Around the Blawgosphere

Law firm versions of big-box stores; IRS summer hours; Airbnb for the bar exam?


Some law firms have a “big box” model, New York City-based law firm consultant Bruce MacEwen writes at Adam Smith, Esq. Which is to say that they are highly specialized in one practice area, have a great depth of resources and expertise in that practice area and are deeply invested in “processes and management to optimize their service delivery.”

He doesn’t name any “category killer” firms in his post, but writes that “employment law is probably the poster child example” of a practice area that category killer firms are being built around. And suggests that clients approach these firms like a consumer of office supplies would approach a Staples. “If Staples (or doesn’t have the office product you’re looking for, uh, what do you do now?” he writes. “Similarly for our employment law example. If they don’t have the arcane expert, who would? You’re probably stumped, at least for the moment.”

MacEwen says that he sees employment law talent migrating to the category killer firms with little resistance from their former employers. “More and more mainstream firms are cutting back on, de-emphasizing, disinvesting it (choose your euphemism) employment law.”

The tax man stayeth home

Both Philadelphia lawyer Kelly Phillips Erb at Taxgirl and Texas writer Kay Bell at Don’t Mess with Taxes note that the IRS is taking a furlough day today, June 14, as a result of sequestration budget cuts.

Don’t think that you can Efile—that system shut down at 10 p.m. June 13 and won’t be available again until Saturday, June 15, Bell wrote. The “Where’s my refund?” tool won’t be available, either, Erb wrote.

“How much is this saving taxpayers and costing IRS employees?” Erb asked “Each of the furlough days will result in a loss to IRS employees of between $160 to $400 in pay, depending on the employee’s position. For many, the round of cuts follows three years of pay freezes.”

There will be three more furlough days: Friday, July 5; Monday, July 22 and Friday, Aug. 30. Tax filing due dates will not be extended as a result of the furlough days, Erb wrote.

Airbnb for the bar exam?

Among the many expenses that go along with studying for and taking the bar exam are the hotel room stays required if you can’t take the bar in the city in which you live.

Worse yet, all of the reasonably priced rooms in your bar exam city may already be booked. A Bar Exam Toolbox reader ran into that very problem and contacted Amicus Tutoring founder Lee Burgess. Her suggestion? Airbnb, “Basically, you can use the website to rent a place to stay—a room or an entire apartment or house—often at a much lower rate than at a hotel in the same area,” she wrote. Rent a place with a kitchen, and you can buy groceries and eat healthily rather than settling for cheap fast food.

However, an administrative law judge recently fined a New York man $2,400 for renting out his apartment for three nights on Airbnb, citing a 2011 law that makes it illegal for state residents to rent out an apartment for less than 29 days. Airbnb is lobbying to change that law.

Let the Wookiee win

This week, San Francisco lawyer Kevin Underhill noted at Lowering the Bar that actor Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars films, was hassled by the Transportation Security Administration at the Denver International Airport over his cane, which resembles a lightsaber. Mayhew tweeted about it the incident last week as it happened and took a photo.

Underhill noted in a follow-up post that when he entered “lightsaber” into the TSA’s “Can I Bring My … ?” box, he received this response:

Sadly, the technology doesn’t currently exist to create a real light saber. However, you can pack a toy light saber in your carry-on or checked bag. May the force be with you.

“So at least one person somewhere in that organization is not entirely detached from reality, although for all we know this was added due to negative publicity after one of the lightsaber incidents, not because they thought of it first,” Underhill wrote.

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