Saturday, April 18, 2009

Wombley Carlyle Realigns Core Focus

Acknowledging price pressure from big-firm laid off lawyers who hang out their own shingle, 530 attorney law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice PLLC is taking a number of initiatives to bring costs in line with the new market realities. Read the full article in today's Winston-Salem Journal.

Firm cost reductions aiming for a $5 million annual expense reduction include:
  1. Salary cuts of 10% for most employees
  2. Selected job cuts
  3. Streamlining of non-legal administrative functions
  4. Cutting back on rent and other occupancy costs

Somehow the firm's "confidential" layoff memo was posted to the Internet.

Citing the ACC Value Challenge, Womble emphasizes that corporate clients - themselves facing drastic restructuring - are looking for lower cost structures and flexible billing policies from their legal partners.

As the business world accelerates its rate of change, law firms that focus on core competencies, while outsourcing support functions, are more likely to survive and even thrive as a leaner organization. As difficult as this may be to navigate, those firms that procrastinate are likely to pay an even higher price than mere discomfort.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Legal Billing Rates Scrutinized Down Under

The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, comprised of AGs throughout Australia and New Zealand, yesterday asked its national legal profession joint working party to review five proposals aimed at greater transparency and accountability regarding legal fees. Read the full article on The Brisbane Times.

According to the article, "The measures proposed by NSW for eventual adoption into the national model law on the regulation of the legal profession include a prohibition on law practices charging excessive costs, fines for any breaches of provisions adopted, and a new regulation under which the principals of law firms - not their solicitors or any other person - would approve bills."

Obviously the U.S. legal system is not the only one coming under pricing pressure.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Skadden Pays Lawyers not to Work

Take the day off ... no take the week off ... oh well, just take a year off! Law firms offering a sabbatical?

The New York Times reported on Sunday April 12th that leading New York law firm Skadden Arps. "Looking to cut costs like everyone else, but not prepared to lay off associates, Skadden has chosen instead to offer all of its associates — about 1,300 worldwide — the option of accepting a third of their base pay to not show up for work for a year." Read the full story.

This is definitely NOT a good PR move. First of all, many corporate clients feel that salaries for New York associates are already too high. Paying people not to work goes against the grain of the American work ethic. This sounds similar to the UAW Job Bank, which draws the ire of many auto company critics.

Perhaps if the participating associates were placed in public service type positions with worthy non-profits, the paid leave would be more palatable. Or how about placing them in-house with struggling corporate clients for a 12-month stint?

Hopefully this is one trend that does not gain followers.

Wolfe Law Launches Chinese Drywall Blog

In an enterprising move driven by market conditions, Wolfe Law Group of New Orleans is an early responder in regard to the issue of Chinese drywall used in Louisiana construction projects. The construction law firm created a new practice group for matters involving defective drywall, and created a blog at

As part of the same campaign, the firm published al legal guide on the lawyer rating web-service,, titled “What To Do If You Supplied or Installed Chinese Drywall?” (See yesterday's post re Avvo and The Florida Bar.)

Wolfe Law Group is prepared to represent developers, contractors, suppliers and other participants in the construction industry who are facing warranty claims, lawsuits, and other legal and business questions derived from the use of imported drywall.

This is a great example of how to use simple Internet marketing techniques to take an early lead in an emerging field. Read the press release.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Florida Bar Sued Over Avvo Features

Public Citizen filed a suit in federal court on April 1, 2009 against The Florida Bar. Boca Raton attorney Joel B. Rothman is the plaintiff in the matter.

Rothman was informed by the Bar that his use of Avvo - particularly his request that clients post reviews to his Avvo listing - violated the Bar's rules in regard to the use of client testimonials. Rothman claims that the Bar rules violate his First Amend rights to engage in truthful commercial advertising on the Internet.

The suit asks the court to declare the Florida Bar's advertising rules unconstitutional.

According to the release, Public Citizen successfully sued New York disciplinary authorities over that state's advertising rules, which a court ruled unconstitutional. That case is on appeal. Public Citizen also has filed a similar suit in Louisiana. The court in the Louisiana case delayed the implementation of the state's advertising rules, which had been scheduled to take effect in December.

This will definitely be an interesting case to watch.