Special Tuesday law blog round-up

Welcome back from the long weekend. Since we didn’t have a Monday workday this week, here’s your special Tuesday edition of the law blog round-up:

  • On his Art of Advocacy blog, Paul Mark Sandler reprints an article he and Judge Lynne Battaglia wrote about why Maryland needs mandatory continuing legal education. The state is totally out of step in its lack of a CLE requirement, the authors write.
  • Gross revenue takes a dive at Ballard Spahr, Saul Ewing and most of the other firms in AmLaw’s Second Hundred.
  • Lois FInkelstein at the Maryland Divorce Legal Crier continues her saga about hiring a lawyer, and I really want to believe that this is a work of fiction: “As I looked at the detail of this bill more carefully, I saw something that left me flabbergasted. Alan had billed me a tenth of an hour for e-mailing me birthday wishes!”
  • Why your law firm’s website isn’t very good.
  • Use pink ink, bind your pages with a rubber band, use lots of foreign words, employ the phrase “in cahoots,” and other tips on writing a terrible brief. HT: Above the Law.

Saul Ewing sees profits rise, but at what cost?

I bet a lot of firms would love to have the kind of growth in profits per equity partner that Saul Ewing had last year. According to the Legal Intelligencer, the firm saw a jump of 14.5 percent in this key indicator of law firm financial health even as the economy tanked.

This seems in sync with what the firm itself and others in the legal community were saying about its prospects in the down economy: because of its lean size and comparatively low rates, it would continue to pull in business as larger, more bloated firms suffered.

But Saul’s growth in PPP came at a price. The firm cut a few associates and lateral hires and more than a few staffers, although its lawyer headcount remained stable because of new laterals. Retreats and sponsorships were culled. The firm deferred first-year associates who were supposed to start in fall 2009 indefinitely; so far, only three of the nine have been brought on. Saul also canceled its 2010 program entirely and instituted merit-based salaries for associates past their second year.

Is such an impressive gain in PPP worth these deep cuts?

HT: The AmLaw Daily.

One costly expense report

My expense report consists primarily of parking receipts and courthouse document copies. So I was impressed when I read a former legal secretary charged more than $46,000 on a company credit card to finance her side business – male exotic dancers.

Jarriette Richie, 41, was charged in Washington, D.C. federal court with fraud last week, according to The Washington Post. Richie worked at Saul Ewing LLP’s Washington office for three months in 2007, according to court filings. The credit card belonged to a lawyer whose firm merged with Saul Ewing, and all information related to the card was kept “in a locked room near Richie’s desk at Saul Ewing,” according to court filings.

Richie’s side businesses was Show N Tell Entertainment, which catered to female audiences and was based out of Richie’s Clinton home. The fraud charges stem from her planning an August 2007 trip to a Puerto Rican resort featuring the male performers. She used a personal credit cart to cover a $5,000 deposit, but then charged more than $21,000 on the company credit card for airline tickets and more than $25,000 for expenses at the resort, according to court filings.

Richie was released on her own recognizance following her initial court appearance Sept. 4, and her next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 18.

7 lawyers out at Saul, but not in Baltimore

Saul Ewing is cutting employees again, but the firm’s Baltimore lawyers seem to have dodged a bullet for the second time.

The Legal Intelligencer in Philadelphia is reporting that the Philly-based firm is cutting seven associates and seven staffers. Six of the lawyers are in Philly and one is in Washington. One of the staffers is in Baltimore.

As we posted back in January, Saul laid off 12 staffers at the beginning of the year. There were some Baltimore staffers in that group, but no lawyers.

As the AmLaw Daily points out, Saul was one of a group of regional firms the AmLaw folks pointed to in February as likely to benefit from bad economic times. The idea was that clients, sick of high rates at national firms, would move to less expensive, well-respected regional firms.