ALARMING RATES? - Large law firms were broadly able to boost billing rates by an average of nearly 4% last year while also posting their highest realization rates since the Great Recession, according to the most recent State of the Legal Market Report. And, as Law.com’s Andrew Maloney reports, it wouldn’t be surprising if law firms try to raise billing rates just as much or more in 2022, especially as inflation surges, the annual tradition of associate salary bumps continues and the overall cost for top talent increases. But surely, clients will draw the line at some point soon, right? …Hello? “I keep thinking we’re going to hit a limit, but we never seem to hit it,” said Jim Jones, director of the Georgetown University Law Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession and author of the State of the Legal Market Report. Jim Cotterman, a consultant with Altman Weil, told Maloney he sees no signs of a pullback on rate hikes this year either. “I have not seen much resistance to higher rates and law firms are keen to cover the cost of rising compensation costs from all of the activity last year,” Cotterman said in an email. “I expect the rate increases are going to center around that more than inflation.”
NOT IN MY HOUSE - Clients may not be bothering to object to annual law firm rate increases, but there is one way to tick (at least some of) them off: refer to them as “in-house counsel.” As Law.com’s Phillip Bantz reports, Coinbase legal chief Paul Grewal sparked an interesting conversation with a recent LinkedIn post in which he asked, “Why does the phrase ‘in-house counsel’ rankle me so much? I can’t say exactly the reason but the feeling is real.” While it may seem like a minor pet peeve, the reasons some attorneys gave for balking at the label highlight the disconnect many corporate legal departments feel from both the firms they work with and the companies they work for. “It emphasizes a distance between the attorney and the company (i.e., you are still an outsider but you are ‘in-house’ now). Also think describing business units as ‘clients’ can create a similar issue,” said Adam Sterling, executive director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Business at the University of California, Berkeley. Joshua Walker, chief product officer at Aon Intellectual Property Solutions, added that the “connotation alienates us in two directions: (1) we are not really part of the company; and (2) we are not really part of the Bar. … What’s the term that implies THE INVERSE?”
SQUAD GOALS - Two Elf Squads are squaring off. Greenspoon Marder filed a trademark infringement lawsuit on behalf of Rent-A-Christmas Monday in Florida Middle District Court arising from a dispute over the use of the name “Elf Squad.” The complaint accuses Giella Designs of offering similar holiday decoration services under the Elf Squad name despite a December 2021 judgment in favor of the plaintiff by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial & Appeal Board. Counsel have not yet appeared for the defendant. The case is 8:22-cv-00190, Rent A Christmas LLC d/b/a Rent-A-Christmas v. Giella Designs, LLC. Stay up on the latest deals and litigation with the new Law.com Radar.