June 5, 2014

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Industry Outlook: Legal

June 5, 2014

It’s incredibly hard on the transactional side. You’ve got to be willing to hang in there and basically be an apprentice after law school on the job for a couple years before you really know how to do any of that stuff. If there was some way to get some experience there in law school, that would be a great benefit to the firms.   

Have you implemented any security rules in your office regarding social media?

MAXFIELD: We’ve had a couple of our financial institution clients come to us and tell us that we could not have any outside email services, such as Gmail or Hotmail. And of course a lot of lawyers would use those for their own personal reasons, but these financial institutions feel that those are potential data security windows for breaches. So now we can’t access our Gmail or Hotmail. It’s for the right reason, but we’ve become much more data-security conscious because of these requirements from clients.

We’re encrypting all of our computers so if they are stolen, somebody can’t get in and view the data. Definitely on the data security side, there are some heightened sensitivities these days.

 YOUNG: It’s a big deal for us as well. Our clients expect it. Demand it, in fact. We have lengthy passwords on our phones, our computers.

MAYCOCK: I do family law, and one of the things I’ve had to learn is at the first interview with the new client, tell them to get off social media—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Because younger people live on those, and they put things in there about their divorce and their children, their spouses and themselves that’s not appropriate for the world to see.

MORSE: We’re all exposed to data breach and cyber security risks. We just placed our first policy specifically ensuring us against data breach and cyber security attacks. And some other lawyers from my firm said, “Well, what are the chances of that?”

I said, “I don’t know what the chances of that are, but I know what the costs are going to be, and the costs are going to be 2, 3, 4, $500,000 just to fix it, notify the people who need to be notified and to track their credit for years to come.”   

BRONSON: It wasn’t that long ago we went to the cloud for all our documentation, and we really struggled with that. I don’t know how many other firms have done that and if there is some risk there. Some of it we don’t accept and we’ve decided to keep some of it in-house. We thought we could go to the cloud and everything would be accessible to everyone with the security. It’s been great for a lot of things. Some things it just doesn’t work for.

The unmet legal services needs in our community are a problem. What can we do as far as being more proactive in doing pro bono services and meeting these unmet legal services?

BURNETT: We have adopted the debt collection calendar; every Friday there’s a group of people who come who are unrepresented by counsel, and we have the opportunity to go there and represent them. We meet these people, determine their needs, negotiate with the creditors on the debtor’s behalf, sometimes appear in front of the judge and discuss those things.

It’s been a wonderful opportunity for us. I did it last month and it was invigorating. It’s tough to do pro bono service, because we’re busy trying to meet our financial requirements. But it’s important to do, and by regularly scheduling this, that helps us accomplish that goal.

GAYLORD: We actually have a pro bono director whose sole responsibility is to search out and locate both local and national pro bonos, and each of our offices has a pro bono attorney charged with making sure that our associates and partners are participating. We have a goal of a minimum of 50 hours of pro bono services that we provide a year, and everyone who does is recognized. At the end of the year we have a pro bono award, which is a well-recognized award, and it’s actually reported in the Philadelphia bar. So we’re very involved in pro bono activities on a national basis.

BARKER: We have some formal programs, mostly for associates. We make that part of their requirements.  I would love to see the bar actually put a little more pressure on bar members, and then we could put some pressure on our lawyers, particularly our shareholders, and we could probably do better in that regard.

Have any of your firms adopted requirements saying you have so many hours of pro bono we would like you to reach? What are those usually at?

HULSE: We have 50 hours annually, but we recognize it as billable. So if an associate does 50 hours of pro bono work, we give them full billable credit for it.

JARVIS: We actually, 20 years ago, signed up with a law firm, Pro Bono Challenge, committing to spend at least 3 percent of all of our billable hours as Pro Bono Challenge hours. And internally, we try to get up to 5 percent.

We track it. So every month our practice groups get reports about how they’re doing as far as the attorneys in their group in meeting those challenge hours. We have a pro bono coordinator firm-wide, and then we have a pro bono partner in every office that screens and looks for pro bono projects. We also give our associates 50 hours of credit for pro bono work, and it’s not just credit, but we expect them to do that. And on our partner self-evaluations, one of the questions we ask every year is: “What have you done this year for pro bono work?” We are very serious about this.   

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