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With Validatum Pricing Espresso® we aim to bring you your regular pricing 'shot' - the best, most interesting, thought provoking and informative material we can find globally which will be of interest, relevance and help to you in your legal services pricing challenges. [Note: we don't always agree with the content of others that we post but the philosophy of Validatum Pricing Espresso® is shared perspectives, not a personal 'soap-box']

PRICING REGULATION

Consumer panel attacks BSB over price transparency

Consumer Panel

Access to justice is not only about legal aid and includes information about lawyers’ fees, the Legal Services Consumer Panel has told the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

The panel also called on the BSB to improve the way barristers communicate with consumers.

Responding to a consultation on the BSB’s strategic programme for 2019-2022, Sarah Chambers, the panel’s chair, said access to justice “goes beyond accessing (legal aid) funds”. Read more...

PROCUREMENT

The RFP Process Is Broken. Here's How It Might Get Fixed.

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RFPs have swept the legal market, but they are causing pain for law departments and law firms alike. If they are here to stay, what needs to change?

n 2013, executives and in-house leaders at 3M decided they needed to drastically reduce the number of law firms on the Minnesota-based manufacturing company’s preferred network panel. The list of 300 firms would ultimately be cut to about 80. The carving knife? A request for proposal that featured more than 50 questions.

Including all those questions seemed like a good idea at the time. But when the RFP responses began flowing in they were hundreds of pages long. Many were filled with marketing literature that was readily available on a firm’s website and of little interest to the company’s decision-makers, says Maureen Harms, associate general counsel and managing counsel at 3M’s corporate headquarters in St. Paul. Read more...

Largest Clients Ramp Up RFPs

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The next RFP is likely to be a big one. RFPs among the largest clients are on the rise. While only 38% of clients plan to issue RFPs through 2019—they are the largest legal spenders. Here’s why this group is moving to RFPs while others silently interview and select their law firms on a less visible basis.

  1. Clients consistently tell BTI they learn one new compelling insight, idea, or suggestion from the process—making the entire, and admittedly, grueling process worth it.
  2. Large clients are experiencing a faster rise in complex matters and increased financial exposure than their smaller spending counterparts. Read more...

CONTINGENT FEES

Syngenta MDL judge tears up lawyers’ contingency contracts in $500 million fee ruling

Contingency Percentage

The academic debate about whether judges overseeing multidistrict litigation have the power to cap fees for lawyers who signed individual contingency fee contracts with the clients is fierce. Some scholars, notably including William Rubenstein of Harvard, believe that when MDLs are resolved via class action settlements, judges have inherent power to abrogate individual fee contracts. Others contend those fee contracts remain binding.

In the last half of 2018, Robert Klonoff of Lewis & Clark, who subscribes to the former view, faced off against a bevy of academics – Arthur Miller and Geoffrey Miller of New York University, Charles Silver of the University of Texas, Alexandra Lahav of the University of Connecticut and Brian Fitzpatrick of Vanderbilt – in consolidated litigation in Kansas federal district court, accusing the agricultural giant Syngenta of peddling genetically modified seeds that produced corn China refused to import. Klonoff, as an expert for class counsel who led the negotiations that resulted in a $1.5 billion global settlement for U.S. farmers, argued that MDL judges’ authority to regulate plaintiffs’ lawyers’ fees is settled law. Read more...

PRICING ECONOMICS

A Not So Rosy Take on US BigLaw 2018 Performance

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A not so rosy take on US BigLaw 2018 performance is Mark Cohen’s myth-busting analysis of the 2019 Citi Hildebrandt Client Advisory annual survey of US law firm fiscal performance.

Mark opens by observing ‘The most recent Citi Report drew considerable industry attention following its release in December, suggesting the opening sentence of the Executive Summary is the likely reason: “The US law firm industry is enjoying its strongest growth in almost a decade”.

The Report ticked off a slew of positive indices: an average 6.3% revenue growth; 4.3% billing rate increase during the first nine-months of 2018; a 3.3% increase in demand among the AmLaw 50 firms; and gains among both large and small firms. Read more...

BILLABLE HOUR

Duane Morris Trims Billing Requirements for New Parents

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As more and more firms revisit their parental leave benefits, the program lets lawyers "ramp down" and "ramp up" their billable hours before and after a child's arrival, without sacrificing pay.

In the latest example of Big Law expanding benefits to ease burdens on caregivers and woo younger lawyers, Duane Morris has launched a “ramp down/ramp up” program designed to help lawyers ease in and out of billing requirements when they become parents.

Under the new policy, attorneys in the U.S. who take primary caregiver leave from the firm can reduce their billable requirements up to four weeks before their leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Read more...

Lawyers Caught Overbilling? The Billable Hour Shares the Blame

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The kind of intentional overbilling a former Kirkland & Ellis lawyer recently admitted to is rare, experts say. But when it does occur, it can be seen as another consequence of law firms' questionable attachment to the billable hour.

Christopher Anderson, the former lawyer at Kirkland & Ellis and Chicago firm Neal Gerber & Eisenberg who admitted to years of overbilling clients, blamed his actions on his firms’ billing targets—or at least how he perceived them.

Anderson said that he would often boost his tally of reported work on days that he felt he came up short, billing a client for half an hour when he had only put in 18 minutes, for example. Read more...

How AI and analytics made the billable hour redundant

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It has been blamed for blocking business development and for penalising efficiency, yet despite its drawbacks, the billable hour has managed to persist in the legal profession.

Faced with spending cuts by clients, stiffer competition from upstart legal services providers, and the rise of automation and artificial intelligence (AI), law firms’ traditional model of the billable hour may have had its time in the sun.

“Law firms are looking for different ways to charge for their services, especially in the corporate market where clients are just not accepting the old way of billing,” says Dani McCormick, director of solutions at Lexis Nexis. Read more...

Judge caps “disproportionate” hourly rates for Green lawyers

Billable Hours Clock

The judge in charge of the media list has reduced the hourly rate recoverable by the lawyers for Sir Philip Green in his case against the Daily Telegraph.

Mr Justice Warby capped the top partner rate at £550 an hour, after a figure of up to £690 was claimed.

Sir Philip and two of his companies are seeking an injunction to restrain the Telegraph Media Group from publishing information about them. Read more...

Weil Fees in Sears Bankruptcy Shine Light on Big Billers: The Paralegals

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The firm billed over $10 million for work on the bankruptcy in November, with one $405-an-hour paralegal logging an incredible 431 hours.

Fees are continuing to pile up in the Sears bankruptcy, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, the storied retail giant’s lead law firm, is under the spotlight.

The firm caught the attention of the New York Post over a single paralegal’s busy month: 431 hours, billed at $405 per hour. That’s more than 14 hours for every day of the month. It’s also more than the billing rate for some partners at large firms. And it tops the rate earned by a number of attorneys, including shareholders, at McAndrews, Held & Malloy, the Chicago firm handling trademark issues for Sears in the Manhattan bankruptcy case. Read more...

Shock. Shock. A Lawyer Who Inflates Billables!

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Christopher Anderson's deeds clearly won't earn him an Eagle Scout merit badge, but did he do anything that outrageous?

Maybe it’s because I was never a Girl Scout. Or maybe it’s because I’m just jaded. For whatever reason, I can’t sum up the outrage that some members of the profession are expressing over the lawyer who padded his billables.

In case you’ve missed it, here’s the scandal that’s rocking the legal world: Chicago lawyer Christopher Anderson confessed to overbilling clients for several years—first, at Kirkland & Ellis (where he was an associate), then at Neal Gerber & Eisenberg (where he made partner before getting booted for the overbilling). He now faces discipline from the bar. Read more...

Legal Industry Standards Group Sets Out to Tame Pricing Confusion

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The Standards Advancement for the Legal Industry Alliance says its efforts can help legal departments and law firms unleash innovation.

An alliance of law firms, trade organizations, corporations and other legal industry stakeholders announced the release of its first set of billing codes Tuesday, as part of a wider project to build industrywide standards for describing and tracking legal matters.

The Standards Advancement for the Legal Industry (SALI) Alliance pegged its announcement to the 2019 Legalweek conference, unveiling Version One of its matter standards. The codes are broken down by various areas of law and also for different legal services. Read more...

LEGAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT

What should we expect of legal project managers?

Expect Legal Project Managers

Legal Project Management (LPM) is a well-established discipline and the role of legal project manager is an attractive career option for many people, both those already working in the legal services industry and those looking to enter it.

The continued rise of legal project management is being fuelled by client demand for improved communications, transparency and collaboration (the latter being especially prevalent among corporate clients). This demand shows no sign of slowing down – quite the reverse.

So, what should we expect of legal project managers? Are our expectations realistic? What competencies should legal project managers have? Read more...

Legal Project Management, Part 1: Getting Started

Management And Productivity

Project management is a discipline that, like lawyering, takes years to learn and longer to master. So my goal with this series of posts about legal project management is not to try to tell you everything you need to know. Instead, it’s to help you get your head around the core concepts involved in treating case management as project management and take the first steps toward using legal project management to improve your practice.

Legal Project Management: The Big Picture

There are several things involved in project/matter management: Read more...

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