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    September 17, 2008  
No Pay for
1st-Year Billables?

Don’t miss BNA’s upcoming workshops on Navigating the Political and Lobbying Sea Changes.  October 3 and 17 in DC!  More info and online registration here.


Yesterday, we brought four of DC’s top in-house practitioners to the unruly masses (i.e., 120 Bisnow Legal readers) at Il Mulino for some creamy ravioli and, of course, good old fashion schmooze. Over lunch, Corporate Executive Board GC Pamela Auerbach, Sun Edison GC Kevin Lapidus, Blackboard Deputy GC Justin Tan, and freshly departed XM Radio GC Joe Titlebaum served up delectable morsels of wisdom.


Justin, Pamela, Kevin, and Joe exhibited fine table manners; we are not very good hosts and make our panelists eat while they talk. One amazing topic: Law firm bills are big on the minds of all GCs, and Pam wowed us with her secret weapon; she won’t pay for work by summers, first years, or even second-year associates. The newbies “can’t bring enough to the table” to justify their billing rates, she says. Those rates, of course, are a consequence of salaries—hmmm, wonder how long quickly the salary wars would end if all clients took Pam’s approach .


Justin (right) declared himself another subscriber to the “no first-year” policy. We found him schmoozing pre-lunch with Steve London from Studley, the national real estate giant that represents tenants like law firms. We’re not just saying that because Studley was our co-sponsor yesterday; Steve just brokered a deal for Blackboard on a 112,000 SF space at 650 Mass. A nice move up for the e-learning company, which was founded in the basement of a brownstone on 19th St. 


Post-script on Pamela’s comments:  She says she’s happy to have first and second attorneys train on her matters as long as she doesn’t have to pay; and she notes she doesn’t have much document-intensive litigation, where perhaps a better case could be made that junior associates are useful.  She told the audience that to make her position clear, she always rewrites the standard engagement terms to counter firms’ usual request to staff cases as they please. Here we snapped her with Chidi Ogene and Rachel Kronowitz of event sponsor Gilbert Randolph. The firm made its name in insurance recovery, so Rachel has been busy fielding queries about AIG. And speaking of youngsters, Rachel and Pamela have both found themselves explaining what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are to their pre-teens recently. When it’s this bad, kiddos, we suggest picking up a Harry Potter instead. That’s what we do.


Now that Joe Titlebaum’s left XM, he can pour his energies into becoming the next Lance Armstrong, or maybe Usain Bolt. He races in a few triathlons each year, and just did the “Nation’s Triathlon” in DC last weekend. With him is May Legg, doing in-house placement at Firm Advice. Membership director of WMACCA (local chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel) from ‘97 to ‘05, May got the Board behind her vision of surpassing New York’s membership numbers—and lo, it worked. Starting with 300 lawyers 11 years ago, WMACCA is now the world’s largest ACC chapter with over 1,600 members.


In February Kevin became President of WMACCA, so he’s a supporter of the ACC’s attempt to tackle the billing issue with an initiative called the ACC Value Challenge. To be unveiled in DC later this month, the Value Challenge will provide a forum for in-house and law firm attorneys to brainstorm about alternative billing structures.


Weil Gotshal’s Jen Wine (right) has done her best to prove that young associates can be worth the price. Last seen here as one of our 30 Under 30 stars, she caught our eye in part based on her work for Joe’s XM Radio on a licensing hearing at the Copyright Royalty Board. When we caught Jen with Weil Gotshal partner Holly Loiseau, center, and Howrey’s Karen Lockwood, she told us she’s busy with her first piece of litigation before the Federal Maritime Commission, and also tipped us off that Weil Gotshal had snagged the debtor’s counsel role in the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. (Okay, so we hadn’t read the paper.)

John Ford work is a second-year journalist, so you need not pay for his services. Compensate him in story ideas at john@bisnow.com.

Brookfield Properties
special Counsel
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