Posted Apr 12, 2013 01:30 pm CDT
At LexThink.1 at ABA Techshow last week, one memorable quip came from MyCase co-founder Matt Spiegel: “The office is dead,” he said. “If we can only advise clients by forcing them to come into our offices, we are destined to fail.”
“You know what’s nice? When a client comes in and you say ‘Can I get you a glass of water, some soda, or a cup of coffee? Here is a tissue, I know this is difficult for you to hear … let’s go into my office, close the door, and chat privately,’ ” Rushie wrote. “Rather than, ‘I can’t afford an office, so let’s meet at the Starbucks where I’ll buy you a mocha latte … just talk real quietly so no one can hear our private conversation, OK? Glad you liked my website!’ ”
Rushie says his small firm has also hosted meetings by civic associations and entertained at its law office. “You know, interacting with real people in real life,” Rushie wrote. “Doing this kind of stuff leads to getting good clients by fostering meaningful relationships.”
Elefant agrees that there are benefits to having a real office; after all, she points out, if virtual practice were all that were needed, why would South Dakota be offering incentives for lawyers to relocate to rural areas? Elefant says that if you can score an attractive multi-office space with a conference room for around $1,000 per month, as Rushie and his partner have done (so, $500 per lawyer), then you should do it. “At those rates, office space is almost a no-brainer even for a complete newbie,” she wrote.
Trouble is, office space often costs a lot more than that, and it’s problem. “There should be other solutions—maybe bar associations or (more likely) private aggregators who could bundle solos into groups and negotiate rent for a larger shared space,” Elefant wrote. “Maybe law firm vendors could create sponsored spaces that they could rent at reduced costs. Lawyers don’t necessarily need a 500-square-foot corner office with a view; at a minimum, a dedicated cubicle which can be accessed 24/7 as well as use of private conference rooms for client meetings or public seminars should suffice to give lawyers a presence in the community and a work environment conducive to success.”
At the Careerist, Vivia Chen takes note of a New York Times op-ed that discusses the impact of paid paternity leave policies in Canada and a handful of European countries. A study in Quebec showed that “several years after being exposed to the reform,” fathers did more child care and other household chores while mothers were spending “considerably more time at work growing their careers and contributing more to the economy, all without any public mandates or shaming.”
Chen doesn’t see the U.S. firms and corporations moving in that direction. “Remember, only 16 percent of employers in the United States offer paid maternity leave. So in that context, big-firm lawyers are the fortunate ones,” she wrote. “All of this raises the question of whether official policy can alter behavior. Is giving both sexes the same rights and responsibilities to care for a new child the key to achieving gender equality in the workplace and at home? Or are gender roles so ingrained that women with kids will still bow out no matter which policies are implemented?”
North Carolina lawyer Lee Rosen’s experience traveling in Mexico City had him sympathizing with his clients. Rosen’s wife and his firm’s operations manager speak functional Spanish, but he doesn’t, Rosen wrote at Divorce Discourse. As a result, he’s spent a lot of time observing Spanish conversations and feeling clueless—and realizing that his clients must feel the same way when listening him talk to judges, other attorneys and experts and not fully understanding what’s going on.
“I found myself getting anxious when the Spanish conversations between my wife and/or our operations guy and others went on for a while and I knew they involved something about me,” Rosen wrote. “The conversations usually related to my food, and I got especially agitated if I felt like I was headed toward getting something I didn’t really want. Suddenly, I’d find myself injecting myself in the conversation in English, trying to be sure I got the right thing. Sound like any of your clients?”
Rosen says that in his practice, he likes to have another attorney or paralegal with him to explain to clients in real time what is going on. “I stand up and say ‘objection.’ The paralegal translates,” Rosen wrote. “The judge responds ‘sustained,’ and the paralegal translates. You get the idea. The result? Client who is in the loop and not upset.”
At e-Discovery Daily, Trial Solutions’ Doug Austin proposes abandoning the hourly billing model for document review.
“Why don’t more firms offer a per document rate for document review?” Ausitn wrote. “Or, perhaps a better question would be why don’t more organizations insist on a per document rate? That seems like a better way to make document review costs more predictable and more consistent. I’m not sure why, other than ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it,’ that it hasn’t become more predominant. Knowing the per document rate and the number of documents to be reviewed up front would seem to eliminate overbilling disputes for document review, at least.”