Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Can Flextime Create Work-Life Balance if Lawyers Aren't Comfortable Using It?

In theory, benefits like extended maternity leave, part-time options and telecommuting are the hallmarks of a robust and effective law firm work-life balance initiative.  But as it turns out, in practice, less than half of eligible attorneys feel comfortable availing themselves of these options, at least according to the results of this survey jointly sponsored by Above the Law and Lateral Link.  Of the 1 ,669 respondents, only 45 percent of women and 18 percent of men said they would feel comfortable asking to go part-time after having a child, while 39 percent of women and 25 percent of men would feel comfortable asking for an extended unpaid leave.  Finally, roughly one third of respondents of either gender said they would feel comfortable asking to telecommute after having a child.  At the same time, most lawyers -- two third of men and 59 percent of women -- did feel comfortable leaving the office at 6 p.m. to be home with children and then continue to work remotely. 

My guess is that lawyers are comfortable with leaving earlier because they could do so on an ad hoc basis, rather than through a formal law firm program.  Thus, they would not suffer the same stigma that they might if the firm were required to make a special accommodation, as it would with initiatives like telecommuting or part time work. 

It seems that even in these supposedly more enlightened times, the "parent track" doesn't run parallel to the partnership track.  As Ellen Ostrow suggests in this piece, unintentional biases still remain within the workplace -- and that for retention programs to succeed, firms must develop mechanisms for preventing biases from influencing judgments and behavior. (H/T to Women Lawyers Back on Track.)

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Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 12, 2008 at 11:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blawg Review #159

Blawg Review #159 is up at The Whistleblower Law Blog, sponsored by the law firm of LaBovick and LaBovick. Blawg Review #159 includes interesting picks such as the greatest pro defense decisions from the Drug and Device Law Blog and this update from Lowering the Bar on a brewing copyright battle between the state of Oregon and some of the legal Web sites that publish its statutes online for free.  And if links like these aren't enough incentive to draw you to Blawg Review #159, perhaps you'll be enticed by the opportunity to reacquaint yourself with some of your favorite nursery rhymes which are interspersed throughout.

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Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 12, 2008 at 11:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bike Couriers Riding Off Into the Sunset

First, it was the typewriter.  And now, another former sine qua non of law firm practice -- the bike courier -- faces endangered species status in this Internet-enabled paperless era. 

The Providence Journal reports on how e-filing is impacting the bike courier business in Rhode Island and nationwide. Back in 1999, the state had about 480 couriers and messengers, but that number dropped to 400 -- down nearly 20 percent -- by 2006.  The state's trend aligns with national statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, which show a decline in couriers and messengers from 134,370 in 1999 to 105,070 in 2006.

Not surprisingly, Walter J. Marshall, the Boston-based regional economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, attributes the decline to the emergence of electronic communication and e-filing. In Rhode Island, both U.S. Bankruptcy Court and federal district court have been using e-filing for the past few years.  Even the Secretary of State's office began accepting corporations' annual reports electronically in August 2007, and is now considering extending the electronic filing program to nonprofits and limited liability companies.  Indeed, thus far, the state courts remain the only hold-outs, though they are expected to implement e-filing by 2011.

In the meantime, courier services, which rely heavily on court filings and law firm business, are coping with the changes.  One company, Dash Delivery, lost 30 percent of its business when the Bankruptcy Court went electronic and another 25 percent when the federal district court went online.  The company continues to deliver important documents, as well as charging documents in criminal cases and initial complaints, which are still filed in paper form.  And it is diversifying, now delivering blood samples and medical files for hospitals. 

Do you or your law firm still rely on messenger services and bike couriers?  Will there always be a need for messenger services -- or will we see their ranks continue to decline?

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Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 12, 2008 at 10:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sports Law Is a Tough Game to Enter

Transitioning from a conventional law practice to work as a sports agent can be a tough game for lawyers, as discussed in this Fulton County Daily Report story profiling several Atlanta lawyers who attempted to make the play. For one lawyer, Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore partner Von DuBose, a gamble on Michigan State University defensive end Ervin Baldwin paid off.  After months traveling across the country to watch Baldwin practice and play, and counsel him on handling media interviews, the Chicago Bears drafted Baldwin,  allowing DuBose to continue to build his sports agent business. On the other hand, personal injury and criminal defense lawyer Mawuli Davis, who focused his efforts on representing basketball players, never found an opportunity to represent a player in a major league deal. Without a client to build on or the funding needed to pursue clients, Davis "decided to cut his losses and stick to traditional legal work."

Given that the sports agency business demands high up-front costs to lure clients, one might think that the field would be dominated by deep-pocked, mega law firms.  But the truth is that very few agents work for the Am Law 200:

"Being an agent doesn't work with big firm economics," said Brandon Witkow [a sports agent lawyer].  Big firms bill by the hour, but the vast majority of sports agents receive a percentage of their clients' salaries, Witkow said.  Also, a big firm lawyer working as an agent can't bill for the countless hours he'll spend doing tasks that are standard agent fare.  "You incur a lot of time as an agent preparing pitch packets for clients, traveling to meet team general managers and to summer camps," Witkow said. "Those are costs that can't be directly passed on to the client."

A few large firms, including Bryan Cave, Dow Lohnes, Stinson Morrison Hecker and Williams & Connolly have a sports agent practice.  And some firms, such as Covington & Burling or Proskauer Rose have sports law practices, representing the leagues or teams rather than acting as agents for individual players.  Indeed, by representing individual players, these firms would conflict themselves out of their ability to represent the big corporate entities that can afford large firm rates.  As a result, despite the initial start up costs, the sports-agent field continues to remain dominated by small shops or solo practices.

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Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 11, 2008 at 09:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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