Legal Research Blog


Law Firm Finances: Better, Worse, the Same?

Answer: All of the Above

The question of law firm finances is much-discussed, especially by those who practice in, work at or sell to lawyers and law firms.  Just as the country as a whole cannot decide in a comprehensive manner if things are getting better or getting worse or staying the same, the legal profession cannot consistently make sense of what can only be called mixed signals.

There are encouraging trends.  Revenue is up (see generally Altman-Weil law firm finance archive). Productivity is up, and in some cases rates have risen, though there is some indication that this development may come from adjusted leverage ratios brought about by the disappearance or scarcity of young associates.

There are neutral signs, including a mixed law firm merger picture, i.e. while activity is up, some of it is because of financial distress, some of it is driven by regional factors and some of it is of the Wilmer Cutler-Hale and Dorr “let’s get together and go kick some butt” merger model (AmLaw Daily blog).

And there are distressing signs as well.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that legal employment in the U.S. continues to stagger along a not-quite-straight line.  Another report in the AmLaw Daily blog on a bad September for legal employment offers a terse and not very encouraging summary: “After a see-saw first half of the year, the legal sector has seen a net loss of 1,500 jobs so far in 2011 and has shed 3,500 jobs since September 2010, according to the BLS report.”

Noted law firm finance expert Dan DiPietro was very optimistic at the beginning of the year about law firm profits, but by the middle of the year he was less cheerful, for a very ominous reason: law firm expenses were now rising faster than revenue, as firms found that cuts made in 2009 and 2010 could not be sustained and in some cases had to be atoned for throughout 2011.

So why does all this show up in a Fastcase blog?  It’s simple.  We can help.  And we can help in an area of the firm to which clients are very, very sensitive: legal research costs and results.  And that will be part two of our discussion.  Stay tuned.

Contributed by Charles Lowry of Fastcase

Fresh Batch of Fastcase Video Tutorials Courtesy of the Jenkins Law Library

Our partners at the Jenkins Law Library have released a well crafted series of video tutorials currently available on YouTube. Remember, if you are a member of the Jenkins Law Library (available to members with less than 50 attorneys) you have free access to smarter legal research from Fastcase. Check out the tutorials below.

Part one provides a general overview of the next generation of legal research offerings within the Fastcase database and where to start based on your search requirements.

In part two learn the basics of a Boolean keyword and natural language search to yield more accurate results.

In part three learn how to get the most of the results page using various sorting tools.

In part four learn about viewing a case in Fastcase and generating an Authority Check report.

Hackers Are Keeping You Safe at Facebook?

A recent article by Roberto Baldwin of Gizmodo explores the privacy and security maintenance strategy of the social network Facebook. At the moment Facebook has managed to avoid a catastrophic security breach that many of their online peers have recently fallen victim to. To keep such breaches at bay the social network uses both in-house and recreational hackers who receive cash prizes when they discover and report security flaws found within the structural code of the expansive social network. The strategy traces back to CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg’s hacking past while an undergrad at Harvard working to develop Facebook. More recently, the in-house security team at Facebook has been working on over drive to secure the successful launch of Facebook’s newest and controversial feature: Timeline. With its request for an increasing array of personal information Facebook’s reputation is on the line more so than at any other time in its brief history. While Facebook has been able to ward off a large scale attack thus far it is the individual account breaches, Baldwin notes that are slowly chipping away at the reputation of Facebook. Let’s just hope that our information stays secure as we continue to place more of it in the hands of Facebook.

The World’s Most Valuable Startups

On Wednesday Business Insider released their annual list of the 100 Most Valuable Startups. Topping the list were a few names that came of no surprise including Facebook, Groupon, Twitter, Wikipedia, and LivingSocial. A bit more surprising, but not insensible by any means, were the likes of Craigslist, Vente-Privee, Palantir Technologies, Airbnb, and Jawbone—names that haven’t been occupying headlines as readily as their more infamous counter parts (Unless of course you’re Airbnb and the publicity is for the wrong reasons) but successful in their own right. Notable changes from last year’s list include a few major drop-offs and those who went on to greener pastures in the form of an IPO. Click to see the full list.

Windows 8 at a Glance

Photo Credit: Gene Hunt

Wait, did you say Tiles? Yep, Microsoft unveiled a working prototype of its next generation Windows 8 operating system that comes complete with—tiles. The new operating system out of Redmond changes what consumers have come to expect in the traditional desktop computing environment. Instead, Microsoft has borrowed heavily from elements found in their mobile applications line, specifically, from their much maligned Zune Mp3 players and freshly minted Windows Phone 7 operating system. The interface breaks up multiple applications into the so-called tiles that are then displayed in a format that is optimized for touch-sensitive displays. All is not forever changed though, there is an option for technophobes to remain with a marginally updated version of the Windows desktop that you may or may not be reading this blog on right now. All in all the initial reaction seems to be a rather intrigued one from members of the tech community, but the ultimate conclusion seems a few months away as a launch date has yet to appear.