News

Reaction Mixed to President’s Call for 2-Year Law Degree

President Barack Obama’s comments last week that law school should be limited to two years is drawing reaction from both sides of the issue. A number of law professors praised discussion on the idea, but most of those blogging about the concept found fault with it. Berkeley Law professor Dan Farber warned that a two-year program would not leave time for specialized courses, such as environmental law, that are not tested on bar exams. Albany Law School professor Mary Lynch suggested the president is confusing unpaid interning with a true clinical experience, and that he does not understand that clients no longer want to pay for on-the-job training of new attorneys. And Matt Bodie with the Saint Louis University School of Law argued the idea would not automatically lower tuition as schools could just increase the cost per credit hour. Read a wrap up of reactions at TaxProf Blog.

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ABA Releases Road Map to Close Pay Gap

The pay gap between male and female partners at U.S. law firms is widening, according to a 2012 study conducted by Major, Lindsey & Africa and ALM Legal Intelligence, the Careerist reports. To combat the problem, the American Bar Association's Presidential Task Force on Gender Equity, along with its Commission on Women in the Profession, have released a report titled "Closing the Gap: A Road Map for Achieving Gender Pay Equity in Law Firm Partner Compensation." Tips include being transparent, jumping on the metrics bandwagon, creating a succession plan and diversifying your compensation committee.

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Fears of Surveillance Shutter Legal Technology Blog

The founder of the legal technology blog Groklaw has decided to shut down the service over fears that email communications could be subject to government surveillance. Former paralegal Pamela Jones founded Groklaw in 2003 to cover legal news of interest to the free software and open source community. In her final post Jones says she made the decision after learning that the government captures emails sent to and from foreign countries. Groklaw won the most reader votes in its niche in the ABA Journal’s 2012 Blawg 100. Jones says in the final post that she is now using an email service in Switzerland, where the laws offer greater privacy. ABA Journal links to several sources for the story.

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Birmingham Firm Expanding to Nashville

The Birmingham-based law firm of Wiggins Childs Quinn & Pantazis announced today it is expanding to the Nashville area with an office in Brentwood. Josh Wilson, who has been with the firm since 2003, will manage the office, reports the Nashville Business Journal. According to a news release obtained by the journal, the firm is the largest plaintiffs firm in Alabama focusing on consumer protection, product liability, mass torts, personal injury and employment law. It also has offices in Mobile, Ala., and Deland, Fla.

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Study: 'Strategic Flirtation' Common at Firms with Competitive Culture

According to a survey of 281 female lawyers at 38 law firms in the southeast, “strategic flirtation” is more common at law firms with stereotypical masculine cultures that emphasize competition, ambition and assertiveness. The more masculine the culture, the more strategic flirting takes place, the study found. Yet, masculine cultures were less forgiving of flirts than feminine cultures. “Bottom line from the research: Flirting at work—even if it’s more common in some cultures—isn’t such a good idea,” the Washington Post writes. “But you probably didn’t need a study to tell you that.” The ABA Journal has more.

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Best Law Firms for Women Named

Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers today released their list of the 50 Best Law Firms for Women. Of the firms on this year’s list, 78 percent have one or more women among their top 10 rainmakers, up from 69 percent last year. The list is based on factors such as representation of women in the workforce and leadership positions, flexibility, compensation and development and retention of female lawyers. All 50 firms offer flex-time and reduced hours and 48 allow lawyers working reduced hours to be eligible for equity partnership. The ABA Journal has the full list plus links to a press release and executive summary.

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Legal Sector Added 2,800 Jobs in July

The legal industry added 2,800 jobs in July after suffering major losses on the employment front during the previous two months, The AM Law Daily reports. The seasonally adjusted preliminary data was released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Initial figures issued last month showed the legal sector shedding more jobs in June than it had during any single month in two years. Those revisions and July's job growth notwithstanding, the legal sector has lost 2,000 jobs since April, when it employed 1.129 million people—the highest total since 2009.

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ABA Hosts Virtual March for Gender Equity

The ABA is hosting "Click Your Heels" – a virtual march for gender equity this Saturday. Held in conjunction with the ABA's Day of the Woman, the effort is designed to raise awareness about gender inequality in the workplace, including at law firms where studies show women are not compensated at the same levels as men. To participate in the “march,” visit the ABA's gender equity page, and vote "yes" for gender equality. Learn more about the issue and the work of the ABA task force on the group's website.

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Vault Ranks Baker Donelson Among Top 10 Firms

Baker Donelson has been ranked in the top 10 firms to work for in Vault Inc.’s 2014 edition of “Best Law Firms to Work For.” The firm also received a first place ranking in the category of transparency. The rankings are based on feedback from thousands of associates across the country who were asked to rate their law firms on a number of quality-of-life categories. Read more on the firm's website.

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ABA President Weighs in on Inequality in BigLaw

The percentage of female equity partners at America’s top 200 law firms “remains stalled at an unacceptable 15 percent, with little progress over the past 10 years,” according to ABA President Laurel Bellows. In a panel discussion on CNN, Bellows, National Association of Women Lawyers President Beth Kaufman, and four other lawyers weighed in on the problem—and solutions— to the lack of women in leadership and the unequal compensation between men and women equity partners. The ABA Journal also highlighted a story by the Daily Beast on the “female lawyer exodus” that drives women to leave the legal profession later in life.

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Female Firm Leaders Say Time is Ripe for Women to Rise

Seven female firm managers said changes in the legal profession are making the time right for would-be female managers to strive for the boss’ chair. Speaking yesterday at an ABA seminar, the women said that despite filling less than 5 percent of BigLaw’s firmwide leadership roles, women lawyers need to recognize their own unique skills and values and take advantage of opportunities that can lead to management positions. Law360 has the story (Subscription required).

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Butler Snow Opens London Office

The Mississippi based law firm of Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada – with offices in Memphis and Nashville – has opened its first international office in London. According to a press release from the firm, the office will “provide practical, solution driven U.S. tax advice for high net worth families, their businesses and their advisors.” London-based attorney Brad Westerfield will head the new office.

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Nashville Attracting ‘Upmarket’ Firms as Profile Grows

A Nashville Ledger article suggests that as Nashville’s star rises nationally, local law firms are in expansion mode and outside law firms are looking to move into Music City. The growth in health care, technology and real estate is driving most of the momentum, the piece suggests. And because of the city’s strong supply of recent law school graduates, firms are having no trouble recruiting attorneys. Finally, the article suggests that homegrown law firms have become hot prospects for mergers with outside firms looking to establish roots in the midsouth. Read more about how the Nashville legal market is changing and how that compares to the national picture.

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Polsinelli Enters Tennessee Market with Chattanooga Office

The Kansas City, Mo., based law firm Polsinelli has opened a regional office in Chattanooga to serve clients from Nashville to Atlanta in corporate, finance, mergers and acquisitions, and real estate matters. The firm, which has offices around the country, works with a variety of industries including chemical manufacturing, health care, oil and gas exploration and real estate. Gregory M. Leitner, formerly with Husch Blackwell, will lead the Chattanooga office. Joining him are K. Chris Collins, Ralph M. Killebrew Jr. and Dustin J. Manning. Read more on the firm’s website.

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Law Firm Growth Slow in 2012, Survey Says

Law firms in the U.S. saw only incremental growth in 2012, the JD Journal reports from the National Law Journal's annual survey that analyzes data from the nation’s 350 largest firms. Last year saw an overall growth in headcount of 1.1 percent in law firms tracked by the NLJ 350. While any growth is better than shrinkage, last year’s growth was lower than 2011, which saw law firms increase their hiring by 1.7 percent. Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens and Cannada was one bright spot, showing 35 percent growth.

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Reminder: Professional Privilege Tax Due June 1

All professional privilege tax returns filed on or after Jan. 1, must be filed electronically. Professional privilege tax returns can be filed electronically either by individuals, or by companies who file and pay for multiple individuals. The department will not be mailing taxpayers a Professional Privilege Tax Return for the $400 tax due June 1. Click here for a step-by-step guide to electronically file an individual professional privilege tax return. If you are a company filing and paying for multiple individuals, go here. Read more from the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

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LSC Launches New Tech Blog

The Legal Services Corporation has launched a new blog focused on technology in the legal aid community. The first post -- “Hacking for Justice” -- discusses LSC’s open data initiative, including a plan to provide information for the National Day of Civic Hacking on June 1. The goal of the initiative is to make LSC’s current data more accessible to the public as well as increasing the amount of data available. Through civic hacking, developers build applications and invent new solutions using publicly-released data to solve the challenges facing communities, cities, states and countries.

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Law Firms Cautious on Adding Office Space

With the Dow Jones Industrial Average hitting record highs, home prices rebounding and interest rates remaining low, observers are watching to see when the office market will join the recovery. It might be a while. Experts believe that law firms, which take up about 17 percent of all U.S. office space and are typically the takers of the newest and best space in large markets, will remain cost-conscious and occupy less space than in previous years. “Our research people have told us that law firms will now be taking 25 percent less space on average,” says Elizabeth Cooper, an international director for brokerage with Jones Lang “I don’t think we’re going to see a day soon of a law firm taking excess space. It’s now all about being lean and mean.” The National Real Estate Investor has the story.

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Legal Sector Jobs Reach 4-Year High

Jobs in the legal sector are at their highest level in four years according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Details released Friday show gains in the last two months as the legal sector added 2,100 jobs in April and 3,500 jobs in March (up from a predicted increase of 2,000 jobs). The total number of legal jobs now stands at 1.13 million, up by 10,000 from April 2012. At its pre-recession high in May 2007, the legal sector had 1.18 million jobs. AM Law Daily summarizes the findings.

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Butler Snow Showing Off New Nashville Office

Butler Snow O'Mara Stevens & Cannada has opened its new office and conference center at The Pinnacle at Symphony Place. The law firm occupies two floors and more than 46,000 square feet in the new downtown building. According to the Nashville Business Journal, Butler Snow is the sixth-largest law firm in Nashville, with more than 40 local attorneys. See a slideshow of the office on the journal’s website.

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Court Weighs in on Law Firm Suit

The Tennessee Supreme Court has sent back to the trial court a dispute between a Memphis law firm and a former partner and paralegal to determine whether arbitration is appropriate. The law firm of Glassman, Edwards, Wyatt, Tuttle & Cox filed a lawsuit against the two former employees, alleging fraud and breach of duties to the firm. Both asked the trial court to send their cases to arbitration. After the firm asserted arbitration was not required and other disagreements arose, the trial court expanded the scope of discovery and mediation to cover all aspects of the parties’ disputes. In an opinion issued today, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court erred in expanding the case to issues other than enforceability of arbitration provisions.

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Best Websites for Lawyers

The ABA Techshow Saturday closed with the always-crowd pleasing section “60 Sites in 60 Minutes,” a session about the top websites for lawyers. The ABA Journal did a wrap-up, highlighting several favorite sites such as Vilvo, The Wirecutter, Meeting Wizard and more. Click here to view the list.

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ABA Releases Program to Help Achieve Pay Equity

Firms seeking to address gender-based pay inequities have a new resource in the ABA Toolkit for Gender Equity in Partner Compensation. In explaining the initiative, ABA President Laurel G. Bellows said the proposal is intended to encourage law firm leaders to talk about potential changes in both compensation and hiring models, and provide practical ways to help firms deal with the issue. Read more about the initiative.

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Learn about the Costs and Budget for eDiscovery

With the continued growth of eDiscovery, the manner in which corporations and law firms assess vendor budgets can be a challenge. Join John Burchfield and Austin Maddox as they educate counsel on eDiscovery costs and budgeting to determine what eDiscovery program is best for them. The pair will discuss these and other issues during a one-hour webinar next Thursday, March 21.

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Woman Embezzles $300,000+ from Law Office

Former law office comptroller Lisa Potter was sentenced to a year in jail and 30 years on probation for allegedly embezzling more than $300,000 from attorney Tony Seaton to support a cocaine habit. Potter had pleaded guilty to the crime last year. Washington County Criminal Court Judge Robert Cupp ruled Monday that if Potter repays the remaining $157,000 owed to Seaton, her probation would end after the original sentence. She will report to jail to begin serving her sentence May 3. The Johnson City Press has the story.

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