eyes open

eyes open
"know thyself" is the cure, the answer, the process, the goal, the result


Open Letter to the Lawyers of Pakistan

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Bar of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan,

I am only one humble lawyer, but I salute those of you who have risked your livelihoods, your lives, and most importantly, your liberty, in the protest again the naked attempt to undermine the rule of law in Pakistan.

What paltry information we Americans receive about the situation, claims that in the past there have been questions about the integrity of some members of the Pakistani bar and judiciary. If that is so, after seeing your brave protests in the streets of Islamabad, all is now forgiven and more than forgiven.

I cannot tell you how moving it is to see hundreds, thousands of suited and cravatted lawyers yelling in the streets, arms and faces raised against tyranny. You as attorneys are truly perhaps the last bastion against absolute rule by fiat in your nation.

I only have to ask: what can we as American lawyers do for you????

For us American Lawyers, would we have the courage to do the same??? Our forefathers did, and put their lives and livelihoods similarly on the line.


The MARKET Will Decide the Price of Services, Not WalMart

I got quoted in IPLaw360 on Saturday in a piece on Walmart's ill-conceived memo trying to rein in associate rates charged them for work. The upshot is that Walmart wants no rate increases unless an individual memo is approved as to the individual worth of each attorney billing on a matter. Other than the fact that I cannot believe such a procedure would ever be put into practice on a consistent, to say nothing of a long-term, basis, the plan will of course backfire on Walmart, at least from the law firm point of view.

First, I have to say that I was quoted somewhat incorrectly. The author of the piece indicates that I thought firms would use "tricks" to keep up hourly rates. This is not precisely the case. What will happen, however, is that firms will do everything within their power to keep their stated rates at the premium/premier levels, and use tools such as blended rates, and other devices, to keep clients happy, without admitting to lowering fee rates.

Second, there is no way in hell Walmart or anyone else is going to rein in legal fees. If it is not feasible to control "prices" on a national level with the full support of the federal government behind it, then a single firm, or even a group of corporate concerns is not going to keep this in check. Hello, people!!! The MARKET decides prices, not individual companies. Of course, Walmart and anyone else can price themselves down into the sub-prime market (if you will). There are plenty of attorneys who work work for Walmart at even $120/hour--but does Walmart want there people? Basically, the white shoe firms of the world (using the phrase loosely) will simply move on. If you want premier help, you pay premier prices. Period.

What Walmart surprising cannot figure out (as they are supposed to be savvy retailers as I recall) is that market demand and supply control price. Not testosterone-heavy corporate counsel's departments. Such a move by Walmart to enforce a "slow-down" of fee increases only helps some. It will help their current firms to decide whether they want to continue representing Walmart, and it will help the next-lower-tier firm who is willing to charge less for their less-then-premier services (as perceived by the market, of course) garner a new client. Add to that the well-known fact that as an industry, demand for legal services is incredibly inelastic. Just browse over to Bruce's blog for a primer.

The fact that the greatest global labor shortage of all time in the professional ranks of all professions is upon us and will continue for the foreseeable future means that premier prices--and all prices--will continue to rise because the cost of labor will necessarily continue to rise to attract and retain talent.

There isn't a damn thing Walmart--or anyone else--can do about that.

Just a thought.


Don't Go There: Faust, Law Firm Managment & Profits

The legend of Dr. Faustus is more than half a millennium old. A German folktale with some basis in historical fact, the legend of the polymath, omni-lingual philosopher-turned-occultist dominates the German psyche, and has had immeasurable effect in our own literary tradition. The story, simply put, is that Dr. Faustus has plumbed all human knowledge, but yet wants more. Eventually, he makes a pact with the Devil to gain greater occult power, seduces a maiden, and eventually finds redemption. It's a long story, a poem really, that has an extremely devoted following (sort of along the order of the Wagnerian-groupie effect).

What does the Faustus myth have to do with law firm management? Plenty. The whole idea of the originally-well-intentioned ingenue of knowledge-turned-lawyer who eventually becomes the rapacious firm-merging blunt instrument/capitalist-tool is so ingrained in our profession's collected psyche as to be a paradigm. The funny thing along the path of such a person is that while brilliant, charming and incredibly competent, such persons tend to have a phoenix-like quality. In other words, while they may temporarily build something grand, they have a distinct tendency to crash and burn--bringing their friends, family and devoted employees and colleagues with them.

The irony is that the Faustian former king or king-maker in the legal industry may retire peacefully to a rural retreat and muse philosophical about his/her professional and personal triumphs and failures. Redeemed, out of the profession, at peace. The trick is, one wonders whether the said now-redeemed Faustus could have made the journey without all the drama, and without seducing the "maiden" (read: believing associates and partners alike). Are you listening, Tower?????

Just a thought.

I'll provide the link to Tower Snow's recent interview with The Recorder as soon as it becomes available. If you read it in light of Tower's meteoric rise, the Brobeck break-up, Tower's family blow-out, and the Clifford Chance debacle, his zen-like hubris is stunning.


San Francisco as Sanctuary: The Region's Diversity Buoys Fall-out from Questions in the Corporate Market

Some pundits relate a perceptible slow-down in corporate hiring and the traditional fleshing out in the litigation ranks. As far as the validity of this observation in the Bay Area, I have to say it is more nascent than fully realized, but the following are telling:

1. Firms at all levels are still SEEKING corporate candidates. This is an important point. It belies the fact that the economy is still fundamentally strong, which is to say that there is as-yet-untapped demand for legal services. The drivers here? Globalization, and a relatively stable and functioning global financial and transport/trade infrastructures. As long as these fundamental stay in play-and they have and will in spite of (or as a result of, depending on your politics) the current "pax Americana" wars.

2. Actual "trigger-pulling" has slowed perceptively in terms of corporate hires, however. While the process has continued unabated through the Summer and early Fall, I have noticed that some firms are slower on the draw than they otherwise have been in the past 24 months. The slow-down has been nearly perfectly contemporaneous with the credit debacle. Yet, after Citibank and other wrote off their 10-figure losses, the market rebounded and firms started hiring again.

3. Litigation needs have always been strong, if unremarkable, but there are rumblings about further needs. Standards for interview invitations have relaxed by a small, yet perceptible degree. It is not as bad as it was during early summer where Circuit Court of Appeals clerks could barely get a blink out of the top-tier firms.

4. The main-line "niche" practices are stronger, and ever more so. Labor & employment, real estate, estate planning, ERISA, energy, and even tax are growing. This is the result of the echo-effect of globalization. While the largest firms globally consolidate, those same firms, while unable to eschew the "all things to all people" paradigm, are unable to sustain the relatively depressed rates of these practices. Thus, they are fleeing rather precipitately to well-known boutiques. There are many, many opportunities here.

5. All IP-related practices are of course still untouched by any wobbles in the credit crunch. Even the still faint but perceptible visceral (and inaccurate) prognostications of world-wide recession cannot stop this juggernaut. Intellectual property is the "new" real property, folks. Gotta get some. Trouble is, they keep "making more." Oh yeah, I forgot, that's why it is the legal services side of the house that is so strong!

6. Population trends favor sustained growth in this market. I won't quote you the numbers, but suffice it to say that the Bay Area's population is continuing to grow unchecked. The need for legal talent continues to increase, and the pool of the 'right kind' of candidates continues to shrink as a percentage of the available pool of talent. Thus, these are, and will continue to be, salad days for attorneys. Even better for all of us are the continual seismic threats. That keeps away the merely idle on-lookers and attracts just that many fewer to flesh out the ranks.

subscribe to AD ARGUENDO now

Creative Commons License

return to today's post


Network, Dammit! (A Reprise)

Just got home from a great little marketing event especially for law-bloggers. It was a homely little event, although with some stellar attendees. Basically, we all sat around (about 50 of us at a single huge conference table) and chatted about a few central issues about blogging and how it affected our respective careers.

The content itself: dull, dull, dull--nothing I couldn't have thought up myself. I only say that (other than it being true) to give voice to what most of you are thinking about the next (or last) marketing event you went to. Bottom line: sure!, the content was weak, with maybe "one or two" little nuggets of thought to take "away."

But think! Those one or two nuggets might just be the "single grain of rice" that puts you over the top in your next negotiation. To say nothing of the chance to meet lawyers from across disciplines--an occasion fraught with marketing possibilities for now and in the future.

Again, no matter how simple, homely, or down-right boring your next marketing event may be, it, in addition to all the others you have already participated in and those you'll be participating in next week and next month and next year, will all add up.

Yup! I've got a new client (candidate) out of this event. Got some advice for improving my blog, found out about a better (and cheaper) hosting company, etc., etc., all from one short little two-hour event. Think of each marketing event as one brick in your overall career structure. One brick doesn't matter? Try leaving out a few and see where it gets you.

It's not so much being the "early bird", it's being the EverReady bunny. Being there really does matter.

Just a thought.

subscribe to AD ARGUENDO now

Creative Commons License

return to today's post