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More horses for courses: clients can choose the best match of personnel within a law firm

McDermott Will & Emery announced it has created a permanent class of staff associates: “lawyers who will be paid less, work less (though still be full-time) and be billed out at a lower rate than the firm’s other associates.” This innovative offering, described in GC Mid-Atlantic, June 2008 at 15, took some criticism in the article, mostly that staff associates will be viewed and treated as second-class, as intellectually damaged goods.

I commend McDermott Will. The more that clients can choose which type of person will do which parts of assignments, the more cost effective the representation. Already law departments can turn to contract or temporary lawyers, offshore resources, non-equity partners, paralegals, secondees and specialists, each of which class of persons travels with assumptions by others about their cost-value ratio as well as their abilities and relative quality. The Rees Morrison blogometer registers many hits on each of these categories of workers:

Contract or temporary lawyers (See my posts of June 14, 2005: retaining former employees as contract lawyers; July 14, 2005: temporary staff; Aug. 5, 2005 and April 9, 2006: differences between contract lawyers and temporary lawyers; Oct. 8, 2005: two contract lawyers at Dial Corporation; Jan. 10, 2006: cost comparisons on temporary staff; Jan. 30, 2006: Purdue Pharma’s use of contract lawyers; Aug. 2, 2006: Sears’ experience; Aug. 2, 2006: 20 contract lawyers with the State of Massachusetts; Nov. 26, 2006: contract lawyers and benchmark metrics; Dec. 17, 2007: temporary and contract lawyers; and Feb. 27, 2008: fees owed placement agencies when temporary lawyers are hired.).

Offshore workers (See my post of June 25, 2008: 27 references to offshoring.)

Non-equity partners (See my post of Sept. 5, 2005: non-equity partners.)

Paralegals (See my post of June 22, 2008: 18 references to paralegals.)

Secondees (See my posts of Sept. 21, 2005: secondments and non-hire agreements; Oct. 26, 2005: reverse secondment of paralegals; June 13, 2006: bilateral secondments; and May 23, 2008 #3: an article on secondments. As noted on this blog, at least six law departments have brought on secondees (See my posts of Sept. 25, 2006: Minerals Technologies; Oct. 30, 2006: Ikon Office Solutions; Feb. 25, 2007: SAB Miller; Feb. 25, 2007: Pfizer; Oct. 21, 2005: South East Water; and Jan. 23, 2008: Starbucks.).

Specialists. Many other roles have evolved to fit specialized needs or cost constraints (See my posts of June 27, 2007: timekeepers other than partners, associates and paralegals; June 24, 2007: project managers in law firms and references cited; Oct. 21, 2005: litigation support consultants in firms; and Jan. 19, 2008: a vast array of other timekeepers.).