Archive for November 2007

Bar Committee Creates Blog for Women

November 28, 2007

The Philadelphia Bar Association’s Women in the Profession committee has launched a blog at http://womenintheprofession.wordpress.com/.

Maria Feeley, co-chairwoman of the committee, said that all women attorneys, including attorneys from other local bar associations like the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia and the Asian American Bar Association of the Delaware Valley, are invited to participate in the blog.

The blog will address the main issues and challenges facing women attorneys and keep attorneys abreast with the committee’s activities.

Those activities have included developing a “Call to Action” and “Best Practices for the Retention and Promotion of Women Attorneys,” which were adopted by the bar association earlier this year as a framework for firms to implement ways to retain and promote women attorneys.

Feeley said she hopes that attorneys from the greater Philadelphia area and from beyond participate in the blog.

“Frankly, I think it would be great if the dialogue opened it up even further,” Feeley said.

“That’s one advantage of the Internet, you’re not limited by physical geography.”
The impetus for the blog was a conversation with Brett Schaeffer, the bar’s web editor, who told Feeley that since the WIP committee is so active the blog might be a good way to communicate with members who can’t make meetings.

Schaeffer also developed a blog for the Young Lawyer’s Division, which has an active on-line conversation at http://philawdelphia.wordpress.com/.

The two blogs are the only bar association-related blogs.

–Amaris Elliott-Engel, staff reporter

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High Court Nixes Anti-Casino Group’s Suit

November 27, 2007

The Supreme Court declined to rule unconstitutional part of the Gaming Act that required the state gaming board to take into consideration the “social effects” of gaming.

The decision in Casino-Free Philadelphia v. Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board was a blow to the efforts of anti-casino groups who have tried numerous times to halt gaming in the city through court actions.

The groups argued that Section 1102(10) of the act, which provides that the public interest of the citizens and the social effects of gaming be taken into consideration when making gaming-related decision, violates the anti-delegation clause of the state Constitution. That clause provides that the legislative power of the state should be vested with the two houses of the legislature.

The anti-casino groups argued that Section 1102(10) violates the clause because it does not include any standards for the gaming board to evaluate the social effects of gaming, according to the opinion written by Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy.

The court denied the groups’ petition for injunctive relief as moot because it had already ruled in Pennsylvanians Against Gambling Expansion Fund v. Commonwealth that the board had sufficient guidance under the act in making its licensing decisions.

It then denied the declaratory relief action, ruling that the section was not unconstitutional because the “social effects” clause is only one of several considerations the board must review.

— Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

K&L Gates Does Away With Retirement Policy

November 7, 2007

The partnership of K&L Gates voted to eliminate what it calls an “age-based requirement for maintaining equity partner status.” The firm previously mandated partners withdraw from equity partner status when they turned 70.

The firm said the change was motivated in large part by recent ABA recommendations that law firms do away with such policies in favor of individual evaluations of senior partners.

“Our partners concluded that age-based limitations on partner status are anachronistic and out of step with enlightened views of highly productive older lawyers,” Peter Kalis, K&L Gates’ chairman, said in a statement. “As this firm has supplied two of the last three presidents of the American Bar Association, we are proud to support the ABA’s resolution encouraging the profession to eliminate such restrictions.”

According to a recent survey by Altman Weil, only 38 percent of lawyers agree with mandatory retirement policies, while 50 percent of firms have them.

Aside from the 38 percent who agreed with mandatory retirement provisions, 46 percent disagreed and 16 percent were not sure.

The majority of respondents (61 percent) plan to continue working in some capacity after retirement. Of those who continue to work, 48 percent will continue to practice law and 35 percent will pursue another line of work. Seventy five percent will work part-time, according to the survey.

“The profession’s position on this seems to be moving towards getting rid of those things,” James D. Cotterman, an Altman Weil principal who handled the survey, said of mandatory retirement policies.

~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Wal-Mart Isn’t Gonna Take it Anymore – Rate Increases, That Is

November 2, 2007

In a memo sent to its relationship partners at outside law firms, Wal-Mart’s associate general counsel said the company was concerned about the effects of increasing starting salaries on billing rates. Miguel R. Rivera Sr. said in his Nov. 1 memo – first posted on the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog – that Wal-Mart was putting a halt to across-the-board rate increases.

“In an effort to address some of our concerns about hourly rates for legal services, we are today announcing a moratorium on across-the-board rate increases,” he said. “Until further notice, we will only consider reasonable, individual requests for rate increases for those attorneys in your firm who are performing at an exceptional level and whose experience and knowledge is adding substantial value toward meeting Wal-Mart’s legal objectives.”

Any requests for rate increases have to be submitted to the company by December 15. Wal-Mart did ask for suggestions from its clients on how to control rates for services provided by junior associates. Regardless of whether the firms have ideas, Rivera said the company wants to see data on associate billing rates from its firms beginning with the class of 2004 through the class of 2007. It wants names, locations, work performed, rates charged and hours billed, all by Nov. 30.

If a firm objects to submitting the information, it has to e-mail Wal-Mart by Nov. 12.

“The salaries that law firms choose to pay their junior associates are none of our concern,” Rivera said in the memo. “We have every reason to be concerned, however, about the impact of salary hikes on law firm billing rates.”

Would you submit the information if Wal-Mart was a client? Is its legal work worth it? Or is Wal-Mart just responding to a legitimate problem in the industry when it comes to continually increasing starting salaries?

Could other, smaller corporations yield this power? Let us know what you think by responding to the blog.

~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter