News

National Law Firm Opens Nashville Office

Polsinelli PC, a Kansas City-based law firm that is among the 100 largest in the country, has opened a Nashville office, the Nashville Business Journal reported today. The firm has hired two Nashville healthcare attorneys -- Bobby Guy and Robert Dempsey, both previously with Frost Brown Todd – to run the office. It hopes to grow in other industry areas over time. Polsinelli operates 21 offices throughout the country with more than 740 attorneys. It already has a regional office in Chattanooga.

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Law Students Pitch Legal Apps to Venture Capitalist

The Vanderbilt Law School class on Technology in Legal Practice has been designing new technologies to enhance access to justice in Tennessee. The students will present their application designs on Tuesday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the Hyatt Room on the first floor of the law school building. Ideas will be pitched to a panel of judges consisting of a faculty member, general counsel, law firm managing partner, a legal technology software founder and a venture capitalist.

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ABA Supports Law Firms’ Use of Cash Accounting

American Bar Association President William C. Hubbard is urging legislative leaders to reject any proposals that would require many law firms and other personal service businesses to switch from the simple cash method of accounting to the more complex and costly accrual method. Hubbard sent letters to the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee as they explore ways to simplify the tax code. During a meeting with invited stakeholders, the ABA said the change could cause substantial financial hardship to many lawyers, law firms, and other personal service businesses by forcing them to pay tax on “phantom” income they have not yet received and may never receive.

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Apps Help Provide Easier Access to Legal Help

Smartphone apps for immigrants, the indigent, those who face arrest and the lawyers who help them have been popping up with increasing frequency, the ABA Journal reports. “People talk a lot about digital technologies revolutionizing legal practice,” says Tanina Rostain, a law professor at Georgetown Law Center who teaches a course on the potential of Internet-based technologies for legal practice and pedagogy. “This is the area where the revolution is happening.” The Journal reviews 20 apps that are aiming to help close the access to justice gap.

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Report: Legal Services Sector Stagnant in March

The U.S. legal services sector shed 1,200 jobs in March, dipping slightly below employment levels at the start of the year, the Labor Department said today. The total number of legal jobs now stands at 1,119,400, a preliminary and seasonally adjusted figure. That is around where it’s hovered over the past year and still tens of thousands short of where the sector stood from 2003 to 2007, before the last recession, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports.

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Baker Donelson Repeats, Improves Rank on Best Companies List

For the sixth consecutive year, Baker Donelson has been named to Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, and for the second year it is the highest-ranking law firm on the list. The firm, only one of two Tennessee companies to make the list, also improved its standing, jumping to 30th place. Other law firms on the list are Atlanta-based Alston & Bird (41), Cooley in Palo Alto, California (42), Seattle-based Perkins Coie (46) and Arnold & Porter in Washington, D.C. (75). Read more from the firm or see the full list.

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Hall Booth Smith Expands to Charlotte

Atlanta-based Hall Booth Smith reports that it will open an office in Charlotte, North Carolina, which will be led by Richard Sheinis, currently a partner in the Atlanta office. The new location will be the firm’s 10th office, with others located in Nashville; Charleston, South Carolina; North Palm Beach, Florida; and several Georgia cities.

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Free LawTech Materials Available Now

New features and new topics are available at this year’s Law Tech UnConference tomorrow from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Nashville. There is no late fee to register and free materials are available here. Also, bring your support staff from noon to 2 p.m. to give them a chance to visit our sponsors for free. New to our Law Tech UnConference? Learn more about this unique “open-house” concept of delivering CLE.

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Baker Donelson Beefs Up Parental Leave Policy

Baker Donelson has enhanced its parental leave policy, now allowing 16 weeks of paid leave (up from 12 weeks) and allowing intermittent leave for both primary and non-primary caregivers. The intermittent benefit allows employees to transition back to full-time practice at their own pace. The change is designed to ease transitions for all lawyers but also remove a significant obstacle facing female attorneys interested in moving into shareholder positions.

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Problem with Firms Due to 'Short-Termism,' Law Prof Argues

The problem with current financing models for law firms is the focus on revenues, or “short-termism,” Georgetown law professor Jonathan Molot writes in an article in the Southern California Law Review. Firms are funded by partners who withdraw their equity when they retire or leave for higher pay at a new firm so there is no incentive to create long-term value. With outside funding, Molot argues, firms would have incentives to build long-term value by investing in younger lawyers and trying alternative billing. The ABA Journal has more.

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UnWrap New Ideas at Law Tech UnConference

New features and new topics are available at this year’s Law Tech UnConference set for Feb. 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Nashville. New topics include marketing, Gmail and Dropbox pitfalls, and social media bootcamp. Bring your support staff from noon to 2 p.m. to give them a chance to visit our sponsors for free. New to our Law Tech UnConference? Learn more about this unique “open-house” concept of delivering CLE.

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Smith to Head Stites & Harbison’s Nashville Office

Stites & Harbison has named longtime partner Gregory D. Smith as executive member of its Nashville office. Smith, who has been with the firm since 1998, will oversee the office and assist the firm’s chair in executing strategic plans and policies. He also will continue to serve clients as a member of the family law group. The Nashville Post has more on the story.

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Baker Donelson Appoints New President and COO

Jennifer P. Keller has been appointed Baker Donelson’s new president and chief operating officer effective April 1. Keller is currently a shareholder in the firm's Tri-Cities office, a member of Baker Donelson's board of directors and chair of the company's Labor & Employment Department. A graduate of the University of Tennessee School of Law, Keller specializes in employment litigation. The Nashville Business Journal has more.

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Burr & Forman: Not Done Growing Yet

In a matter of two weeks, Burr & Forman has doubled its presence in Nashville and the firm is not done growing, says managing partner Thomas Potter. “We haven't yet achieved our goals in this particular office with respect to health care and transactional lawyers,” Potter said. “We're particularly interested in expanding in [those areas].” The Nashville Business Journal talked with Potter about the recent expansion, which has put Burr & Forman among the top 20 largest firms in the city.

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Scammers Using BigLaw Names in Phishing Expeditions

Scammers have been using the names of some of the country’s biggest and best-known law firms in recent efforts to trick email recipients into clicking on links that will put malware on their computers, Crain’s Chicago Business reports. Firm names that have been misused include Baker & McKenzie, Sidley Austin and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom. The spoof reportedly involves an email falsely purporting to be from a firm containing a notice to appear in court. Internet security experts remind users not to open suspicious emails or attachments, or respond in any way.

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Lawyer Develops Crowdfunding Site for Legal Costs

Chicago attorney Michael Helfand considered himself an entrepreneur, but as part of his "Find Great Lawyers" online legal referral service, he spent a lot of time “explaining to nice people with otherwise promising cases that they needed to come up with money they didn’t have to hire the right attorney.” After reading an article about crowdfunding, he launched Funded Justice – a site that allows individuals to raise funds to cover their legal costs through donations or loans. Hefland writes about his effort in Chicago’s Real Law Blog.

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States Offer Incentives for Rural Practice

Federal grant money has long been available for doctors, nurses and dentists willing to relocate to rural areas, but now a South Dakota program offers lawyers an annual subsidy of $12,000 to live and practice law in sparsely populated communities. Nebraska and Arkansas plan to launch similar programs soon, the Associated Press reports. Read more from News Channel 9.

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Don’t Miss Ethics CLE on Disaster Prevention

Two new ethics programs from the TBA focus on disaster prevention and recovery. The first offers a “how to” guide to prevent, prepare for and respond to a disaster with a focus on the business reasons for planning ahead and practical tips for guiding crisis decision making. The second course continues the theme with sessions on how to conduct a risk analysis, protect computers and networks, recover from technology crashes and restore human and financial resources.

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Waller Chairman on a 50-State Run

Matt Burnstein, chairman of the board of directors at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis LLP in Nashville, plans to run his 28th marathon next month in Louisiana. The Nashville Business Journal recently caught up with Burnstein for this week's "The Boss" executive profile. He said he decided more than a decade ago to run a marathon in every state. He's made the marathons a way to visit every state in the country and plans his trips around dining at local restaurants and site-seeing. Read the full interview at the NBJ website. 

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Ethics of Getting Paid

Learn about the ethics of getting paid with two new online CLEs. One program offers tips on invoicing, billing processes and collecting fee procedures, while the other session teaches value pricing, ethics of pricing strategies and identifying red flags. Earn one ethics credit for each from the comfort of your own home. Visit the TBA CLE website for more information.

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Study of CLOs Finds More Bad News for Law Firms

According to Altman Weil’s 2014 Chief Legal Officer Survey, the dwindling availability of legal work and demand for services are continuing and show no signs of abatement. The study revealed that in-house legal departments are keeping more legal matters for themselves and are demanding heavy discounts for the work they give to outside counsel. Of the 186 CLO’s to respond to Altman Weil’s survey, 40 percent of them had shifted work during the past year away from outside counsel in favor of keeping the matters in-house. Meanwhile, more than a quarter of responding law departments said they would decrease their use of outside counsel in 2015, compared to only 14 percent that are planning an increase. The ABA Journal has the story.

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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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