An Ominous Development

No, I'm not talking about anything terrorism-related, but the news that the law firm of Ford & Harrison (not to be confused with actor who portrayed Han Solo and Indiana Jones) will no longer bill clients for most of the time spent by first-year associates.

According to this National Law Journal story, the F&H decision was driven by the firm's recognition that focusing on billables for first-year associates meant skimping on training. Instead of doing document review of the sort that could be done as well or better by paralegals (for a fraction of the cost to the client), new associates will spend the bulk of their time observing depositions, witness interviews, strategy sessions, etc. That sounds like good for new associates, so why do I say this is an ominous development?

Because it underscores the fact that young lawyers leave law school unprepared for much of the practical work that firm lawyers do. If the F&H model catches on, terrific, but if it doesn't, it may only lead to calls from other firms for us law profs to pay more attention to skills training---important work to be sure, but a task which we pointy-heads (clinical profs excepted) have neither aptitude nor interest.

And yes, I'm still on vacation. I had a few minutes of downtime.