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Courts & legal news weekly roundup 

A pen and a calculator sitting on top of paper

This week’s highlights 

  • Female lawyers still unrepresented, especially in senior positions
  • Lawyers often underprice their services, says creator of pioneering pricing app
  • Inflation report shows no change in average price of legal services in August
  • 9th Circuit rejects broad privilege test for legal and business advice
  • California likely to permit remote court hearings through at least mid-2023

Female lawyers still unrepresented, especially in senior positions 

“Law360’s Glass Ceiling Report shows only incremental growth in the number of female lawyers in private practice in the U.S. Women are still underrepresented at U.S. law firms, particularly in the partnership ranks.” (Law360

Less than a quarter of equity partners in U.S. law firms are women, even though women have made close to half of all law graduates in recent decades (and currently make up more than half), according to the latest edition of the Glass Ceiling Report by Law360.

Law360 collected data from more than 270 law firms on the demographics of their workforce. The results included 84 of the AmLaw 100 firms. Law360 reporter Jacqueline Bell notes: “The industry has so far failed to show anything but modest progress, despite years of promises to improve the prospects of women in the profession.” There’s full analysis available on Law360.

Lawyers often underprice their services, says creator of pioneering pricing app 

“Lawyers typically underprice their services by between 5% and 10%, says an adviser to professional services firms who has developed an app to help attorneys more accurately and fairly price different matters.” (Legaltech News

The creator of a pricing app designed to help firms choose flat-rate legal fees has claimed that law firms are underpricing their services, sometimes by as much as 10 percent.

Joel Barolsky, whose consultancy Barolsky Advisors produces the “Price High or Low” app, told Legaltech News: ““Generally speaking, the feedback that I get is that people price 5% to 10% higher than their original estimate when they use the app. And most importantly, they get the client to say yes.”

Inflation report shows no change in average price of legal services in August 

“The Consumer Price Index increased 0.3 percent in August on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.5 percent in July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 5.3 percent before seasonal adjustment.” (Bureau of Labor Statistics

The average prices charged for both consumer and corporate legal services did not change in August when compared to July. According to the government’s Consumer Price Index, the average price charged for common consumer legal services has remained flat for five consecutive months.

The flat-lining of prices in the legal services sector stands in contrast to the broader economy. August’s inflation report showed prices across the entire economy rising 0.3 percent versus July, and 5.3 percent year-on-year driven by big increases in prices for gasoline and food items.

9th Circuit rejects broad privilege test for legal and business advice 

“Monday’s decision aligns the 9th Circuit with the 2nd, 5th, 6th and D.C. Circuits, which have all explicitly adopted the primary-purpose test. No appellate court, by contrast, has directed trial judges to apply the broader test based on whether documents were created because of litigation risk.” (Reuters

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected an effort by an unnamed law firm and its client to broaden the scope of the shield for communications in which lawyers provide both legal and business advice to their clients.

Judges rejected the law firm’s proposal that attorney-client privilege apply to all communications created in anticipation of potential litigation, even where those documents also contain business advice.

The 9th Circuit instead chose the narrower “primary purpose” test, which asks whether the primary purpose of the communication to provide business advice. If so, attorney-client privilege does not apply.

California likely to permit remote court hearings through at least mid-2023 

“State Sen. Tom Umberg, SB 241’s author, says the legislation was necessary to ensure California’s courts will be able to keep utilizing remote hearings in civil cases beyond the pandemic.” (ABA Journal

Under a bill the California legislature approved unanimously last week, courts across the country’s most populous state would be permitted to continue hosting remote hearings in civil proceedings through July 1, 2023.

The ABA Journal reports that California’s courts have embraced remote hearings during the pandemic, and court officials in the state are among most nation’s most enthusiastic supporters of their continued use post-pandemic.

Just last month Chief Justice Tani G Cantil-Sakauye of the California Supreme Court wrote: “Remote technology increases equity and fairness in our court system by allowing court users more ways to access court services and participate in court proceedings.”

Author

  • Richard Heinrich

    Richard is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at InfoTrack. He has worked with law firms for more than a decade to advise on adapting to regulatory and technological change. He writes about the courts, civil procedure, and developing trends that may affect law firm operations.