get a little thick there? I think big law firms have a fucked up and fairly dishonest set of management/billing practices. Those practices can still be fucked up and dishonest, both toward their clients and their employees, whether or not associates are overpaid and should stop whining. Associates should, of course, stop whining, but that doesn't have anything to do with whether their employers are fucked up.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:17 AM
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47: Oh stop whining LB.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:20 AM
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Huh. I was going to post an onomatopoedic whine, but realized I couldn't figure out how to spell it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:22 AM
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What I'm genuinely unsure about, Elbee, is whether your experience or mine was the more atypical wrt billing. I don't think I ever billed or assigned a dishonest hour. I'm willing to take a 2% discount on that for self-delusion, but that's not going to be any different in any firm no matter what the size. True, I only worked at one big firm, but I worked with a lot of people who'd come from other big firms, and their billing/assigning practices weren't materially different.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:25 AM
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Just 2%?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:26 AM
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50 - I think LB is using "dishonest" to mean "could be done by a paralegal or legal temp".


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:27 AM
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That's funny--until I got to 47.2, I didn't realize that 47.1 was supposed to be sarcasm. I don't disagree with 47.2. And I agree that many of the associates aren't being trained well. I just have a hard time also buying that they're getting screwed by the system. They're doing very well by the system.

I know that some of them took their jobs because they'd been led to believe that large firms had the resources to provide the very best possible training, so there's that. But, again, even if that's no longer a reality (if it ever was), they're still benefiting enormously from the widepsread perception that it's the reality, and so a few years in biglaw still opens doors to all manner of attractive legal jobs.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:36 AM
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Way upthread:

we were only leveraged at about 1.1 to 1

What does this mean?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:38 AM
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This is a hard conversation to have, because I'm accusing a class of people that includes you (or did at one time) of being generally dishonest, which is something that one generally can't do without being an asshole, and I don't want to be an asshole to you. But you've heard this sort of criticism of BigLaw from other sources before, right? "Churning", in a legal-billing context, isn't a new idea to you, it's something that you've heard about happening at other firms?

Some thoughts about why your experience might differ from mine:

First, of course, your firm wasn't highly leveraged - if you really had enough work that your associates needed to be working efficiently to keep the cases moving forward, then there wouldn't have been any incentive for churning, and churning wouldn't have happened.

Second, the partners I worked for didn't, I'm sure, consciously think of themselves as assigning busywork. But they did consistently require that work be done in stupidly labor-intensive ways (e.g. having me spend that summer recoding documents that had already been indexed rather than editing the prior index). And ordered full briefing for motions that were never made (the sort of thing which could reasonably happen on occasion, but not as often as I've seen it happen). And so on and so forth. When a system is set up such that the people assigning work have a financial incentive in its being done inefficiently, there's room for an awful lot of self-deception about what's a reasonable way to carry out a task. That doesn't mean you were deceiving yourself, but would you really have known if other lawyers in your firm were?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:40 AM
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we were only leveraged at about 1.1 to 1

I assumed, from context, that is the ratio of associates to partners.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:40 AM
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56: Laydeez ...


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:44 AM
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As a first year associate, I spent about 5 months doing 12 hours a day of data-entry work (with a colleague!), which was an absurd thing to have two attorneys doing for all that time, but we were told that the client demanded it be that way, because the client demanded perfect work and attorneys were generally more careful and attentive to detail than the paralegals or (god forbid) the secretaries (no one discussed the possibility of outsourcing it). I've always wondered whether that was an explicit client demand, or just something the partner sort of inferred on behalf of the client (IYKWIM).


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:44 AM
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53: (Hey, fix your name field? I hate talking to anonymous people.) 47.1 is straightforwardly true, but only in the sense that no one should sympathize with anyone commenting here -- we're all living indoors with clean water and internet access and no real risk of going hungry. Any problems a law firm associate has, like any problems most Unfogged commenters have, are pretty trivial in the global/historical scheme of things, and none of us should be whining until we can show a real problem, like an untreated parasite infestation or something.

The sarcasm comes in the fact that we don't generally treat our collective incredible good fortune as a reason not to think about issues that nonetheless do affect us.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:44 AM
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58: Yep.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:45 AM
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60 was me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:45 AM
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51 -- I bill light.

52 -- Sure. And? I suppose in a highly leveraged firm, the word "done" takes on a different meaning. Nearly every case I worked on had between 0 and 2 associates. If they are looking at documents, it's because I want competent and accountable calls made on responsiveness and privilege (including whether the client or the opponent has actually produced everything -- which can be a somewhat sophisticated judgment), and because I want them to learn the facts. And know the documents 18 months from now. And use them in taking or defending depositions. And formulate theories how we're going to get them into evidence.

I guess it's my experience that is atypical.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:47 AM
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62: Well, 'typical' only means anything in relation to a well-defined comparison group. Your experience might be typical of your firm, it might be a pattern common to many big firms. All I'd say is that I don't think your experience is universal enough that churning is an anomaly -- I think it's a way of life at a fair number of firms.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:50 AM
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Associates coding documents? That does seem like a waste.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:51 AM
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but only in the sense that no one should sympathize with anyone commenting here

and none of us should be whining until we can show a real problem, like an untreated parasite infestation or something

So we can sympathize with Brock, then?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:53 AM
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Crap. 65.last should read:

So we can sympathize with Brock, then?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:54 AM
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And I've seen plenty of mistakes by temp lawyers to be very very gunshy about having them do anything important. Subject matter waiver can be very unforgiving.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:56 AM
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66.last: Or Manhattanites with the bedbugs.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:56 AM
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68: There was also that infestation of crunchy little bugs in heebie's pancake mix or something like that. I suppose that's fair game too.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:58 AM
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I guess 67 answers the question I was about to ask--if you don't want associates to spend all that time reviewing documents, who is going to do it? You must just come from a system relying more heavily on contract attorneys than I've seen.


Posted by: Osgood Yousbad | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:59 AM
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Nearly every case I worked on had between 0 and 2 associates.

That's the key right there, no? That was also the pattern in litigation in the firms my wife worked in, and she got very good training.

Also, the comment upthread on e-discovery rings true. We have outside counsel throwing multiple junior associates at document reviews that just wouldn't have been done ten years ago in this town because the volume of paper wasn't there. It will get better as the competent lawyers and the competent tech consultants find each other, but there's a limit to how much better it can get when you're starting with tens or hundreds of thousands of emails and the complete contents of 30 or 40 hard drives.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 10:59 AM
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The sarcasm comes in the fact that we don't generally treat our collective incredible good fortune as a reason not to think about issues that nonetheless do affect us.

Just unfogged being unfogged, I guess.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 11:00 AM
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68: Headline from one hour ago: "Bedbugs at Empire State Building, Spreading". Run!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 11:01 AM
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Document review is a real timeconsuming thing, but it doesn't account for most of the churning I've seen. And doesn't explain the issues brought up in the piece linked from the OP -- senior lawyers going out on their own partially to get away from the pressure to have junior lawyers billing on their cases. Necessary, albeit sucky, document review work isn't really the issue.

(I've done a fair amount of e-discovery and paper document reviewing, and those haven't ever been the assignments that have left me feeling that someone's being fundamentally jerked around. Although the two big firms I was, I did think there was an awful lot of reinventing the wheel -- processes tended to be invented ad hoc by the senior associates on the case, who might be supervising a review for the first time. A firm that does big reviews frequently will need lawyers looking at the documents, but should probably have long-term paralegals handling the workflow.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 11:07 AM
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That last sentence didn't work grammatically. I meant "If your firm is big enough to do giant doc reviews a lot, you probably want experienced paralegals handling the process, and saving the junior attorneys for actually making the privilege calls rather than reinventing systems each time."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 11:10 AM
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74, 75: Yes, that's how we do it. A big review will include lots of junior associates actually looking at the documents, 1-2 paralegals managing the workflow, some number of lit techs handling the technology (or, more likely, serving as the main interface with the outside vendor who handles the technology) and a ~3rd year associate managing the whole thing.

I'm surprised that doc reviews weren't your main objection, although that might be a function of timing, as tulip suggested above. It's certainly the most-often-bemoaned kind of work around here. Maybe we just don't know how good we have it.


Posted by: Osgood Yousbad | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 11:28 AM
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It's not a function of timing -- I certainly did plenty of document review -- but while that's sucky work, it's not innately pointless or inefficient, so it never bothered me that much. I'd probably harbor more resentment if I'd ever got stuck on one doc review for more than a couple of months straight: people who get stuck in a warehouse somewhere for years have my sympathy, despite their lack of parasite infestation.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 11:33 AM
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Regarding Witt's comment:
Issue identification is such a useful skill when meeting with a client or a potential client.

It can be maddening also because people dont really want to pay for it, even though it is one of the most important things a lawyer can do for you.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 11:38 AM
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It can be maddening also because people dont really want to pay for it, even though it is one of the most important things a lawyer can do for you.

Yeah. I was thinking about that in connection to some of the comments on my earlier post, about asking rambly questions with a lot of background rather than tightly focused questions. A couple of people commented about clients probably not wanting to pay for rambly conversations between co-workers, but of course that's genuinely more efficient and will get you higher quality legal work than hammering away on Westlaw when you don't know the right issue to research, and the lawyer in the next office will know if you just babble about the case for five minutes.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 11:43 AM
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I have a law firm practice that I've been meaning to ask about. How is it possible to de-equities a partner? What exactly is a non-equity partner? I'm trying to figure out how that would make you a partner and how you'd be taxed.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 12:01 PM
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I don't think I've ever heard of a partner being de-equitized in the sense that they changed from equity partner to non-equity partner. I'm not actually dead sure what 'non-equity partner' means financially, but I think it means that you're an ordinary employee, and not a partner in any sense that relates to the legal status of the firm as a partnership -- the word 'partner' in your job title is a purely social title, indicating that your status within the firm is similar to that of the equity partners.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 12:05 PM
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A partnership agreement can have different classes of partner, and can have different levels of equity participation. I understand that it's become quite common at larger firms to de-equitize service partners. So, they're still partners, and are still taxed in every state the firm has an office. They may or may not get a vote (probably not) on firm business. Their draw will be fixed -- 12 equal installments -- rather than varying with the income of the firm.

How is it different from being an employee? Benefits, for one. K-1 not W-2 for another. It's less secure than partnership, I suppose, but most of the security of a big partnership is illusory anyway. Eg, at a firm with which I am familiar, the agreement provides that it takes an 80% vote to remove a partner. Partners are let go every year, and yet there's never a vote, much less an 80% vote.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 12:40 PM
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Oh my god, this sounds horrible and torturous. I couldn't last more than a few months at the kind of associate jobs being described here, I'd just lose my ability to get out of bed in the morning.

One thing though: I've heard these complaints about associate work being a rip-off of clients going back decades now, to the 1980s. I wouldn't think such a crazy system could survive so long unless there was *some* kind of market reason. It was always possible to open up a new law firm advertising "new and improved! No wasted billing for associates!", and I don't understand why that wouldn't have happened. THe market for legal services is pretty competitive. Is it because the situation has gotten even way worse recently, as some of the comments above hinted?


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 12:42 PM
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80 -- To answer directly, it's possible in the same way that letting a partner go without a vote is possible. The chair of the department/office/firm steps into the office and says 'Bob, you're not meeting our expectations. We're prepared to keep you on as a non-equity partner, if you're interested. Otherwise, we think it'd be a good idea if you found a firm at which your practice was a better fit.'


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 12:42 PM
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It will get better as the competent lawyers and the competent tech consultants find each other,

I met somebody recently who, IIRC, was working at a tech company that was doing that sort of work for law firms.

They would get a hard drive and produce some sort of searchable index of everything on it.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 12:47 PM
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So, what, the targeted partner is informed that if there were to be a vote, things would go badly for h/h case? It is done this way to maintain some sort of illusion that the partner's departure was h/h own doing, or something? I wonder if the issue were forced would the votes actually materialize.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 12:47 PM
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Can't read the whole thread, but I've managed to never work at a classic biglaw type firm, despite doing basically similar work and being either cocounsel to or adverse to many such firms, and couldn't be happier with that particular choice (plenty of other aggravations in practicing law, of course). My current firm is an ex-big law refugee shop that could have served as an example for the article. I was taking depositions in my first year, and was floored when an eighth year from an absolute top tier NY firm (DPW) was taking a totally perfunctory deposition I was defending, and explained it was the first time he'd ever done one. He did a pretty shitty job, too, and probably at $500/hr.

I think the biglaw business model is collapsing. It certainly deserves to die.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 12:47 PM
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85: There are a bunch of companies that do that sort of thing; a friend of mine used to work for one. Building an index is just the start of what they can do.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 12:49 PM
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83.2: That was my thought as well. My first guess, without knowing much about the internal workings of these matters, is that information is being conserved. That is, the legal profession sees to it that the public at large believes that it must pay these seemingly inflated rates if it is to receive reliable service.

Also, law firms don't really advertise their rates, do they?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 12:49 PM
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80: Here is what looks to be a decent overview of the category of "non-equity partner" from the website of a legal search term. In my second-hand experience, non-equity partners can be either paid like an employee with a W-2 and withholding, or more likely like a partner but without the equity part (reported with a K-1 form). Benefits they make up as they go along.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 12:49 PM
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90: And pwned by actual lawyers.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 12:51 PM
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A friend of mine occasionally describes to me the arguments on the opposing sides in cases he's working on, and my impression is that it can't take much training to be a lawyer at all.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 12:51 PM
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Mayer Brown publically de-equitized a bunch of partners a few years ago, and I think lots of other big firms have done so privately.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 12:51 PM
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Senior associates "without skills" probably aren't as common as the quote in the original article suggests; most of the people who wouldn't acquire any polish in seven to ten years at a large, busy law firm tend to leave in the first two or three years -- like most of the people who become associates at large, busy law firms at all. There are probably some people whose careers have been stunted by years digging discovery ditches, but they aren't everybody.

However, there is very little daylight between "no skills" and "skills for which market demand is cool to cold in an epochal recession."

... he typed, bitterly postponing reading the class notes in his college magazine.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 12:56 PM
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83: One thing though: I've heard these complaints about associate work being a rip-off of clients going back decades now, to the 1980s. I wouldn't think such a crazy system could survive so long unless there was *some* kind of market reason.

It's an informational failure -- part of the reason lawyering is a profession is that it's really hard for someone who isn't doing the work to determine what work needs to be done. I've talked to people who hire lawyers, and they bitch about overbilling and talk about having cut useless work out of their bills, and they usually sound to me like they're wrong about which bits are useless (probably right about the overbilling generally, so no harm done.) There's no way to compare one litigation to another price-wise, because there's no systematic way to tell what work was really necessary: you need someone with professional judgment looking at the details to tell that.

And there's the "No one ever got fired for buying IBM" issue. If you're a giant corporation, you're expected to hire one of the "best" firms out there, and there aren't all that many of the "best" firms. If their billing practices are all similar, you end up with an informal cartel keeping prices up -- sure, you can get cheaper lawyering, that might be just as effective, but it won't be as safe for the hirer if something goes wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 12:58 PM
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95 gets it right. It's also the case that there is some work that really does need to be done by highly specialized lawyers who do a lot of it and know many of the other lawyers who do that sort of work, and Biglaw is good at aggregating those practices.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 1:04 PM
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Clients are smartening up, though, even if it has taken 30 years for them to do so.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 1:05 PM
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I've talked to people who hire lawyers, and they bitch about overbilling and talk about having cut useless work out of their bills, and they usually sound to me like they're wrong about which bits are useless (probably right about the overbilling generally, so no harm done.)

That makes it sound like large clients would want an in-house lawyer just to oversee the billing/contracting with the firm.

Also all of the references to the rates that lawyers are charging makes me think, again, that this comment is truer than I think.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 1:05 PM
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95.last to 98.middle.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 1:12 PM
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83: Oh my god, this sounds horrible and torturous. I couldn't last more than a few months at the kind of associate jobs being described here, I'd just lose my ability to get out of bed in the morning.

Earlier this summer, a friend's son abruptly quit his BigLaw (well, BigLaw for Pittsburgh) job as a 2nd or 3rd year associate, apparently saying that if he had to do another document review on subject X (he had been unable to move into the area of law he wanted at the firm--probably the more significant factor) "his head would explode". Not sure it was the most well-thought out plan, last I heard he was working as a dishwasher and applying at the DA's office. I might get an update today as I am visiting said friend in the hospital where he is recovering from a sextuple(?) coronary bypass operation, although *I* will not bring it up*.

*It's not his choice and/or problem of course, but his 1st two children are in the midst of long "startups" (one is entering a PhD in Linguistics at ~30--NTTIAWWT) and whatever his opinions of the virtues of his son's employment it had at least seemed to be something relatively stable and long-term. Our over-investment in our young adult children, let us show it to you.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 1:15 PM
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"Bedbugs at Empire State Building, Spreading". Run!

Gah, my skin has been crawling for days. We've got a guy in my beat that is visibly crawling with bedbugs and/or lice with an added bonus of a ridiculously bad case of fungus on his feet and ankles (the smell is unbelievable, a guard at jail gagged). He's been deliberately going into downtown hotels and sitting in cloth chairs in the lobby to infect them.

Jail's been refusing him, claiming he has abscesses (he doesn't). It fell to me to arrest him and go to a hospital for a prescription on treating his infestations so that jail would have to accept him. I had EMT's come out and I made him put on a full body Tyvek Suit and rubber gloves before I cuffed him. Tied another one around his neck hoping that would help prevent anything from jumping out (at jail buggies could be ssen crawling around that hood as they took it off). Afterwards had crime scene cleanup guy fog my patrol car. Gah.

Oh, and let's not forget how he ignored my order to stay put at the ER and made a beeline for the cloth chairs in the waiting area. I had to grab him and kick his feet out from under him to keep him in the tiled hallway.

Jail personnel told me a day later that he refused to shower and had to be held down by guards so the nurses could decontaminate him.


Posted by: Teddy Roosevelt | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 1:22 PM
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That makes it sound like large clients would want an in-house lawyer just to oversee the billing/contracting with the firm.

This is a large part of what many in-house lawyers have to do. I shudder to recall how many hours I spent preparing bills and responses to billing queries.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 1:32 PM
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101: I'm going to have nightmares about that guy now. Thanks, Commissioner Roosevelt!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 1:36 PM
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101: Oh yeah, well at my job there was a funny smell in one of the rooms for over half an hour!!!


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 1:39 PM
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101: Now that he's all cleaned up, maybe you could help him find a temp job at a daycare center.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 1:47 PM
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95: they bitch about overbilling and talk about having cut useless work out of their bills

What would be awesome would be variable billing rates for various types of tasks. What I did not like to see in the legal bills regarding my mom's estate were $100 charges (again and again) that represented the firm, or the lawyer, or someone, pulling my file, opening it, reviewing its status to date ... all in order to determine that they had, yes, received the information I'd recently sent them, and now they are emailing a reply to say so.

Variable rates for these sorts of things would be great.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 1:47 PM
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106: For small-scale tasks like your mother's estate, I think billing by the hour is really nuts. In an ideal world, they'd look at the complexity of the estate, and quote you an overall price.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 1:52 PM
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I shudder to recall how many hours I spent preparing bills and responses to billing queries.

Hmmm. Yes, it should be utterly predictable that (a) the billing firm would like to be able to have a little bit of ambiguity in their bills and (b) the client, in setting rules to eliminate ambiguity would end up generating a large amount of unnecessary work on both ends.

Heh, we may not be charging enough, but at least our relationships with clients are very good. I don't know the last time we've had a client complain about a bill.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 1:52 PM
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Maybe the variable rates could result from the fact that someone who opens an envelope and confirms that its contents exist would bill a mere $15 per hour, or possibly even $55 like the mythical unbelievably highly paid auto worker with an unbelievably cushy job.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 1:52 PM
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I'm going to have nightmares about that guy now

Let me help with that. Last week when I was dealing with him on a different occasion when he went into a business lobby for some good clean infestation fun, he was vigorously scratching himself as I told him to get the hell up and step outside. A big piece of bloody mangy skin fell off his ear onto the chair. It wasn't the only piece on that chair either.


Posted by: Teddy Roosevelt | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 1:54 PM
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I'll just be over here, bleaching my eyes if you guys need me.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 1:59 PM
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I've heard though that clients have been somewhat more cost sensitive that they were decades back.

Ironically, that's one of the reasons that the associates aren't doing as much real work. Clients don't want to pay for senior lawyers to spend time training the associates. Less of that stuff is billable, so less of it gets done.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:01 PM
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107: Agreed, and it certainly was a small, uncontested affair. So I've learned something. The legal profession doesn't do overall job quotes, though, I don't believe.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:01 PM
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My grandmother's estate, which wasn't large by private client standards, was handled by a big firm for reasons of family ties.

They charged her a hell of a lot, and I think they did kind of a sloppy job. The former managing partner who had been her lawyer until she died was very good at 30 minute chats which could be reassuring. (Actually, he kind of stopped being a lawyer and got into the securities business, but if I were to see him now (and I think he's "of Counsel" now at 83, though he goes in at least 5 days a week--used to go in 7 because of his charity work) he would certainly talk to me. Doubt that it was worth all that money though.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:05 PM
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110: Is this blackmail? Like, is he begging "Give me money and I'll go away?" Or is he just unbalanced enough to actively want to spread bugs around?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:06 PM
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30 minute chats which could be reassuring

I learned not to have these. Sorry, folks, you're fine people and all, but I can't talk to you. You cost too much.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:09 PM
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There's one big firm here that regularly tops lists and is known for its IP work, but in general it was my impression that a lot of IP stuff went to boutique firms. Don't know how big a firm can be and still be called boutique.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:09 PM
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Reading about biglaw associates actually cheers me up in a way -- my job is better than that! Doesn't pay as well, but better.

101/110: sounds like a scene from a Stephen King or Clive Barker novel. Except this guy would be some kind of super-powered harbinger of the insect apocalypse. Someone should do a horror series starring a hard-bitten cop.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:12 PM
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Hard and bitten by what type of bug?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:13 PM
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101/110: sounds like a scene from a Stephen King or Clive Barker novel. Except this guy would be some kind of super-powered harbinger of the insect apocalypse.

I'm visualizing the guy from Men In Black -- the giant cockroach disguised as a person?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:14 PM
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"Coming this summer to a theater near you, Rock Hudson battles . . . Bedbugs from the Beyond!"


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:15 PM
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Sort of a CHIPS/Spiderman/Rapebear mashup?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:15 PM
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TR--

We have a very challenging client who has a long history of shoplifting. Her story is so hilarious that I almost e-mailed it to you.

She's always managed to get out of the charges because of her mental illness. She's gotten very blase about it.

The last time she was in jail, the housing staff decided not to bail her out, because they felt that she needed to accept some of the consequences of her actions. (She just takes stuff when family members mention that they want something.)

Anyway, she was so annoying that the cops took up a collection to bail her out. And they paid for her cabfare home!


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:17 PM
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Or is he just unbalanced enough to actively want to spread bugs around?

This. Coherent, but mentally ill or something. Not sure if he feels compelled, or gets gratification, or something else. Totally aware that he's infested and that he's scratched bloody scabs all over his body. Just doesn't seem to care.


Posted by: Teddy Roosevelt | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:20 PM
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Anyway, she was so annoying that the cops took up a collection to bail her out. And they paid for her cabfare home!

Wait, how long are they holding shoplifters out there? Out here that's maybe an overnight stay unless it was felony level theft.


Posted by: Teddy Roosevelt | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:25 PM
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116: In this case, it was tricky, because the firm was acting both as her lawyer and as a trustee. The latter business is billed on a percentage basis, so you're not paying any extra for that time.

Plus they've gotten a lot of grief from my family over the years, but great-grandfather's will says that the trustees of the trust he established must be Senior Partners of this particular firm.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:26 PM
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126.last: What kind of a messed-up lawyer would put a provision like that in a trust?

Oh.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:27 PM
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125: They couldn't stand her for even one night!

She has several cases pending and several different lawyers. She doesn't always bother to show up for court dates, so I think that she was in contempt and there was a warrant out.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:28 PM
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127: My great grandfather did found the firm.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:28 PM
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Necessary, albeit sucky, document review work isn't really the issue.

Unless I'm significantly misunderstanding what document review is, I bet I would both enjoy it and be good at it.*

*With some legal training.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:29 PM
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I doubt you'd enjoy it -- it's pretty mindless. There are two major components: responsiveness and privilege. You're going through giant stacks/databases of unsorted documents to figure out if they're responsive enough to a document request to be produced, and if they're subject to attorney/client or another privilege. The process is flip/scan for buzzwords/code responsive or not, and in which category/code privileged or not. Grindingly dull.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:42 PM
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131 gets it right. It really is something that's better done by computers (at least the first pass).

And you don't need any legal training to do doc review. I did it when I was a paralegal.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:45 PM
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Large organizations really ought to be training their people to write their smoking gun emails without explicit references to the actual topic. E.g., "I briefed the boss on the matter we discussed last week and she said we're not making any changes."


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 2:56 PM
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This thread reminds me of how unbelievably lucky I was to get a job at a small-to-mid-sized firm without much leveraging. The hours still suck, but they're honest hours and I've certainly learned how to do things.

I've never met anyone who really enjoyed document review, especially when it's done under a deadline and requires long hours. We mostly give first-line document review work to contract and staff attorneys here. Sometimes we outsource it entirely. You might get marginally better-quality work (at significantly greater cost to the client) from a not-yet-burned-out junior associate, but that's just never been our model.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:01 PM
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And you don't need any legal training to do doc review. I did it when I was a paralegal.

And I did it when I was a legal ass't (not for production, but reviewing docs that were produced to us).


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:02 PM
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133 -- Yes and no. That email is going to be clearly responsive, if I've asked the right question, and if you didn't produce it, and somehow I find out, there will be hell to pay.

How am I going to find out? Your brilliant plan to have the minion take the fall for not having communicated with the boss might just have a flaw.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:03 PM
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I've never met anyone who really enjoyed document review, especially when it's done under a deadline and requires long hours.

The sort of document review that's on paper in a conference room with another couple of junior associates can be sort of fun in a grim kind of way -- it's mindless enough that you can chat off and on while scanning documents.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:04 PM
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136: Yup. OTOH, we're told by the tech consultant types that agreed-upon search terms are the coming thing, and if you're doing your document discovery with agreed-upon searches before you start taking depositions, you're not going to get that email.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:08 PM
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Large organizations should just make sure their nefarious schemes are simple enough that personal memory rather than the sort of institutional memory that requires external supplementation in the form of persistent entities (email, meeting minutes, etc.) suffices, and stick with oral discussions.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:10 PM
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Mostly e-discovery just fills me with despair. People and organizations being what they are, it's tough to see how it can ever be done to what appears to be the emerging standard without rebuilding large chunks of your organizational and IT infrastructure around preserving mountains of crap for possible future e-discovery needs.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:11 PM
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If there were a lawyer-themed television network called the Discovery Channel, it would be Shark Week every week. (Ha! Lawyers.)


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:15 PM
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139: The beauty of email, from a litigator's point of view, is that it's composed like a phone call, in an unguarded, ephemeral kind of way, but is absolutely impossible to destroy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:15 PM
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Don't worry, I'm not agreeing to search terms that allow you to hold on to that one. That is, we'll have agreed search terms for broader topics, and we'll have date ranges, and we'll have all the communication related to the matter between particular people, etc.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:15 PM
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Why, in fact, does one need to preserve mountains of crap? If it serves no further institutional purpose and you delete it entirely, would that really be objectionable if you then, later, get sued?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:15 PM
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but is absolutely impossible to destroy.

Of course it's possible to destroy.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:16 PM
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27.last: The point of the law firm isn't giving associates interesting work. It's winning the client's cases.

From way back upthread--but it has been bugging me. The "point" of any business is not to provide employees interesting work, but ensuring that you have employees with adequate skills to address client needs/make products/whatever is recognized as a core part of delivering goods and services.

And the point of most law firms is *not* winning cases, but rather making money which usually does involve winning at least some of the cases.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:17 PM
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you delete it entirely

This is almost impossible to do in a large organization.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:17 PM
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||
Say you're a writer, in a small way, and you write something for publication, and then someone else, like a friend, promotes it -- do you ever have a burst of shame and humiliation, because it wasn't good enough, and now someone you like has stuck their neck out for you by recommending it? Or is that just way too neurotic to contemplate?
||>


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:20 PM
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145: Okay, it's really really hard to destroy. Copies get places, someone always has a copy or a backup tape or something.

143: Don't worry, I'm not agreeing to search terms that allow you to hold on to that one. That is, we'll have agreed search terms for broader topics, and we'll have date ranges, and we'll have all the communication related to the matter between particular people, etc.

You can't actually do that last with search terms. You could do all the communication in a date range between particular people, but there aren't any search terms that would give you 'related to the matter' if it's elliptically phrased. So, you could refuse to accept automated searches as sufficient, but I think they're likely to become a norm in the future -- I actually think they're becoming a norm now, such that if your excuse for not producing a doc was "We used these reasonable search terms to go through the overpowering mass of data, and the terms didn't bring it up," you're going to get away with the failure to produce as inadvertent error.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:22 PM
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147: You can do it systematically -- all email gets deleted after thirty days, no backup tapes kept of deleted email, if you want to save an email print it out and put it in a file folder. Short of that though, getting rid of electronic data is really hard.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:24 PM
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149: I'm guessing that "AIish capabilities" will increasingly become a feature of such searches--not mere terms, but flagging where there may be likely hits even with vague language. Suspect it will become quite the battleground.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:27 PM
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146 -- Sure. The point of a dry cleaner isn't getting the clothes clean, it's making money for the owner. Training of new employees, though, is completely the responsibility of the owner. The customer has no interest in having his clothes used for training, much less paying extra for it.

Clients don't care about the professional development of lawyers. From their perspective, the only legitimate role for associates on their case is to do work that they can do as well as (or better than) the lawyer they hired, but at a lower cost. They don't see court appearances in their cases as "scraps" or "professional opportunities" -- they are the main thing for which the lawyer was hired.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:27 PM
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143: In case it wasn't clear, 133 was not a serious suggestion. The problem from where I sit as an in-house lawyer isn't figuring out how to hide a smoking gun from you, it's making sure that everything that's at least arguably relevant gets located and handed over to outside counsel. Even after you narrow it down to a manageable number of people, you've got way more stuff than you want to have to browse through to find something phrased like 133, and there's a significant risk that someone who doesn't know the case pretty well isn't going to recognize that as important even if they see it.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:28 PM
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I think 139 is tongue-in-cheek, but, seriously, a lot of people try that or something similar. But implementing a nefarious scheme that is profitable enough to be worth a large organization's while usually involves the services of a significant number of people who are either peripherally aware or entirely unaware of the transaction's nefarious character. If one starts telling them all, "don't write anything down about the Smith deal," what that creates is a large pool of people who know there's something fishy about Smith and who have no personal reason not to tell the investigators that when they come to ask questions.

In fact, people being people, it's entirely possible that one of the employees will actually write an e-mail saying, "Jones told me not to put anything in writing about the Smith deal," and that gets very awkward for Jones.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:29 PM
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149.3 -- If the minion remembers having sent the email, I think I'm getting sanctions. Especially if the boss claims not to have seen the earlier draft (or whatever it is that makes this email important). You can't just search the data. You have to talk to the people.

Well, I'm asking for them anyway.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:30 PM
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144: Because you end up in the position of trying to prove a negative: there wasn't anything important there, we didn't know we were about to get sued, etc. You can try to avoid that by having and enforcing a strict set of rules for retaining and destroying records, but that sort of thing tends to break down because people have idiosyncratic ways of making sure that they hold onto what they think they need to do their job (or cover their ass).


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:31 PM
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What happens in these cases with work-related emails being sent from and to non-work email addresses?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:31 PM
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Large organizations really ought to be training their people to write their smoking gun emails without explicit references to the actual topic. E.g., "I briefed the boss on the matter we discussed last week and she said we're not making any changes."

FWIW, good e-discovery will tell you what those people were talking about regardless of whether or not they explicitly discuss it in a given email.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:33 PM
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all email gets deleted after thirty days, no backup tapes kept of deleted email, if you want to save an email print it out and put it in a file folder

And rules like that get circumvented after about 5 seconds since they are a pain in the ass with no appreciable benefit to users of the system.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:33 PM
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139, 154: The Church Committee Report is a very good read on plausible deniability.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:33 PM
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152: That's all true -- there's no reason whatsoever that clients should be interested in the career development of any lawyers at all. I'd think, though, that if the demands of client service aren't such that it's necessary to either use your associates for responsible work such that after five or six years they're capable of functioning independently or to get rid of those associates who aren't capable of picking up the necessary skills, that there's something badly designed about your staffing structure.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:36 PM
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157: Nothing good. If it's your people and your business, you'd better find it and produce it, but getting cooperation is not going to be fun.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:36 PM
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153 -- Exactly (and I know you're not serious). Understanding context is a great reason not to use temps or low level paralegals to look at important stuff. I suppose it's possible to underinform associates so that they are worth no more than a temp for a project like this; and that certainly wouldn't advance anyone's career.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:36 PM
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151: That was my first thought, too. Putting together a Google-style search algorithm for legal documents could make a person very rich indeed.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:39 PM
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I suppose it's possible to underinform associates so that they are worth no more than a temp for a project like this; and that certainly wouldn't advance anyone's career.

You think? An associate is coming up to speed on the case in the same way a temp is, and knows the same amount -- exactly what you, or the client, has told them. The associate may do a better job because they're just fundamentally cleverer, or because they think it's higher stakes for them to do it well, but there's no structural reason why they'd know any more than a temp.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:39 PM
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Putting together a Google-style search algorithm for legal documents could make a person very rich indeed.

It's not just "legal documents", though, it's documents that might become relevant to legal proceedings. Any old email, etc.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:39 PM
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151, 164, 166: You guys are all thinking too small. The legal industry is only one small slice of the potential market for this technology, and it's already being used.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:41 PM
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Further to 165: Document reviews I worked on as a junior associate, I got a short, generalized briefing on roughly what was going on with the case, a summary of the discovery categories, and a list of the relevant lawyers' names, to be expanded as we found documents from people not on the list who turned out to be lawyers. I can't think of when I knew any more than a temp would have.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:42 PM
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Wow, reading that article made me want to firebomb Cataphora's offices.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:43 PM
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That's all true -- there's no reason whatsoever that clients should be interested in the career development of any lawyers at all.

Eh? That seems overstated. I would think that if a client is a long term client of a law firm that they would have some interest in that firm having a workable career development path because it decreases turnover and increases the level of institutional memory. That should be a benefit for the clients.

Now, that isn't enough of a benefit for them to want to pay the entire cost of training, but I know in our company (which isn't really comparable in any way with a big law firm) we've had conversations with clients about support contracts in which we say, "for us to be able to guarantee this support the price has to not only cover our costs with the current staff but also cover some of the overhead of training a new person on your system if/when we have turnover."

Now, considering the amounts the law firms charge I would hope their would be some covering of overhead already included, but that's not the same thing as saying that customers have no interest in the career development at the firm.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:43 PM
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No reason whatsoever is overstated -- I should have said 'no reason other than insofar as it's necessary for the continued provision of high quality services to them'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:47 PM
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Wait, let me try that again.

Das Lesen des Artikels machte mich des Cataphoras Büro zerstreuen wollen.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:49 PM
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166: Yeah, documents in a legal context, not documents about legal stuff. Sloppy language on my part.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:49 PM
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Long-running clients who give significant quantities of work to a particular firm will sometimes be sympathetic to a need to give substantively significant pieces of work (e.g., arguing an appeal or an important motion) to a promising but inexperienced associate on the grounds that they still expect to be using the firm in five to ten years and feel like they have an interest in developing good senior associates and junior partners. I have, in fact, seen that happen. But it's the exception, not the rule.

On preview, semi-pwned by 170.

164: Such things exist. See, e.g. these guys. There is a bit of an incentive problem, though -- there is a very significant downside to doing something sanctionably bad in responding to discovery requests, but there is no upside to doing something better than sanctionably bad plus a reasonable margin of error. Brilliant new software that infallibly (or semi-infallibly) finds horrible documents can be a hard sell to the client.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 3:51 PM
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174.1 -- IME, the client has no idea where their lead lawyer is going to be 5-10 years from now, much less an associate who may or may not make partner, or become a potter, or whatever. I'm sure you've seen it. I think it's very rare, and getting rarer.

Most relationships are personal, not institutional. This is why big time lawyers can and do move, and why a GC change can be pretty scary for a firm.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 4:03 PM
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I don't disagree with 175 at all. We have one client, and maybe a second, who someone might make that kind of pitch to. Outside those particular relationships, I don't think anyone would consider it.

More often, we get situations in which an established client has to deal with some small problem that they're on the verge of settling just for the nuisance value, and the client is the one that asks for a relatively junior person to handle the matter with light supervision to keep the bills down.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 4:14 PM
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165 -- I expect lawyers interested in the case to be more aggressive about asking questions, at the start and as their process moves along, and in telling me if they think something is wrong. With compliance, with our understanding of the facts, with the search terms, with my instructions, whatever.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 4:15 PM
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177: So, you'd expect them to do a better job because it's higher stakes for them. Fair enough, and probably true; the way you put it before, though, made it sound as if an associate doing document review would come in knowing something about the case, which isn't my experience at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 4:17 PM
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Although, it's interesting -- that kind of added commitment from associates is kind of contingent on their perception that they've got a future with the firm if they do well. Once the business model of the firm doesn't include a commitment to associate career development, there's no particular reason to believe associate work would be higher quality than temp work.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 4:19 PM
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Not "higher stakes." Higher status.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 4:29 PM
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Spell out what you mean by the difference?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 4:30 PM
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I want someone so motivated by desire to win the case, and to comply with the rules, that they have little hesitation to confront me with errors. IME, that's not a matter of the person's "stakes" nearly as much as their "status." They have to be comfortable enough in the role, and confident enough of their judgments. It helps to know the last 4 opinions from the relevant circuit, and district judge, on privilege, and be able to apply them to the instance where my instructions are deficient. I need them t tell me that the client hasn't been completely honest. Again, this requires judgment and experience. And the willingness to march into my office and ask pointed questions.

OK, sure, junior paralegals or temps can cull out the obviously unresponsive stuff. And the obviously privileged stuff.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 4:45 PM
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E.g., don't ever let someone who doesn't know the relevant Maryland cases write up the descriptions in your privilege log for a case in D.Md.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 4:49 PM
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I want someone so motivated by desire to win the case, and to comply with the rules, that they have little hesitation to confront me with errors. IME, that's not a matter of the person's "stakes" nearly as much as their "status."

The thing is, the "status" of an associate who thinks that if they do a good job and work hard, the firm will support their career development such that they'll be well trained for their future legal career and will have a good shot at a future with the firm, is very different from the "status" of an associate who knows that the firm has no interest in their development. While you're right that the client has no direct interest in the career development of your associates, you're not going to get the quality of work you want for the client out of them unless you either commit to developing them, or at least successfully convince them, truly or falsely, that you've committed to developing them.

Without that, you're probably doing the client a favor by hiring the temps. They're cheaper.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 4:50 PM
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Well, I spent a lot of time on that, so, comity.

Also a big factor in hiring and retention. Maybe I'd have made more money with a bunch of well-credentialed drones, but money (beyond, you know, living pretty well) wasn't the main motivation.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 5:00 PM
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167: and of course the biggest application of all would be a government Total Information Awareness type project that sweeps the web for potentially subversive emails.

I've often thought that the modern mass Internet was freedom-enhancing and empowered individuals for the first 15 years or so of its existence, but as computational speed and sophistication gets greater things may be flipping around so the net gives more power to big institutions that want to keep tabs on individuals.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 5:08 PM
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Say you're a writer, in a small way, and you write something for publication, and then someone else, like a friend, promotes it -- do you ever have a burst of shame and humiliation, because it wasn't good enough, and now someone you like has stuck their neck out for you by recommending it? Or is that just way too neurotic to contemplate?

Nothing is too neurotic for a writer to contemplate.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 5:09 PM
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I blame the billable hour for my inability to keep up with this thread.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 5:10 PM
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188: "Research re alternative billing methods."


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 5:14 PM
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184 gets it exactly right. Exactly.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 5:28 PM
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Maybe one of the many lawyers here can say what's up with this? Especially this part:

Dr. James Sherley of Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Theresa Deisher of Washington-based AVM Biotechnology, who both work with adult stem cells, filed the original suit saying the guidelines would harm their work by increasing competition for limited federal funding.

How is "we'd have to compete with them, so the government shouldn't be allowed to fund them" a legal argument? Though apparently the main legal argument is something called Dickey-Wicker.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 5:33 PM
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|| Before apparently becoming determined to out whine all lawyers on the whiny lawyer thread, I had intended to write about how disappointed I was that Unfogged had not informed me that yesterday was National Go Topless Day. I had imagined a number of nearly witty (and, I guess, borderline creepy) lines for a comment on this. Oh well, the moment is gone. And tomorrow, it's all about some billable hours.|>


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 5:55 PM
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How is "we'd have to compete with them, so the government shouldn't be allowed to fund them" a legal argument? Though apparently the main legal argument is something called Dickey-Wicker.

I know nothing about that case, but I am reminded of Thurman Arnold in 1937.

the same thing [the idea that the government cannot use resources that it owns because that would be usurping the function of private companies] was again illustrated when the government attempted to use the water power in the Tennessee Valley to produce electricity. Sound conservative lawyers thought it unconstitutional. Sound conservative economists were sure it violated economic principles The matter finally reached the Supreme Court. In fear and trembling as to the possible consequences of their decision on posterity, that learned tribunal, confining its decisions to the narrowest possible limit, determined that the manufacture of electricity on the particular dam in question was justified under the war power. Fantasy can go no further than this. Yet few saw anything ludicious in the decision, in spite of the fact that it left the other dams built by the Government in connection with the T.V.A. still subject to continued and protracted litigation.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 5:56 PM
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Here's the opinion.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 6:04 PM
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https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?2009cv1575-44

Or here.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 6:04 PM
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And here is Judge Ginsburg's opinion on standing. I've never filed a case with 'competitor standing' but it sounds like fun.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 6:12 PM
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Oh, and I sort of solved Friday's exasperation in a manner which ensures that the right thing gets done, preserves my ability to provide meaningful practice experience to a motivated young associate, and fairly directly insulted our managing partner.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 6:18 PM
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192: Isn't the day after Go Topless Day celebrated as Boxing Day in some countries?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 6:21 PM
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I did some litigation support work after college (1999-2000). It sounds like it was the lowest of the low kind of work that fits under the term "document review." It paid less than $15/hr: you started at 8, 9, or 10 depending on your education (i.e. level of degrees) and then if you didn't run away or get fired you got small raises periodically - and a couple of people got promoted to salaried "manager" positions after a while when the previous people ditched the place. That apparently paid fairly well.

The databases we produced were all made according to a strict protocol - no real prior knowledge of law was required. The databases probably weren't very good, but it wasn't clear if anyone ever used them. I heard after I left that they cut out most quality control to cut costs. Then a little after that they went out of business. Aside from being technologically behind, they just couldn't compete with the firms doing the same sort of thing in places with a lower cost of living (like the Philippines, mentioned above).


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 6:31 PM
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It will get better as the competent lawyers and the competent tech consultants find each other

Catching up with the thread, records professionals I know who are working on e-discovery see it as a huge opportunity for their profession. In their view, it's not enough to have tech consultants and lawyers getting together - in a lot of contexts better records management is going to make it easier to produce the relevant records down the line (or to create schedules and procedures by which documents are routinely and legitimately destroyed), and neither the lawyers nor the tech people are all that concerned with how employees create documents in their everyday work. It's apparently a lucrative area, as companies are willing to spend a lot to prevent expensive judgments against them*, but still sounds numbingly dull. Plus it involves a fair amount of responsibility I wouldn't want, and a lot of telling people what to do (while pretending you're just talking about records management, not people management).

*Everyone seems to be talking about the Zubulake case. I've already forgotten the details.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 7:18 PM
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197: Sounds like a victory on all fronts. Nice when you win, isn't it?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 7:21 PM
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191: Sherley has quite a history. I still don't know how much of that rotten situation was institutional racism (presumably a good chunk), how much was departmental politics (certainly some: the department head's wife was Sherley's competitor), and how much was Sherley's own failings as a researcher, but one big issue was his vocal support of the extremely unpopular claim (unpopular in bioengineering circles, anyway) that it's wrong to use ES cells and that adult stem cells can do everything ES cells can. I am not altogether surprised to find him advancing a rickety argument on the subject.


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 7:27 PM
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I doubt you'd enjoy it -- it's pretty mindless.

No, seriously. I am beginning to like mindless things very much.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 7:39 PM
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Sorry to be late to this thread. I love document review! In my practice the bulk is studying what the other side produced. Finding the key documents in the case is the difference between winning big and losing our shirts. The partners (including me) participate, and it's time well spent because it prepares for deposition mediation or trial. The junior lawyers and paralegals also participate, only after they've earned trust. On a few cases we have hired teams of history grad students to make sense of corporate archives that go back decades. They generally seem to enjoy the work.

Even when no game changer turns up, reading five years of emails about what the CEO was told about the development of a new product can be a fascinating study in personality clashes and technological limitations.

My favorite electronic production search is, of course, the fuck up (or "fuck! up" or just "fuck!" if that doesn't get too much). Litigation is always about fuck ups. We usually run that search when the production first arrives. Often they're discussing the particular fuck up that is the subject of the case. Even if they aren't, we can identify gets us to the most gssippy individuals at the company, and searches f their "from " emails are bound to be interesting.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 7:41 PM
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t. On a few cases we have hired teams of history grad students to make sense of corporate archives that go back decades. They generally seem to enjoy the work.

See! (Plus, the rest sounds basically like what I do anyway. Go through tons of irrelevant material looking for a needle in a haystack.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 7:50 PM
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Document review sounds interesting if you have enough autonomy to be able to do something that involves seeing the whole situation. The stuff I was doing, which was below document review, was alienated, routinized labor where you never saw the whole product.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:03 PM
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204: well of course it's fun when you're the one reviewing, trying to put the puzzle together and follow the trail of hints that will lead you to a zillion dollars.

I worked as a paralegal long ago doing defense and the only way to make the document production fun was imagining I was searching for ways to sue the guys we were producing for.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:10 PM
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186.2: Well, we are all in now. Have your way with us, Minitrue.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:19 PM
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adult stem cells can do everything ES cells can

Is this controversial now that people have been able to grow an entire mouse out of an adult somatic cell?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:25 PM
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That is, turning somatic cells (skin cells, in this case) into an adult mouse simply by inducing the cells back into their pluripotent state, without transferring genetic material to an egg or anything.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:31 PM
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197: Bravo!


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:32 PM
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197: Nice, And then after the raid you rolled for and won an extremely rare Epic Mount.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:45 PM
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152

Clients don't care about the professional development of lawyers. From their perspective, the only legitimate role for associates on their case is to do work that they can do as well as (or better than) the lawyer they hired, but at a lower cost. They don't see court appearances in their cases as "scraps" or "professional opportunities" -- they are the main thing for which the lawyer was hired.

This isn't true, inferior work at lower cost can be a legitimate role.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 8:55 PM
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209: presumably not? I'm even less up on the field now than I was at the time, as is probably obvious.


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:30 PM
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214: I don't know! This breakthrough happened in 2009, but I totally missed it until just recently. I taught my whole summer unit on stem cells using material from 2006. I feel like I misled my students.*

I feel like this result should have gotten at least as much play in the mainstream media as, for instance, this recent US court ruling on what kinds of embryos you are allowed to use. I'm not a scientist, let alone a cell biologist, but creating a whole mouse out of a somatic cell strikes me as proof in concept that human adult cells can do everything human embryonic stem cells can do.


____
I teach a 5/5 load with 5 preps a year. I think I can be excused for missing some things.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-23-10 9:57 PM
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Which in theory means you could go from a dinosaur erythrocyte to a live dinosaur without needing to worry about finding a compatible enucleated oocyte as an intermediate stage!

Of course you'd still need a dinosaur to incubate it in. Shit.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-24-10 2:12 AM
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213 -- Fair enough.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-24-10 3:39 AM
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204.3 -- Brilliant! I have no idea why I've never heard/thought of that before.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-24-10 3:43 AM
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