Our panel of industry experts covered an array of topics in our eighth annual legal roundtable. As the economy slows, Utah’s law firms are adjusting to meet the needs of their clients, whether a mom and pop store or large corporation. The panel also discussed recruiting and mentoring trends for young associates, the growing popularity of unbundled legal services and the impact of international law.
We’d like to give a special thank you to Stephen Owens, of Epperson & Owens and President Elect of the Utah Bar Association, for moderating the discussion, and to Holland & Hart for hosting the event.
Martin Lewis, Utah Business magazine;
Richard Scott, Chapman & Cutler;
Robert Hyde, Kirton & McConkie;
Stephen D. Swindle, VanCott Bagley;
Brent Lorimer, Workman Nydegger;
Todd Shaughnessy, Snell & Wilmer;
Blaine Carlton, Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll;
Rand Bateman, Bateman IP Law Group;
Edgar Cataxinos, Trask Britt;
Wayne Western, Thorpe North & Western;
Scott T. Evans, Christensen & Jensen;
Kent Scott, Babcock Scott & Babcock;
Richard Davis, Callister Nebeker& McCullough;
Stephen Owens, Epperson & Owens;
Kevin Pinegar, Durham Jones & Pinegar;
Paul Hess, Strong & Hanni;
David Bennion, Parsons Behle & Latimer;
Tom Hardman, Austin Rapp & Hardman;
Greg Lindley, Holland & Hart;
Jonathan Hafen, Parr Brown Gee & Loveless
John Adams, Ray Quinney & Nebeker;
David Slaughter, Snow, Christensen & Martineau;
Richard Johnson, Stoel Rives;
Keven Rowe, Jones Waldo
How is the economy affecting your firms? What changes are you implementing because of today’s slowing economy?
JOHNSON: Like probably every firm in town, we [Stoel Rives] are worried about the economy. Things have slowed down. Transactional work is very, very slow. I suspect for most everybody else, though, there are other areas of your firms that are fairly robust—litigation, labor employment, bankruptcy, restructuring.
One thing we are doing is deferring incoming associates until February 1 of next year. We are going to provide a stipend and help them get past the Bar, but we are postponing them from coming on. We are also shortening our summer court program to eight weeks, whereas historically it has been 10 to 12 weeks. We are going to be putting a freeze on the administrative salaries and we have a host of other things that are sort of contingency plans as we work our way through this difficult time and decide what we have to do to make sure that we remain strong, vibrant and a profitable law firm.
LORIMER: Like everyone else, the economy has affected us [Workman Nydegger]. We have a national practice with a number of fairly large clients, and those clients have been suffering. It has affected prosecution business a little more than our litigation business. But, we see this as an opportunity. We are attempting now to launch a vertical marketing program. We are using the Internet more than we ever have to launch into specialty markets, discrete sectors of technology, that we believe will allow us to grow the business. We have not cut back on associates, but we are not going out and hiring hundreds of them. We are pretty much moving forward with the plan as we had it before the economic recession.
PINEGAR: I think Brent [Lorimer] makes a good point. I think for our firm [Durham Jones & Pinegar], one of the things the economy has caused us to take a look at is some of our practices internally—billing, collections, recording time promptly—the kinds of things where you tend to get a little lax when things are good and the work is pouring in. But every dollar is precious, so you pay closer attention to some of those things.
We’ve had to make some changes also. We reduced the number of summer associates and shortened the program that we have. But we found there are opportunities to get good people in a time like this when other firms are laying off, and also opportunities to add new clients who have been paying higher fees. Many clients are finding that they can use a Salt Lake firm at a much more affordable rate and not suffer any quality. So we found some great opportunities in this climate.
K. SCOTT: I practice with a construction law firm [Babcock Scott Babcock], and I’m getting to know the bankruptcy laws more than I ever wanted to. I’ve seen rates at $875 from these New York attorneys, and I’ve seen rates at $500 from some of our local attorneys in bankruptcy and they are doing a booming business.
For our clients in the construction industry, I’ve seen an increase in the number of disputes. We’re just really busy when it comes to dispute resolution. The numbers are huge. And now our clients that usually stay out of disputes are involved in disputes. But the ability to pay for the resolution of those disputes, even among the better clients, is dwindling because of their lack of business. So disputes are up even among the more prudent of contractors and the ability is going down to pay for the disputes.
My love is dispute resolution and prevention. I’m seeing a lot of mediating and negotiating rather than lawyers taking things through the traditional dispute resolution process, whether it be in the state and federal courts or by arbitration. I see more creative things happening with lawyers in resolving disputes. As I talk with the construction industry clients, I see a greater need for and want for their attorneys to get involved in dispute prevention—not dispute resolution, but dispute prevention—and to spend a little time on the disputes clause of a contract or make a little investment on the front end for a dispute prevention process. So, I think lawyers are being looked at to be more creative and friendlier in the way that disputes are prevented and are resolved.
HESS: I think Kent [Scott] just answered the questions, “How can we increase our value, the value of the law and the value of lawyers to society?” We can do more to help avoid disputes, to help resolve disputes quickly and to help our clients find other ways to negotiate and avoid litigation. And that goes against what is keeping firms alive right now, but it’s very important.
R. SCOTT: In our firm [Chapman & Cutler], we’re dealing with the possibility of significant reductions in revenues, but I bet that we are all facing different experiences. Some firms, depending on their practice areas, have already experienced some decline, some are anticipating declines and some may actually have increases. We’re anticipating declines, so we did probably what most firms did, which is look at what the overall profitability of the firm is, and take into account whether you have a reduction in revenues. If things decline, at some point you reach a point where it can adversely affect the fabric of the law firm. So you have to protect the law firm, and that causes people to make decisions about what they should do to cut compensation, to reduce staff, to do whatever needs to be done.
And different firms have already done some of that. We read in the newspapers about some of the major firms who have had mass firings and major problems. We went to our associates and discussed with them how they thought we should approach this. We talked about the history of salaries and all sorts of things. I was heartened to hear that their attitude was that they would rather have a decrease in salaries and protect everybody’s jobs and to take sort of a broader view of the firm. Everybody’s sort of pitching and making a contribution to keep the firm profitable and not throw some people overboard. So that is the approach that we have started on. But I think it’s a hard decision, and it’s not pleasant to talk about either losing people or reducing people’s compensation. And sometimes it’s very difficult for people. But I think obviously that is where we are now.
HAFEN: One of the trends that we’ve seen at our firm [Par Brown] is our lawyers retooling themselves. Where our real estate practice is a little bit slower than it has been and our mergers and acquisitions practice is a little bit slower than it has been, we see some of our lawyers—and this goes from senior lawyers all the way down to younger associates—trying their hand at different things. And that involves a little more training and non-billable activity than perhaps we would like, but on the other hand, it’s nice to make sure that everybody has something to do and they can be productive.
In litigation projects that I’ve had going on the last few months, I’ve been using more and more lawyers who were formerly known as corporate securities lawyers. And they are still capable of doing good research, doing good writing and being productive in the firm. In that way, we’ve managed to keep everybody busy, and we haven’t had any issues as far as having to lay off lawyers.
Another trend we’ve seen among our clients, particularly on the litigation side, is the consumers of legal services have been asking more and more for budgets and decision-tree analyses. They want to know more about the process, including exit points and alternative dispute resolution.
HYDE: Our [Kirton & McConkie] workload has stayed at good levels, but we’ve noticed a real deterioration in our finances, I think because we are doing riskier work. So our accounts receivable are up over where they were a year ago and our write offs are up. So I suspect to stay busy, but we are taking on clients with a little less ability to pay.
I also think that because we hire a lot of attorneys around the country, we haven’t seen the full effect of this economy, yet. But we are starting to see it more. For example, we had a major client that called us this week and said, “We would like you to lower all your billing rates 7 percent.” They are a good client, so we’re going to do that. But we are concerned about what that means for the economics of the firm. We cannot keep paying associates what we are paying them when we are lowering our billing rates.
BENNION: At Parsons, Behle & Latimer, we’ve noticed a trend out of this stressed economy where the dialogue with our clients is actually healthy, and we have found ways to partner with our clients to try and resolve some of the issues that they have in obtaining legal services and found ways to be creative in partnering with our clients.
For example, we have sent lawyers both out of state and here in state to clients to work for a certain period of time on specific projects in house with those clients. We’ve built relationships that are somewhat different from the usual, but they are healthy relationships that try and help clients resolve their difficulties in this economy.
DAVIS: We [Callister Nebeker and McCullough] have actually experienced a growth in our business. We have had more income in the last 18 months than we’ve ever had. We increased the number of our attorneys by 10 percent last year and we’re adding two more this year. We do a lot of bank representation and a lot of real estate work, so there is a lot of business in that. The difficulty is it’s a lot tougher than it has been in years and there is no easy deal out there.
SWINDLE: I’m not sure we [Vancott Bagley] are atypical of a lot of the comments. We have not shortened clerkship programs. We have not cut back on the number of associates we are hiring. We have been modest in increases in salaries of administrative staff. We have looked more carefully as to ageing of accounts receivable. We have clients who are saying, “I need to pay my banker and my landlord, and I bet if my lawyer isn’t paid within 30 days, he or she will cut me a little slack on that.”
DAVIS: The one side effect that we have not talked about is the stress level on the attorneys. We’re seeing some extremely difficult, and frankly frightening, side effects on attorneys who are carrying very strong workloads or feeling stress from the client, from the opposing parties and from the economics of the deals. We’ve had people who have literally had to take a week or two off because of physical disabilities through the stress. That concerns me a lot. We’re more concerned with making sure the attorneys are well supplied with staff and professional support right now than we are the short term economics of it. So rather than firing anybody or telling them we can’t have them there, we’d rather write down or write off the young associates’ time and give them sufficient support so we can get through the deals and get through these difficult times.
OWENS: Depression and substance abuse is notoriously three and four times greater for lawyers than other professions, and that has been a concern to the Utah State Bar, too. Any member of the Bar now can call a 1 800 number and have unlimited, free, statewide, confidential mental health counseling.
How does the economy bode for associates fresh out of law school? What trends are you seeing in recruiting and mentoring new lawyers?
PINEGAR: I think it’s tough for a student in law school right now. I think they are looking at a different world.
OWENS: I think you are going to see these sharp lawyers who would otherwise be picked up by top firms, but now they’ll be lucky if they get an office, and they might make $40,000 their first year.
SHAUGHNESSY: There was an article in the National Law Journal the other day which said that clients are now saying they will not pay for first year associates. This presents a real challenge for firms.
PINEGAR: It will change how firms recruit. For example, will we continue to recruit from inside or will we look outside to bring in laterals?
R. SCOTT: I think associate pay and experience is a concern in law firms, and for the Bar as a whole. We want to foster the development of young lawyers and help them in their careers—it’s very important to society. A couple of years ago, salaries nationally jumped from very high levels to what, at least I thought, were astronomical levels. It was, in part, related to things that were happening in the tech areas and also in some of the venture capital area and lawyers were having opportunities to go work there, and so major law firms felt like they were competing in that market. I think, frankly, associate pay levels were too high and I think that a lot of law firms nationally are viewing this time as an opportunity to get back to reality. So, I think that we’re having an appropriate adjustment, because as everyone knows, when associates’ salaries go up, it has a ripple effect. And I think it causes law firms to do things that probably results in the reaction of not wanting to pay for first year law students.
CATAXINOS: I have two Fortune 500 clients that actually have that as part of their policies and procedures—they actually prohibit us from using first-year attorneys or associates within the first three years on certain projects. I think the concern there is that you are using these people to train. But, I don’t think that is necessarily true. We have some second and third year associates who are incredibly efficient.
SWINDLE: I see a lot of inquiries and applications of law school students, who have had clerkship programs shortened or associate offers withdrawn.
OWENS: Law students are calling me and saying, “I would like to come work for you this summer for no money because I can get credit, it’s an externship, and I’ll do whatever you want.” Those are hard to turn down. They just want a foot in the door. I say, “You cannot have any expectations that this is going to go anywhere, but I can certainly write you a nice recommendation.”
Does hourly rate primarily drive the revenue in your firms? Or, are you seeing business clients looking for alternative ways of budgeting and asking you to accommodate?
CATAXINOS: We’re [Trask Britt] a patent IT law firm. In the prosecution area, we’re seeing more clients asking for predictability in their budgets, and they want to see things on a flat fee basis more than ever before.
LORIMER: We’ve [Workman Nydegger] got some fairly large clients that we do a lot of patent prosecution for. And one of the ways that we are trying to manage the cash flow is electronic billing—rather than going through the business where you or your secretary puts in the time. We have a turn-around period on many of our prosecution clients that from the end of the month, we have electronic bills to the clients within five days. And they turn around and pay those electronically. Rather than waiting for the check, they just do a wire. It has greatly improved our cash flow, and it has helped us offset problems.
BATEMAN: There are a lot of clients who have expressed heightened interest in a flat fee for patent applications in particular. They say, “Look, we’re going to give you 10 applications this year. Can you just tell us they are going to cost X?” And we work with them on those, especially for good clients that we have an idea of what their technology is. The risk for attorneys, especially in the patent area, is you give that kind of bid because you think it’s simply mechanical, and then they give you a machine with 3,000 parts to it and say, “Yeah, I want a patent for that.”
Discuss the place pro bono work has in your firm.
CARLTON: We [Ballard Spahr] have a fairly sophisticated pro bono program. We encourage pro bono work. I think that the firm has committed 3 percent of our total billable hours to pro bono work. We treat pro bono hours the same as billable hours in terms of associates making budget requirements. And then we have one of our partners whose focus is solely on administering the pro bono work throughout the firm. At the end of every year, we give out pro bono awards for people who have taken on cases or done certain things in the legal community that have been of particular significance. So pro bono, we think, is a very important thing. And we view our responsibility as lawyers as providing for good legal services for the people who cannot afford it—that is a very important part of our practice.
BATEMAN: We’ve been able to do more pro bono right now just because we are not sweating bullets to make deadlines. It’s hard to justify pro bono when you have clients that need work done tomorrow and you are crunching to try and get that done. So we’ve got several areas like that where we’re using younger attorneys and clerks to get actively involved and get some training on cases that right now they may not get the time with me or with some of the mid level people who don’t have time to do that.
HAFEN: One of the things that we like and we support is the Federal Bar Association’s pro bono wheel. The program is driven by Judge Wells—she is sending out pro bono cases to firms on a wheel, giving everybody an opportunity two or three times a year to do pro bono work. And we are putting our young lawyers on those cases right away. That gives them an opportunity to understand what it is like to interact with clients, what it’s like to manage a case, to get involved in depositions—of course, all supervised by senior lawyers. But those are great training opportunities and we’ve tried to take advantage of them.
LINDLEY: We expect that each lawyer in our firm will have 100 hours of pro bono time each year. And last year our average was about 110 hours. We look at pro bono as an opportunity to help and be involved in the community.
What changes are you seeing in the IP field that affect Utah?
WESTERN: I have been in the business for 48 years and I’ve seen recessions come and go. I’ve found that IP practice lags several months behind because there is stuff in the pipeline when the recession hits and then when we start coming out of it, it takes a while for the research and development folks to get busy again.
LORIMER: There have recently been developments that are revolutionizing IP law. Congress has really gotten onto this patent-reform bandwagon. They did not do as many things as they were hoping to do or at least some of them were hoping to do, but they have changed a number of things in the patent statute that are going to affect patent litigation for years to come.
The Supreme Court in the last 10 years has heard more patent cases than they have heard probably in the last 40 years. They are incredibly involved in IP law right now. So, I think we are going to see clients and lawyers retooling and coming up with new approaches to the practice of IP law more so than we have seen in 20 or 30 years.
HARDMAN: Austin, Rapp and Hardman is a small IP boutique.
Probably 90 percent of my practice is patent prosecution. There are fundamental changes that are occurring, but I think it presents an opportunity for us. The essence of the changes in patent law is that it is now more difficult to obtain a patent in the first place. If you are able to obtain a patent, it’s less likely that the patent will have meaningful scope. And then when you try to enforce that patent in litigation, it is more likely that the patent will be held invalid, so all of those changes adversely affect patent owners.
But the opportunity that it presents for patent attorneys is that we now need to insert ourselves earlier in the overall strategic process and try to identify which inventions and innovations are of greatest importance and need to be protected. I think over the last few years what we have seen is a lot of inventions of marginal importance, marginal novelty, where applications were filed on those types of inventions. And clients are going to look to us in the future to help them identify what they should file and what they don’t need to file and other ways to protect those innovations of a little bit less novelty.
CATAXINOS: We have a lot of international clients, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to explain the described IP law changes to them. They are wondering at what point do they need to continue the investment into the patent system. In fact, many of them are calling it the “no-patent office” because of some of these changes, and I don’t quite blame them for it.
On the other hand, a lot of our clients are pharmaceutical-type clients, biotech clients and large institutional clients who do not have any other recourse. They have to protect their inventions and their R&D here in the United States—one of the biggest markets in the world. But it is becoming more and more difficult to explain all these changes to them because they don’t see quite as many changes, for example, in Europe.
LORIMER: Edgar [Cataxinos] is exactly right. There are more and more patent rules. Patent litigation is already grossly expensive, and this sort of patent rule problem and all of the changes that the Supreme Court has made are making it more expensive. So we have to be creative in ways that we can devise exit strategies. Because if you don’t have an exit strategy then you are millions of dollars down the road with no end in sight.
How is the Obama Administration affecting your work?
SHAUGHNESSY: We are seeing a lot of interest from clients in alternative energy. That seems to be a really big, growing and important field. And our office being sort of a Southwest-oriented office is in the hub of where a lot of that is going to take place. Companies interested really runs the gamut from start up companies that are developing alternative energy technologies to power companies that are making investments in alternative energy projects. We’re seeing a lot of interest from clients in it, and we are doing a lot to sort of tool a lot of our environmental lawyers to be able to advise them on it. And the current administration has placed a lot of emphasis on that, so we are going to see a lot of that work here in Utah.
BENNION: At Parsons, Behle & Latimer, we are seeing the same thing. We have a number of alternative energy clients. We’ve also begun and are fairly well down the road now with a climate-change group, and that involves legislative work, start up work, work with existing clients for changes that they want to make. So that is another area that we are seeing significant growth in, in our firm.
I don’t know if it’s the economy versus changes in the administration, but we are seeing significant areas of work that we are obtaining from clients that would have used law firms on the coasts, whether they are existing clients, but they have typically sent certain work to New York or California or Chicago, and they are now deciding to work with us because they have discovered that we can do it just as well and for far cheaper than the large firms on the coasts.
JOHNSON: Renewable energy has been one of the big initiatives in our firm, and we are actually doing work all over the country and Europe and China, and it’s really become a big area. With Obama’s administrative desires to work on renewable energy, we think it is going to be a huge area of work for our firm and other firms throughout the country.
What trends and issues are you experiencing in international business?
SLAUGHTER: I’ve got two or three clients who have frankly surprised me by springing into a number of international deals and they have dragged me along very willingly. It’s been a fascinating process and it’s been heartening to see some of our local entrepreneurs actually make that leap and do so successfully in various fields. Our clients are surprised by the level of language skills in our firms. I think there is an awful lot of potential there and a greater appreciation for the skill sets that attorneys here in Utah offer. Overall, I think that there is a great opportunity for international work here in this state.
JOHNSON: We have a number of clients in the Pacific Rim area of Asia. While Utah’s diverse language ability helps, I think clients there are realizing that we have the expertise and our billing rates are a little bit lower.
LORIMER: Traditionally, foreign IP has been mostly prosecution work. They have a foreign patent and they want to nationalize it in the United States or vice versa. In the last two years or so, we have begun doing more litigation work in foreign countries. Because of the explosion in China of manufacturing, there are a lot of U.S. companies who are trying to stem the tide of infringing imports into this country. And the problem with doing it here is that you can stop it at the border in an ITC proceeding, but if you want to really stop it at the source, you have to go to the foreign country to do it.
K. SCOTT: In the construction industry, a lot of the major contractors are looking for overseas work now and it has been a good market for them. There has been a lot of construction in the Middle East. There has been a lot of construction in China and even in the mines in South America. Now, that being said, we have a lot of competition for raw materials for building in foreign nations. China is really hungry for steel. Its appetite for cement is very hungry. So with a lot of the deals coming down in construction, there will be increased disputes.
CARLTON: We do a lot of international work, and I think one of the things that’s very helpful in that area is the Governor’s initiative. The governor has placed a great deal of emphasis on international work, and I think that as a result of that, we’re going to see a renewed growth, continued growth, in that area.
SWINDLE: We’ve been retained by more Chinese companies making acquisitions in the states in what they believe to be a depressed market, and I think we’ll see more of that.
It’s hard to pick up any periodical without reading about the acquisition by a Chinese company of a domestic company that can provide commodities to the growing Chinese market.
HAFEN: We are very fortunate in Utah to have a lot of support, governmental and otherwise, looking toward international work. We have a lot going for us. In addition to the languages that people have mentioned and the governor’s initiative, we also have the World Trade Center. Lew Cramer [CEO of WTC Utah] has been pushing very hard to increase our opportunities for all kinds of businesses as well as lawyers in the international arena. I think Lane Beattie and the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce has also been working very hard with China to develop relationships to give all of us companies and law firms opportunities internationally.
What are some of the cost cutting measures you are taking for your clients?
ADAMS: One of the things I’m seeing more and more is that not only in house counsel but a number of other clients are looking more discriminatingly toward the attorneys who they are hiring. They are not just hiring firms, but they are looking for expertise and experience in the given area in which they have their problem or their matter. I think billing rates are still an important question, but probably not as important because they are comfortable that they have a problem solver who understands the dimensions of what they are facing and will be able to guide them through that process to a successful result. At the end of the day, whether clients are satisfied and whether they return depends on the efficiency with which we operate and the value that we deliver to that customer, the client.
ROWE: We have an obligation in these times to be as proactive and as good a business partner as possible and understand that we are part of an expense of running our client’s business. And their expenses are tight just like ours are tight. We’re most successful when we are proactive and help our clients actively protect their costs and to solve their problems economically. And I think that is our advantage in our market right now compared to some of the other firms across the country. We are seeing the benefits of that. I know a lot of firms locally have talked about the additional work that they have received. I think that is because we are perceived to be a good value.
PINEGAR: We’ve learned that there is nothing wrong with telling the client how much money you have saved them. You can show them where you are saving them money and what things you are doing in an active way to help keep the costs down but also provide the quality. Some people think cheaper is better and that is often wrong. You’ve got to educate them that a fixed fee doesn’t necessarily get them the quality of work that they want and it can actually hurt the matter. But I think you can do a lot in our favor to educate the client on the things that you are doing to save them money.
What do you think of the proposed professional services tax? What are the pros and cons?
BATEMAN: I really think that Utah’s legal community is one of its undiscovered gems. We’ve picked up a lot of clients over the years by historical accident. They used us for co-counsel on a case and after the case was over said, “You know what? You were doing a better job than our lead counsel was.” And they come here. When you add that tax, it just de-incentivizes people from coming here because suddenly you have added 5 or 7 percent to the cost. One of the things I think is going to help a lot of the firms in Utah survive this economic downtown is as people get the pinch, they are going to look for other good work. They are going to say, “Hey, I remember using Par Brown in Utah a couple of years ago. They did a really good job for me, and gee, they were $200 less per attorney than my San Francisco firm.” I think we can draw that work here, but the tax will work against that because it will raise all of our rates, effectively.
SLAUGHTER: I’m not sure that the tax will raise the rates. I think that we’ll end up paying a good portion of it out of our own pockets because clients won’t understand so they won’t pay the extra percentage. They will say, “Well, that is a cost—that is your overhead. That is something that you are going to have to swallow. You account for it however you want.”
I know that the bill is particularly complicated because it’s designed to tax the end product, so legal services to a corporation may not be taxed except as part of the corporation’s end product. So the design is for it to be taxed at the consumer level, but so many of us provide services for the consumers that it’s likely, and I think negatively, going to hit the middle class again—the moms and pops, the individuals for whom we provide services, who are going to have to pay that tax rather to absorb it and collect it downstream with an end product. So I think there is an awful lot to discuss.
HAFEN: My concern is that particularly lower class, middle class individuals simply don’t have access to our judicial system. It’s too expensive. If you have a case that costs $50,000 to litigate and you have $40,000 at stake, you are not going to be able to go to court. If we are talking about now adding a tax onto that process, that is going to be very counterproductive in the efforts of lawyers to try to increase access to our judicial system. And that concerns me a great deal. So I hope we don’t head that direction. I think that would hurt everybody, not just the lawyers in Utah, but also all of those people who are having trouble enough as it is getting access to court.
SHAUGHNESSY: The reality of such a tax is that large, sophisticated consumers of legal services would not pay it. They would insist that the firms bear that cost as part of their overhead, but middle class and lower class individuals would pay it. So I think if the goal is to be somewhat progressive, with an idea like that the reality is maybe the people that you want to be paying the tax are not going to be paying it, and it’s going to be born by the middle and lower classes.
How is Utah doing in regards to recruiting women and minorities to the firms?
BATEMAN: When I graduated from law school, the number of women in the Utah State Bar was 11 percent. In the last 15 or 16 years, that number has doubled and that is pretty significant. The biggest thing that our firm does is we offer a very flexible schedule for our associates. So, women who have kids who don’t want to bill 2,000 hours a year can still come in, be actively involved, but they can set a schedule that meets their family’s needs. We try to provide flexibility for both men and women who just have other priorities. I think that is the best thing you can do, and I think in the long run it will benefit the firm because you will have access to good people who just don’t want to put in that time.
ROWE: The Bar and law firms have been very proactive across the board in encouraging women into the practice. One of the things I think we could do better at is integrating minorities into our firms.
HESS: Our law firm belongs to a national network of firms called U.S. Law, and it gives us the ability to hire quality lawyers throughout the country. And some of our sister firms have chastised us and the state a little bit for the lack of diversity here and have pointed out to us that a very large percentage of members of boards of directors of publicly-owned corporations are women and that is a growing percentage. And a lot of those corporations are requiring certain criteria to be met by their law firms before they will allow you to handle legal work for them. So we have undertaken a more aggressive approach to recruiting law students from out of state in addition to recruiting from the two local universities.
What piece of advice do you have for today’s executives? What can an attorney do for them?
PINEGAR: One thing I’d tell them is that they don’t need to go outside the state to get what they need in terms of legal representation. If they do that, they will get it at a price that is worth every bit of the money they will spend. It will be good value for the money that they spend. That is a big help to them in their current economic climate.
K. SCOTT: I would say, “See me now or pay me more later.” I would also like to tell them that I want to get to know them at their business. I would like to spend some non-billable time and get acquainted with them. That would help me to make better judgments and better decisions when the clouds of dispute come their way.
CARLTON: I think it’s just wrong to think that now is not the time not to have legal advice. It seems to me the more complex the society the more our legal skills are needed. It also seems that what oftentimes happens is people probably should be using legal skills more rather than less, and they will probably be more successful in what they do.
OWENS: Ultimately, lawyers are problem solvers. They are sitting across the table from someone with some paperwork before them and a problem.
SLAUGHTER: I think we can also be problem preventers. I can’t tell you the number of instances over the years that clients have come to me saying, “You know what? We’ve pretty much got this deal. We just want you to take one final look at it.” And after looking at it, I’ll say, “Do not, under any circumstances, sign this document.” So, an hour now or100,000 hours later, the same problem can be avoided.
HAFEN: One of the things that I would say is look at your lawyer as your ally and not your adversary. In these economic times, you need protection in the transactions you are doing, and we have the skills and the training to help protect you as you go into deals. Let us do that. You will be grateful that we helped you, in particular if a deal goes bad. And these days, many deals are going bad.
LORIMER: I think that for tech industries and tech businesses in this state, now is the time to build your infrastructure. This recession is not going to last forever. And when we come out of this recession, you are going to want those protections and that infrastructure in place. So, while you have to watch your budget now, the protection of your intellectual property, the lifeblood of your company, is not the place to scrimp. You want to protect that so that when you come out of this recession you are going to be in a position to leverage and be a success.
ADAMS: There are many qualified attorneys in this state. To clients, you need to do a little bit of background checking, and when you think you have identified one or more attorneys who may be able to help you address your problems, ask enough questions to make sure that you are comfortable that the attorney has the experience in that particular area, that you have a comfortable relationship.