Morning Briefing: ‘Pay what you want’ legal services; smaller firms favourites for big deals

by NZ Lawyer06 Aug 2014

‘Pay what you want’ legal services
Pay what you want or PWYW is not a new idea; restaurants, theatres and software companies have all used it and Radiohead famously invited fans to choose the price they wanted to pay for their 2007 album In Rainbows. Law firms have not tended to give this economic gamble a try; until now. Conduit Law of Toronto now promises on its website to give clients “the opportunity to adjust the amount of the invoice to reflect their opinion of the value they received. No questions asked.” They acknowledge Chicago based Valorem Law for the idea. Could this be the future of law firm billing?

Size does matter; when it comes to billing
While pay what you want may not catch on everywhere, billing is a hot issue for firms and especially for their clients. A new report by CounselLink shows that many clients involved in high-value M&A (above US$1million) are opting to use smaller firms rather than the global giants. They believe that the firms with 500-750 lawyers offer the same expertise but with smaller fees than those with 750+; typically a saving of around US$100 per hour per partner. Those hours and fees soon add up on a large M&A deal so the savings can be substantial. The report shows that these ‘mid-size’ firms took 52 per cent of the high-value deals. When it comes to big-ticket litigation the firms in the league below them are gaining ground; firms with 250-500 lawyers have seen a doubling of their share of the market in the last 5 years.

Surveys name best law firms for women
Some of the best known global law firms have been named as the top law firms for women by Working Mother magazine. Firms were measured on a number of factors, including representation and leadership by women lawyers and career development.  While many firms have active and effective programs to aid women lawyers it can’t be assumed that there is a genuinely level playing field. For example those who opt for flexible working are generally eligible for promotion to equity partner; certainly in the firms who make the top 50 in this survey, but they may find that the theory is not the reality. The survey also shows that an increasing number of women seem to be bringing in the big money for law firms; ‘seem to’ because not all of the firms surveyed answered the question. Firms are certainly providing more support for working mums, and one would assume for working dads too? More firms are offering childcare help and even in-house facilities than before. While this is far from being the only issue for women in the law workplace, it is frequently a major one. See how many of the firms you work with.

Female soccer players take legal action over fake turf
An international group of female soccer players are threatening legal action over the playing surface for next year’s women’s World Cup. The tournament is taking place in Canada and the ladies have retained law firms there and in the US with a view to launching action claiming gender discrimination as the men’s game has not been played on artificial turf and is not likely to be. The women say that the fake turf is not considered a premier playing surface and causes more injuries than grass. They have sent a letter to the organisers through law firm Boies Schiller and Flexner asking for a meeting to discuss the situation.