Category Archives: Law Firm Economics

Charles E. Griffin Joins Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada, PLLC

The practice of law has changed significantly since I started in 1988. These changes, along with my desire to explore a new platform, resulted in my decision to close my individual law practice and become a member of the Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada law firm.

Butler Snow is based in Ridgeland, Mississippi and is recognized as a leading law firm by many publications. Chambers USA – America’s Leading Lawyers for Business describes Butler Snow as having “enormous power and presence” with a team of attorneys who have achieved national prominence because of “sheer, unambiguous quality.” According to Chambers, Butler Snow clients refer to the firm as “well-known for being successful” and it’s attorneys as “real deal-makers.” Chambers also noted Butler Snow’s ability to deliver to the client “the whole package – intelligence, presence and trial experience.” Butler Snow has been named by Best’s Review as one of 69 law firms “Standing the Test of Time.” National Law Journal has listed Butler Snow as one of twenty law firms on its Midsize Hot List for demonstrating creative, innovative strategies, developing practice areas and recruiting top legal talent. Butler Snow is committed to diversity and I look forward to actively participating in it’s efforts to strengthen that commitment for the benefit of its clients, the firm, the legal community and the public.

During my twenty-three-year career, I have worked on hundreds of cases with, and against, attorneys from Butler Snow and I have observed their legal ability first hand. I am pleased to join this talented group.

NAMWOLF NAMES NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

According to a press release on PR-USA.net, the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) has announced the appointment of Jason L. Brown as it’s new Executive Director.    Mr. Brown is a graduate of Howard University School of Law and was previously employed byPepsiAmericas, Inc.

Companies Make Thirty Million Dollar Pledge to Diverse Law Firms

This is a tough economy.    Diverse defense firms are experiencing severe financial stress as a result of this economy.  Amidst the backdrop of this financial crisis, several companies, including Dupont, Excelon, Microsoft, Accenture, American Airlines, Comcast, General Mills,  GlaxoSmithKline and Prudential have decided to “put their money where their mouth is” and they have pledged to spend at least thirty million dollars with minority law firms in 2010. 

According to published reports in Law.Com Corporate Counsel, the companies have dubbed their effort the “Inclusion Initiative” and they have agreed to work with the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) to identify best practices for corporations to maximize relationships with high quality minority and women owned law firms. 

According to Thomas Sager, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Dupont, this initiative will help to improve chances “that the economic downturn does not disproportionately affect minority and women owned law firms.”  Sager also pointed out that many minority law firms are smaller and more cost effective.  Sager views this initiative as a way for corporate law firms to cut costs at a time when many law departments are trying to trim budgets.

This initiative is a “win-win”  for business and for diverse law firms.  Hopefully, long term business relationships  will result from the initiative.

Minority Defense Lawyers: Look Beyond Diversity Programs For Business Development

Minority defense lawyers face significant challenges to maintaining existing business and generating new business. While some of these challenges are the same as our majority counterparts, many are not. One of the biggest challenges is the difficult task of meeting and developing relationships with prospective clients. Diversity programs and networking events provide opportunities for minority lawyers to meet in-house counsel who might otherwise be inaccessible to them. Most minority lawyers and minority law firms lack a historical or “legacy” relationship with large companies and their in-house counsel. The historical relationships between corporations and majority lawyers and law firms are a significant obstacle for minority lawyers. Networking opportunities are extremely important means of access for minority lawyers.

Networking programs provide access to minority lawyers. For minority lawyers in large firms, these programs serve to augment existing client relationships that they may have developed through their firms. For minority lawyers in small firms, these programs provide invaluable access that they might not otherwise be able to achieve. These programs should be preserved, expanded and objectively measured so that they can improve minority defense lawyers’ chances of achieving some degree of parity in the distribution of corporate defense work.

While the benefits of diversity programs cannot be denied, these programs are not panaceas for all of the business development challenges faced by minority defense lawyers. While working on a recent project, I learned that diversity programs are not immune to the effects of the current recession. The number of opportunities and the resources available to fund those opportunities are not as plentiful as they were during healthier economic times. It is more evident now than ever that diversity programs are not substitutes for independent business development efforts. In this environment, it is more important than ever for minority defense lawyers to increase their personal business development and marketing efforts.

There’s an old expression about being out of sight and being out of mind. The point of the expression is that people tend to forget about you if they don’t see you. This adage is particularly true in the legal profession. Successfully building a defense practice requires that you establish and maintain a strong presence within your community and in your practice area. Maintaining a strong presence in your community improves the chances that your name will be mentioned when someone seeks information regarding defense counsel in your area. Maintaining a strong presence in legal circles involving your area of practice greatly increases your chances of being considered for defense work within that area of practice. A combination of a strong community presence and a strong reputation in your practice area will help you develop your individual “brand” and your “brand” will make you a visible and viable candidate for defense work.

Look in the mirror and ask yourself if you have a strong presence in your community. Next, ask yourself if you are known as a defense lawyer in one or more particular practice areas. If the answer to either of these questions is less than an enthusiastic “yes,” you should improve your marketing efforts immediately. Don’t wait for business to come to you by merely attending one or more diversity programs. Be proactive, be visible, develop and market your “brand.”

Flexible Work Schedule Initiative Designed To Improve Opportunities for Female Attorneys

Attorney Carla Fox and her daughter Ashley Fox

Attorney Carla Fox and her daughter Ashley Fox

Many female attorneys have difficulty juggling time between their work schedule and taking care of their family at home.  Some have had to choose between their practice and taking time off to raise young children.  Others have chosen a compromise by practicing law part time and spending more time at home with their families.  Part-time employment is often difficult to find.  The lack of sufficient part-time opportunities is especially disappointing in the current economic climate.

Carla Fox is  a Nashville attorney and mother of three.  She is a graduate of Mississippi State University and the University of Tennessee Law School.  Her resume reveals an impressive background, including law review membership and past work at a top notch law firm.  However, after the birth of her children, she decided that the demands of a full time law practice prevented her from spending as much time as she needed to spend with her children.  Attorney Fox chose to leave the big firm practice, home school her children during the critical early years and seek part time work.  Her choice paid off.  Her oldest daughter, Ashley, recently graduated from high school with high honors and is pursuing her own higher education.  Ashley’s siblings are working hard on the same path.  Attorney Fox was able to maintain a balance between her law practice and her family life by successfully maintaining a part time corporate law practice advising clients on business and transactional matters.  Attorney Fox is fortunate.  Statistics show that few mothers have had the opportunity to work part time on corporate matters.  According to a recent article in the National Law Journal that was recently posted on Law.Com, the Project for Attorney Retention is trying to change that.

The Project for Attorney Retention (PAR) has started an initiative called the Diversity and Flexibility Connection.  The goal of the initiative is to encourage legal departments and law firms to support flexible work schedules and provide more opportunities for female attorneys and others who need flexible work schedules.  The initiative seeks more than just window dressing.  The initiative seeks not only to improve opportunities but to also insure that these employees are given meaningful work and important roles in their firms.  Corporate participants in the initiative include Wal-Mart, Shell Oil, Macy’s and others.   Law firm participants in the initiative include Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, Morrison & Foerster, Sidley Austin and others. 

The Diversity and Flexibility Connection is a worthwhile initiative.  Hopefully, it will jump start similar efforts by other corporations and law firms.  One shouldn’t have to choose between a fulfilling professional life or a fulfilling family life.

DRI Future of Litigation Study

The Defense Research Institute commissioned Smock Sterling Strategic Management Consultants to perform a study on the future of litigation.  A pdf of the study report can be downloaded here.    The report provides an interesting and informative overview of the future challenges to the jury trial system.   Among other things, the report provides insight into future practice trends that should be beneficial to lawyers planning their practice emphasis and future goals.  Kudos to DRI for publishing this report.

 

Minority defense attorneys and minority law firms face unprecedented challenges today.

Blog Creator

Welcome to Minority Defense Lawyers.  This blog is an open forum to discuss the preservation of minority defense lawyers and law firms.  The “diversity” debate is now front and center in America.  The results of the current debate will have a long-term impact on the future of minority defense attorneys and minority defense law firms.  For a number of reasons, many minority defense lawyers are not participating  in the debate.  Some believe that their views will fall on deaf ears.  Others believe that insurance companies and corporate america are simply “keeping hope alive” and that they lack a meaningful commitment to minority defense lawyers and minority defense law firms.  Many believe that the debate is being driven by those least in a position to understand the plight of minority defense lawyers and minority defense law firms. 

If you have a position on how  the current “diversity” debate can be transformed into action which can impact your practice and others, please subscribe to this blog and participate in the date.   Minority defense lawyers who remain silent during the “diversity” debate are surrendering the fate of their practice and the fate of their future to the unknown.

I look forward to communicating with you in the days and weeks to come.

Charles E. Griffin, Blog Creator