Patterico's Pontifications

1/25/2008

The Cuddly Law Firm

Filed under: Law — DRJ @ 10:02 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Are big law firms kicking the billable hour habit? The New York Times says maybe:

“Over the last few years and, most strikingly, the last few months, law firms have been forced to rethink longstanding ways of doing business, if they are to remain fully competitive.

As chronicled by my colleague Alex Williams in the Sunday Styles section earlier this month, lawyers are overworked, depressed and leaving.

Less obvious, but potentially more dramatic, are the signs that their firms are finally becoming serious about slowing the stampede for the door. So far the change — which includes taking fresh looks at the billable hour, schedules and partnership tracks — is mostly at the smaller firms. But even some of the larger, more hidebound employers are taking notice.

“There are things happening everywhere, enough to call it a movement,” said Deborah Epstein Henry, who founded Flex-Time Lawyers, a consulting firm that creates initiatives encouraging work-life balance for law firms, with an emphasis on the retention and promotion of women. “The firms don’t think of it as a movement, because it is happening in isolation, one firm at a time. But if you step back and see the whole puzzle, there is definitely real change.”

The change varies from firm-to-firm but apparently involves more hourly options and, in some case, the elimination of billable hours:

“At nearly every large American firm, lawyers must meet a quota of hours. During the ’60s and ’70s, the requirement was between 1,600 and 1,800 hours a year or about 34 hours a week, not counting time for the restroom or lunch or water cooler breaks. Today that has risen to 2,000 to 2,200 hours, or roughly 42 hours a week. (Billing 40 hours a week means putting in upward of 60 at the office.)

FACTS is an acronym. Under Ms. Henry’s proposal, work time can be: Fixed (allowing lawyers to choose less high-profile work for more predictable schedules), or Annualized (intense bursts of high-adrenaline work followed by relative lulls); Core (with blocks mapped out for work and for commitments like meeting children at the bus); Targeted (an agreed-upon goal of hours, set annually, customized for each worker, with compensation adjusted accordingly); and Shared (exactly as it sounds).

Ms. Henry’s proposal came at the end of last year, when firms had already started backing away from the billable hour. Some have gone so far as to eliminate it. The Rosen law firm in Raleigh, N.C., one of the largest divorce firms on the East Coast, did so this year, instead charging clients a flat fee.

Similarly, Dreier, a firm with offices in New York and Los Angeles, now pays its lawyers salaries and bonuses based on revenue generation, not hours billed.

At Quarles & Brady, a firm with headquarters in Chicago, not only have billable hour requirements been eliminated, but parental leave has been expanded. Women can now take 12 weeks with pay, men 6 weeks. And that time can be divided, meaning a father can take a few weeks off when his baby is born and a few more after his wife returns to work.

Other firms are making smaller changes. Strasburger & Price, a national firm based in Dallas, announced last October that it was decreasing the hours new associates were expected to log, to 1,600 from 1,920 annually. (Lest you think those lawyers will be able to go home early, however, note that newcomers will now be asked to spend 550 hours a year in training sessions and shadowing senior lawyers.)”

I think ideas like flex-time and flat rate pricing can be better for lawyers and clients. Flat rate pricing makes it easier for clients to budget for legal costs and compare prices among firms. Flex-time makes it easier to retain attorneys beyond 4-7 years. However, I’m sure there will be resistance. After all, lawyers and clients have been talking about this for at least 30 years.

— DRJ

“Shut Up and Rhyme”

Filed under: Politics — DRJ @ 8:42 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Driver at Amused Cynic finds political and poetry gold from James Taranto in the Wall Street Journal “Taste” Section:

“Heather and I sat down near the back of the small hall, and things soon took what I feared was a disastrous turn. The mistress of ceremonies, poet Daniela Gioseffi, opened the proceedings with a vulgar rant about Beltway politics — specifically, her glee over the “fall” of Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, then the Republican congressional leaders. (Rep. DeLay had just been indicted, and Sen. Frist was under investigation for insider trading.)

It was then that I said I came to hear poetry, not politics — although according to a contemporaneous account I emailed to a friend, I said it in a mutter rather than a shout. Evidently I muttered loudly enough to get Ms. Gioseffi’s attention, because she replied, expressing incredulity that not everyone at the Bowery Poetry Club would share the same political outlook. I believe I repeated that I came for poetry and not politics — possibly shouting, as Ms. Bauer reported. Ms. Gioseffi said, “You can’t be politically disengaged and be human.”

At this point I definitely shouted: “Oh, so people who disagree with you aren’t human?” She answered that this was neither the time nor the place for such contention. “I agree,” I said. If only she had thought of that before opening her mouth.

***

At the reception after the reading, Heather wisely tried to steer us clear of Ms. Gioseffi, but this proved impossible. The peremptory poet confronted me and demanded: “Are you the man who was laughing rudely while I was talking?”

“I’m the man you said was subhuman.”

“There has never been a Republican in here before,” she informed me. It seems I had broken a barrier.”

There’s more on this at the Amused Cynic link (here) and the WSJ link (here).

Washington DC politics sounds tame compared to its poetry.

— DRJ

In the L.A. Times, Another Editorial Masquerading as a News Story

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Jack Dunphy @ 1:42 pm

[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]

The L.A. Times reports today on a California Supreme Court decision upholding an employer’s right to dismiss an employee for physician-recommended marijuana use, even if his job performance has not been affected. The story runs to more than 1,000 words, all but two paragraphs of which amount to little more than an editorial slamming the Court’s decision, with numerous quotes from the plaintiff, his attorney, and other proponents of medical marijuana use. The rationale for the 7-2 majority opinion is scarcely presented at all.

Putting aside the arguments both for and against medical marijuana, aren’t the Times’s readers entitled to a more balanced examination of the facts in this case and the application of the law?

Update: The decision was 5-2, not 7-2. H/T: Assistant Devil’s Advocate

Update #2: The case is Ross v. Ragingwire Telecommunications, Inc., available here in PDF.

John McCain’s National Hispanic Outreach Director

Filed under: 2008 Election,Immigration — DRJ @ 10:01 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Michelle Malkin has the story:

“Juan Hernandez is GOP presidential candidate John McCain’s Hispanic Outreach Director. He is, as my Nevada reader wrote, a sovereignty-undermining extremist who “whose views and interests are so clearly anti-security and not in the interest of the American people or for that matter us legal Hispanic immigrants.”

I repeat: Geraldo Rivera Republican John McCain has learned nothing from the shamnesty debacle.”

Bryan at Hot Air adds this:

“Of Mexicans who move to the US, Hernandez has said:

“I want the third generation, the seventh generation, I want them all to think ‘Mexico first.’”

These are Americans that Hernandez is talking about. Does John McCain agree that they should always “think ‘Mexico first?’” That’s the man who began serving as John McCain’s “Hispanic Outreach Directo” last year. Is there any reason that anyone should think open borders fanatic Dr. Hernandez wants President McCain to secure the border? Is there any reason that anyone should trust a man to secure the border if he is getting his “Hispanic Outreach” advice from Dr. Juan Hernandez?”

I can’t think of any reason to believe John McCain is serious about enforcing America’s immigration laws.

[EDIT: Fixed Michelle Malkin link.]

— DRJ

Interesting Instapundit Links: China & CNN

Filed under: 2008 Election — DRJ @ 9:34 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

What do these two Instapundit links about China and CNN have in common?

Item No. 1:

From StrategyPage – “At the current rate of progress, Chinese military technology will match that of the United States in a decade or so.”

Item No. 2:

From Cadillac Tight and Talking Points Memo – “CARVILLE AND BEGALA BOOTED FROM CNN due to complaints from Obama?

“One wonders as well what’s going to happen in the general election if Hillary Clinton is the nominee…will CNN continue to ban Carville, Begala, and Zimmerman so that they can’t play shenanigans against the Republican candidate?”

One concerns a foreign threat and the other a domestic threat.

[… and, Yes, I’m kidding about CNN.]

— DRJ

Do You Want to See Something Really Scary?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:03 am

Vodkapundit:

It just occurred to me that one of these jokers — Clinton, McCain, Obama or Romney — is going to be the next President.

Via Instapundit, who playfully calls the thought “horrifying.”

Indeed. (If I may borrow a phrase.)

But: you really want horrifying? We all pretty much know the Republican won’t win. So:

The next President is really going to be Clinton or Obama.

Andrew McCarthy Blasts NYT Over Whelan/Greenhouse Incident

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,Judiciary,Media Bias — Patterico @ 12:03 am

Andrew McCarthy has an excellent column on the New York Times‘s shabby treatment of Ed Whelan. A taste:

The readers’ representative recounted discussing the matter with Times editor Bill Keller. Tellingly, Keller said he “does not want to single out Greenhouse … because it would appear to be a tacit rebuke in the face of a partisan assault.” And so, at last, we stumble into the truth. The Times is not a newspaper. It is a partisan, self-consciously engaged in partisan battle.

Objectively, there is nothing ideological about a conflict of interest. It is relationship-based, and you either have one or you don’t. For the Times, however, what matters is that an undeniable conflict was raised by a conservative. That makes it part of the permanent campaign, the Times’s ideological project. There can’t be any admissions because that would hurt the cause. For a partisan, the cause is bigger than any conflict.

I have had people point out errors of mine on this blog — and sometimes, the heads-up came from a leftist partisan. What’s more, sometimes, that heads-up wasn’t too polite.

In such situations, I could have written it all off as an attack by a partisan. But if the partisan is right, he’s right — even though he is a partisan. And so I have always corrected such errors — with a polite tip of the hat to the person who tipped me off.

You can even win respect from people that way. And I say all this as a partisan.

For a newspaper to say that, yes, you have a point — but we’re not going to do a damned thing about it, because you’re raising it as a partisan — is indefensible.

P.S. For what it’s worth, I think the Los Angeles Times takes that attitude with some of my complaints at times — but is smart enough not to say it out loud. Remember when The New Republic said Scott Thomas Beauchamp had made an error about where a particular incident took place — and Tim Rutten claimed that the magazine had admitted that Beauchamp had “concocted” the event? What if Beauchamp himself had written to object? Would the paper have given him the same brush-off they gave me? I doubt it.


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