Friday, May 15, 2009

Job opportunities for legal freelancers increase as the insanity of large law firm model continues to be revealed

The current economic downturn has served to disclose more and more examples of why the large law firm practice model should be discarded, in lieu of smaller, more nimble, legal freelancers and law firms. While the business world struggles to adapt to lower profits and making tougher financial decisions, law firms still seem slow to understand. Here are a few examples.

The dissolving 106-year-old law firm of WolfBlock, LLC is reported as using a line of credit at the beginning of the year to pay bonuses for the previous year. “’When they felt the real earnings were inadequate, they just borrowed to pay themselves what they thought they were worth,’" former chairman Robert Segal is quoted in the ABA Journal.

Stroock, Stroock & Levan is offering to pay new law school graduates to whom they had extended job offers previously $50,000 to delay starting work from the fall until January 2010, or $75,000 to find other employment. (link).

Morrison & Foerster is offering to pay $5,000 per month plus the cost of medical benefits to 2009 law grads who will defer their start date to January 2011. (link)

Summer associates paid around $3000/week, were just a year ago complaining about “skimpy” lunch stipends of $55 and being plyed with too much expensive food and alcohol. (link)

Is it any wonder that legal costs to clients have been soaring out of control? Why does a law firm need to charge $400, $500, $600 an hour and up? Corporate America is finding the answer to that question and changing course. Major corporations are slashing their legal budgets by using smaller law firms.

The Association of Corporate Counsel is also involved in an active quest to redefine the value of legal services with its “Value Challenge.”
“ACC believes that many traditional law firm business models and many of the approaches to lawyer training and cost management are not aligned with what corporate clients want and need: value-driven, high-quality legal services that deliver solutions for a reasonable cost and develop lawyers as counselors (not just content-providers), advocates (not just process-doers) and professional partners. . . . ACC has launched an initiative to reconnect value and costs for legal services . .
Freelancers, this is your time to make contact with those law firms and inhouse counsel that want and need to make a change in how they provide legal services to clients. Show them your skills and abilities, and demonstrate they can decrease their overall costs without sacrificing high-quality services.

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