News

Study: Inequality Still Present in Legal Pay, Hiring

A joint survey from the National Association of Law Placement and the American Bar Foundation has found that the legal profession is still struggling to bridge hiring and income inequality based on race and gender, according The National Law Journal. Among its finding, the study showed that gender gap in the earning power of lawyers increases with longevity in the profession. The income disparity between women and men was five percent after two or three years of practicing law but expanded to 15 percent after seven years and 20 percent after 12 years. The study also found that the majority of the pay gap occurs in the private sector. In the public sector, by contrast, women earned 96 to 98 percent of what men earned for the same job. The survey also looked at ethnic and racial differences in hiring, finding that private firms employ 50 percent of all white lawyers, 46 percent of all Hispanic lawyers, 39 percent of all Asian lawyers and 35 percent of all African-American lawyers.

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Legal Sector Added 3,300 Jobs in August

In the largest monthly gain so far this year, the legal sector added 3,300 jobs in August, the ABA Journal reports. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that brings the total number of legal sector jobs to 1.1 million and translates into a gain of 3,200 jobs since the start of the year. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has more on the story. 

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Law Firm First Tenant at Overton Square

Memphis’ Overton Square has landed its first professional services tenant with the signing of a 2,500-square-foot lease by Memphis attorney William T. Maxwell Jr. Maxwell is forming a new residential real estate closing company and commercial services firm, which will be located at 51 N. Cooper St. in Overton Square. Maxwell is a longtime Memphis real estate and closing attorney who represented the Overton Square Merchants Association during the mid-1980s and is familiar with the history and importance of the square as a Memphis landmark, the Memphis Daily News reports.

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Accrual Accounting Requirements Resurface in Draft Tax Bills

The ABA is opposing two draft tax bills that would require many law firms to switch accounting methods and pay taxes on phantom income before it is received. ABA President-Elect William Hubbard submitted written testimony opposing draft bills that would require all personal services businesses with annual gross receipts over $10 million to use the accrual method of accounting. "This particular issue has become one of the most important issues to our members – and many state and local bars throughout the country – because of the serious negative effects that the proposed legislation would have on practicing lawyers, their law firms and their clients," Hubbard said. The ABA Journal has more.

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Waller Finalizes Lease in Memphis Building

Nashville-based Waller law firm is moving into permanent space at the Renaissance Center office building, the Memphis Daily News reports. The firm opened a Memphis office in February and was using an executive suite at the Renaissance Center while negotiating its lease. The new space will provide 10,000 square feet in the East Memphis office building at 1715 Aaron Brenner Drive.

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Burnstein to Replace Tishler as Waller Chair

The Nashville law firm of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis has named Matthew Burnstein as its new chairman, the Nashville Business Journal reports. Burnstein will succeed John Tishler effective Aug. 1. Tishler, who led the firm since 2008, will resume his bankruptcy and restructuring practice and assume the role of chairman emeritus. Burnstein’s practice focuses on corporate transaction, mostly in the health care industry. He served on Waller’s board of directors from 2006 to 2012.

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Neal & Harwell Will Move to New Gulch Office

The Nashville law firm of Neal & Harwell will be moving to a new office building planned for a trendy area of Nashville known as the Gulch, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The firm reportedly will occupy about 26,000 square feet on at least one floor of the 15-story building. Construction on the building is set to begin this summer, which means new tenants will not move in until late 2016. The firm will be vacating space in the heart of downtown Nashville where it has been for the past 25 years.

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Number of Black Lawyers in 'BigLaw' Firms Falls

According to a new American Lawyer survey, only 3 percent of lawyers and 1.9 percent of partners at large law firms are African American. While the percentage of all minorities increased slightly last year at the 223 law firms polled, the number of black lawyers fell to its lowest level since 2000. Asian-Americans are now the largest group of minorities in law firms, comprising 6.3 percent of the lawyers and 2.7 percent of the partners. The next largest group is Hispanics, which account for 3.2 percent of the lawyers and 2.3 percent of the partners. The ABA Journal has the story.

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Barnes to Lead Association of Legal Administrators

Burr & Forman’s Paula K. Barnes will take over as president of the Association of Legal Administrators when the group convenes its annual meeting next month in Toronto. The legal administrator for the firm’s Nashville office, Barnes will be the first Nashville resident to head the 10,000-member organization. She has been at Burr & Forman since it opened its Nashville office in 2006. In 2015, the group will meet in Nashville.

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Law Firm App Wins Marketing Award

National labor and employment law firm Constangy, Brooks & Smith – with offices in Nashville – has won first place in the Legal Marketing Association’s national awards program for a mobile app designed for HR professionals, in-house counsel and members of the media. The firm reports that the app goes beyond lawyer bios and newsletters to provide quick guides and checklists on workplace topics, wage and hour calculators, a glossary of employment law terms and links to workers’ comp calculators. The app’s Work Snips section also provides short, entertaining takes on the latest workplace headlines from outside news sources. The app is available for Apple products. An Android version is set to be released soon.

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Court Reporting Firms Merge, Open New Offices

Charlotte-based Huseby Inc. has expanded its presence in Tennessee through its merger with Vowell & Jennings Court Reporters of Tennessee. The new firm -- Vowell, Jennings and Huseby -- will have offices in Nashville, Chattanooga and Memphis. Gene Jennings and Jim Vowell will direct the work of the Tennessee offices from a base in Nashville. “Our roots have run deep in Tennessee for over 30 years,” said company CEO Scott Huseby. “This merger represents a major step in our ability to provide comprehensive one-stop litigation-support services to the legal community throughout the South as well as nationwide, and it continues our legacy of associating with the best in the industry.”

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Law.com to Abandon Blog Network

Law.com has announced it will soon launch a redesigned and reorganized website and a new contributor network of 100 to 500 writers, but will abandon its Blog Network later this year. The network, which serves as a central site for promoting law-related blogs, includes such popular features as The Blog of Legal Times, LawSites, How Appealing and the Careerist. One of the original network members, the Volokh Conspiracy, now has affiliated with the Washington Post. Others may decide to go it alone or find homes elsewhere, the ABA Journal reports.

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Free Food, Materials and Prizes at Law Tech Un-Conference

Don’t miss this year’s Law Tech Un-conference Thursday in Nashville. The “un-conference” approach allows you to come for one hour or all day. You can attend for free or pay for CLE credit if needed. In either case, materials are free. If you can't make the unConference in person, you can watch the first session via webcast —  free for those not seeking CLE credit. No need to register in advance, just come for the sessions you want.

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FordHarrison Expands Mid-Atlantic Presence

Labor and employment law firm FordHarrison LLP has merged with the Washington, D.C., area firm of Kruchko & Fries. The move adds offices in Virginia and Maryland for FordHarrison, which has Tennessee offices in Nashville and Memphis.

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Gray Elected to Baker Donelson's Board of Directors

Russell Gray, managing shareholder of Baker Donelson’s Chattanooga office, has been elected to a three-year term on the firm’s board of directors, the Hamilton County Herald reports. Gray is a member of the firm’s Labor & Employment Department and concentrates his practice in litigation and labor and employment issues. A graduate of the American University Washington College of Law, Gray is also an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

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If You Did It, Flaunt It With a TBJ Announcement

The Tennessee Bar Journal has a new opportunity for lawyers and firms to promote outstanding achievements, new associates, new partners, mergers, awards and any changes within the firm. Now, Professional Announcements are available at special, lower-rate pricing. You can tell more than 12,000 of your peers about your accomplishments by placing an announcement in the Journal. For information or to place an announcement, contact Debbie Taylor at 503-445-2231 or Debbie@llm.com. To have an announcement placed in the April issue, please contact her before Feb. 18.

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Get Ready for the 2014 Law Tech unConference

This year’s Law Tech unConference, set for Feb. 20, offers seminars, free food, prizes and exhibitors to help Tennessee lawyers use technological advancements to improve their law practices. The "unconference" approach is similar to an open house format providing a unique opportunity for lawyers to interact with speakers, attendees and sponsors. Attendees may stay as long as they wish and can choose to attend for free or pay for CLE credit. Two hot topics will be "How to Build a Website in 50 Minutes" and "Creating a Mobile App for Your Firm." Advance registration is not required.

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Non-attorneys Bring Business Skills to Law Firms

The Nashville Post reports that the local legal sector is seeing an increase in the number of non-lawyers being added to key management positions at law firms. Gullett Sanford Robinson & Martin, for example, has hired its first chief operating officer. At Waddey & Patterson, a non-lawyer firm administrator oversees all accounting, billing, human resources, advertising, technology and health insurance efforts and initiatives. And the firm administrator at Stites & Harbison has an educational background that involves political science and information systems. Interviewed for the story, these management professions predict the trend will increase and that opportunities will expand as the current crop of administrators tends to be age 45 and older and likely to retire in coming years. (Subscription required.)

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Luring National Law Firms to Nashville

The Nashville Business Journal recently asked area law firms to predict when a national Top 25 law firm might set up office in Nashville, and what might be the catalyst for such an entrance into the market. Most agreed that it would happen within five to 10 years due to the millions of dollars of investment money that has flooded the city and created new opportunities for businesses. “Law firms expand into areas where there is opportunity,” said Scott Carey, managing shareholder for Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz. “Nashville is certainly a city on the rise…” he said. Larry Papel, managing partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough had less than optimistic views, however. “The ‘Top 25’ U.S. law firms...are not likely to open offices in Nashville in the near future,” he said. “Those firms play on the global stage...work on a 24-hour basis and are involved in transactions that most local, statewide or regional firms do not have the resources to lead or manage.” Read more here (subscription required).

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Federal Court Websites Hacked or Not?

Federal court websites and the document service Pacer shut down for about four hours on Friday but the cause remains unclear, the ABA Journal reports. While a group called European Cyber Army claimed responsibility for the attack in a tweet, government agencies gave differing reasons for the shutdown: the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said the problem was due to a denial of service attack; a court clerk’s email said the problem appeared to be a “national cyber attack on the judiciary”; and the FBI said the problem appeared to be caused by technical issues. On Saturday, however, the FBI said it was reassessing that analysis.

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New Firm Offers Project-Specific Work for Set Cost

Former Bass Berry & Sims partner Ross Booher and Ken Clarke, a former health care executive, have launched Latitude to provide legal services for interim projects at a fixed fee. In announcing the move, Booher said he saw an opportunity to help firms and corporations get project-specific legal work done without adding the costs of a permanent hire or overburdening the current staff, the Nashville Business Journal reports. "The idea with this company is to provide access to high-level talent individuals who are senior associate level counsel for project specific needs," Booher says. Latitude raised equity in late 2013 and opened its doors in Franklin this month.

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LegalZoom Withdraws IPO

Online legal help company LegalZoom withdrew plans for an initial public offering (IPO) after a private investor stepped forward with a $200 million offer, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports. A company backed by European private equity firm Permira will now become the largest stakeholder in the company. LegalZoom chief executive John Suh said the cash infusion will allow the company “to continue to focus on the innovation of products and services.”

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Bradley Arant Forms Privacy and Information Security Team

Bradley Arant Boult Cummings announced today that it has formed a new Privacy and Information Security Team that will focus on representing clients with privacy and data security issues. Firm partners Paige M. Boshell and Amy S. Leopard will serve as co-chairs of the new group. Boshell practices in the firm’s Banking and Financial Services and Intellectual Property Practice groups. Leopard practices in the Health Care Practice Group. They report that the team will bring together a cross-disciplinary group of lawyers with experience helping clients minimize the risk of data breaches, deal with any breaches or attacks and comply with privacy laws and regulations.

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Memphis Litigation Support Firm Announces Merger

Memphis-based Alpha Legal Solutions announced this week that it has merged with Litigation Resource Group, a legal technology company founded by Robb Helt in Fort Smith, Ark. According to Kathy May, founder of Alpha Reporting Corporation and CEO of Alpha Legal Solutions, the merger will widen the company’s trial technology client base and heighten the level of capability demanded by attorneys to better service their clients in trials, mediations and arbitrations. Helt has relocated to Memphis and will serve as president of Alpha Legal Solutions. He brings significant experience to the table having supported 500 jury trials, mediations and arbitrations including the massive BP oil spill litigation and serving as lead trial technology consultant for Halliburton.

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Experts Predict Top Law Firm Trends for 2014

On the eve of the New Year, legal trend watchers predict that alternative billing arrangements, new research and development programs, and lateral hiring will be among the top trends affecting law firms in 2014, reports the Nashville Business Journal. The paper cites a LexisNexis blog, which features 21 law firm managers, legal marketers and consultants offering their best predictions for practice management, technology and business development trends for the legal profession.

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