Monthly Archives: June 2013

Many Big Firms Expanding

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Lawyer Hiring Up Though Many Firms Cautious, Says Consulting Firm Altman Weil

Lawyer hiring is up according to the 2013 Law Firms in Transition Survey recently released by the Altman Weil consulting firm and authored by Thomas S. Clay.  Based upon a sample of 791 U.S. law firms with 50 or more lawyers, the report suggests that, although firms are being careful about growth and more selective in determining who will become partner, many are expanding the numbers of lawyers within their ranks.

For the year 2012, the following percentages of firms reported increases in the number of lawyers by categories (with the percentage of increase in the parenthetical):

53.5% increased the number of equity partners (the median change was 1%).

65.1% increased the number of non-equity partners (the median change was 3%)

59.4% increased the number of partner-track associates (the median change was 2%).

28.2% increased the number of non-partner-track associates (the median change was 0%).

35.9% increased the number of other full-time lawyers (the median change was 0%).

The use of part-time and contract lawyers is now the norm within these firms:

 81.6% are using part-time lawyers.

76.5% are using contract lawyers.

And many firms see growth by hiring new lawyers:

89.4% plan to hire laterals during 2013.

55.7% believe growth is a requirement for their firms’ continued success.

Altman Weil’s observations are consistent with published reports about the improving legal job market in Michigan and with Cooley’s own observations about lawyer demographics that the market for legal jobs is picking up.

 

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On Bird’s Nests, Lawyers and Nurturing Talent

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Professor Victoria Vuletich teaches Professional Responsibility at Cooley Law School.  She is chairperson of the ABA’s Center for Professional Responsibility Continuing Legal Education Committee. Before joining Cooley’s faculty in 2008, Professor Vuletich was Deputy Division Director of the State Bar of Michigan Professional Standard’s Division, where she advised attorneys regarding ethical dilemmas and practical issues they were facing.  She also served as staff counsel to the State Bar of Michigan Client Protection and Unauthorized Practice of Law programs and developed and managed the Practice Management Resource Center.

The Constitutional Law Professor at the Grand Rapids campus, Devin Schinler, is a master barbeque aficionado.  A true “grill meister.”   The faculty barbeque at my house last summer was a delicious and fun party thanks to him and our great colleagues.

Recently he was lamenting to us that a mother robin has built her nest on the ladder in his garage.  And that his wife, who is adored by all, and possesses a true social worker’s heart, won’t let him shut the garage door as long as the nest is still inhabited.  (The ladder situation also has had some other consequences, but those are subject to confidentiality and can only be disclosed by him….!)  We’ve had some good chuckles over the Schindler’s bird’s nest predicament.

Just a few days later, one of our GR students, Lawrence Kibler, told me he had a mother robin build her nest in his barbecue grill and that one resident has already hatched.

Nest 1

He won’t be using his barbecue grill for some time I think…..

Nest 2

Never one to miss an opportunity to, ahem, “grill” Professor Schindler, I scolded him by pointing out how fortunate he is that he hasn’t lost the use of his beloved grill.   Just a ladder. And a private garage. And just temporarily.

But all this laughter and amusement was accompanied by a very deep sense on my part that the spate of bird’s nest construction with Cooley support was no accident. After all, Mama Birds only choose a safe and nurturing spot in which to hatch their family. And in a sense, that is exactly what we do at Cooley – we hatch and nurture fledgling lawyers.   There is nothing as gratifying as seeing a person “come into their own” and move out into the world to become not only a competent lawyer, but someone who is going to nurture the world, and care about what happens to the inhabitants of that world.

Cooley people really care.  And it shows.

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America’s Newest Superhero: “Mamattorney”

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law

By Nelson P. Miller

Recent reports indicate that mothers are now the sole or primary breadwinner in 40% of American households, a long-term demographic trend that the Great Recession accelerated.  Over 60% of those breadwinner moms are single parents.  Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law, notes how one particular Cooley graduate, Tamsen Horton, has in a very creative way developed a means to deliver legal services to working mothers. 

Breadwinning mothers face unusual time and resource challenges as they take on greater responsibility for the economic security of their households.  Social norms do not necessarily change as quickly as household demographics.  Working mothers must balance new financial and legal responsibilities with the rewarding but time-consuming demands of traditional child-rearing and household roles.

The multiple demands on working mothers and particularly single moms can leave those households in precarious position when challenged by common crises.  The breadwinner’s short-term illness, a child’s special needs, an elderly parent’s disability, or a motor-vehicle accident or home fire threaten those households with severe disruption and even complete demise, especially when the working mother did not prepare for crisis.  What can we do for these fragile homes?  Who can possibly help? 

Mamattorney to the Rescue

Cooley J.D. and Tax LL.M. alumna Tamsen Horton operates her burgeoning law practice Vuja De Law specifically to serve 25 to 40 year-old working mothers.  Tamsen is herself a working mother, married and with a preschool child.  She knows what she calls the “pain points” working mothers face trying to maintain and promote a stable and prosperous home. 

Take as an example a temporary power of attorney for guardianship of a minor.  Some families need such powers of attorney for school programs, family travel, and the like.  Or take as another example a financial power of attorney for an elderly parent.  These common legal documents can help a working mother manage a household and avert severe crises.

“How though, is my working-mom client going to consult with me to get the documents prepared and signed?” Tamsen asks.  “Her job keeps her from seeing me until after work.  But if she is not home at 5 p.m., then no one gets fed, and no homework gets done.”

Mamattorney’s solution?  “We just arrange a Google chat from home to home.  My virtual law practice solves her pain point.  The documents get done, and my working-mother client has the critical household-management documents in place.”  Mamattorney to the rescue.

Mamapreneurship

Tamsen also calls herself a Mamapreneur. Entrepreneurial she is, following entrepreneurship’s rules that you must know your clients, create value for those clients, reach sizeable client populations, and communicate value to those clients.  Tamsen knows her paradigm client mom so well that she says she even pictures her features.

Entrepreneurship involves personal and professional identity.  Tamsen knows her gift for seeing paradigms and then shifting them.  She connects those gifts to her law practice.  The name of her law practice Vuja De is a twist on deja vu, meaning not to experience something over again but instead to take a new perspective.

Tamsen indeed finds new perspectives.  In addition to her concept of pain points, her virtual practice, and her innovative use of home video-conference capabilities, she developed the concept that her working-mom clients each have a life footprint.  “Carbon footprints?” Tamsen asks rhetorically, continuing, “My working-mom clients care most about their life footprints.  My family law, business-planning and estate-planning services help working mothers discern, organize, enrich, and protect the multiple intersecting dimensions of their complex lives.”

Tamsen gladly shares her law practice insights with Cooley students and graduates.  In fact, she developed a website and consulting service My J.D., My Terms to help students and recent graduates discern their distinct career paths, drawing on their unique personal and professional identity.  She uses the same entrepreneurial principles that inform her law practice to guide students and recent graduates in their own paths.

My Kid, My Plan

True to her law firm’s name, Tamsen is always searching for the fresh paradigm to communicate new value to her clients.  When she was trying to help her working-mom clients connect early estate planning with their commitment to their children, she borrowed her My J.D., My Terms concept to come up with My Kid, My Plan.

No service or identity detail is too small for Tamsen to consider or re-consider in improving her law practice.  Logo design, website colors, the location of her pricing information—Tamsen thinks constantly of how her clients react as sophisticated consumers to the way in which she offers them critical law services.

For Tamsen, it is Vuja De all over again, in itself a constantly fresh paradigm.

For more information on serving emerging client populations, see the Cooley law practice books Entrepreneurial Practice:  Enterprise Skills for Lawyers Serving Emerging Client Populations and Lawyers as Economic Drivers:  The Business Case for Legal ServicesCooley’s four Law Practice courses in Business Development, Technology, Finance, and Management help students sharpen their entrepreneurial skills.

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Myth-Busting

Cooley’s President and Dean, Don LeDuc, is publishing commentaries on the Law School, legal education, and related topics.  In this commentary, President LeDuc takes on a variety of misstatements about legal education that abound across the Internet.

The Internet abounds with misstatements about law schools and lawyer employment.  Uninformed commentators and bloggers make the statements, and the media republish them without support, analysis or context, creating the impression that they are true.   Here are some of those assertions.

1. MYTH:  Unemployment among lawyers is widespread and severe.

False.  According to U.S.  Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics data, legal occupations have the lowest unemployment rate among the ten recognized professional and management occupations.  Employment of lawyers is nearly the best among all individual professional and management occupations.

2. MYTH:  Law schools continue to admit increasing numbers of students.

False.  Nationally, first-year enrollment fell by 4,000 in 2011 and again in 2012, and will likely fall by at least that much again in 2013.  First-year law school enrollment at Michigan’s five law schools is down over 30% over the past three years (2010, 2011, 2012), and will likely decline significantly again in 2013.

3. MYTH:  Law schools will drop their standards to keep their enrollment up.

False.  Michigan’s law schools kept their entering class profiles relatively stable over the past five years, reducing class size rather than lowering their admission standards.

4. MYTH:  Law schools are charging exorbitant tuition.

False. Law school tuition is comparable to tuition charges for other professional schools and for doctoral programs.  For At Cooley, a typical May 2012 non-scholarship graduate would have paid about $97,000 in tuition for his or her legal education.  The typical scholarship student at Cooley would have paid about $75,000.  Approximately 57% of Cooley students receive scholarships.

5. MYTH:  Law school graduates are experiencing alarming default rates because of the student loan debt.

False.  Default rates among law school graduates are quite low, about one-third of the national average

6. MYTH:  The current admissions practices among law schools have led to a glut of lawyers.

False.  Admissions to practice in Michigan have decreased in each of the past three decades and by 10% since 1973.

1973 to 1982:  average annual admission to practice = 1,178

1983 to 1992:  average annual admission to practice = 1,137

1993 to 2002:  average annual admission to practice = 1,095

2003 to 2012:  average annual admission to practice = 1,061.

7. MYTH:  Young lawyers, burdened by debt, are forced to take on cases that they are incompetent to handle, causing them to behave unethically.

False.  State Bar of Michigan data suggest that recent law school graduates contribute relatively little to the work of the lawyer disciplinary bodies.  And the annual report of the Lawyer Discipline Board shows comparatively few competency-based disciplinary actions overall.

8.  MYTH: The law schools do a poor job at training students to be lawyers.

False.  The quality of legal education, from the substantive, doctrinal courses to the practical, clinical courses, has never been better.  Teaching is outstanding, facilities are the best in history, libraries are more comprehensive than ever, and technology has been employed in all parts of legal education.  Focus on practice preparation by the nation’s law schools has never been more intense.

9.  MYTH: Big Law – made up of the ultra large international and national law firms, is the core of the legal profession.

False.  Almost two-thirds of all lawyers in private practice work in solo practice or in law firms of from two to ten lawyers in size.  “Big Law” has no relationship to the real world faced by almost all of our nation’s lawyers.

10.  MYTH:  We don’t need more lawyers. 

False.  Maybe there are plenty of lawyers charging $600 an hour and up to represent the largest corporations, but there clearly are not enough lawyers to serve the interests of the middle class, much less the indigent in society.  Many rural counties in particular are severely lacking lawyers.

Want the details?  Read this commentary in full.       

Click here for all of President LeDuc’s commentaries.

Scroll below to comment on President LeDuc’s commentary.

See Cooley on the web at cooley.edu.

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