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Occasionally I have been fortunate to engage the services of G. Rowland Zigwhy, law firm consultant, who specializes in solving problems for those engaged in the practice of law. Recently, Professor Zigwhy agreed to answer questions that I solicited from Eastern District practitioners. Q: I am the associate coordinator of a large Philadelphia law firm. We pay our first-year associates $160,000 as a starting salary. Despite the high salary, the associates complain of no quality of life, no feedback, and no professional satisfaction. Can you help? A: Convert one of your conference rooms to a Starbucks Coffee Shop. Provide free lattes, cappuccinos and other exotic coffees during the workday up to 8 p.m. Most of your troubles will go away. Q: We recently hired a lawyer from another firm who had worked on a case in which our firm is now participating. We announced that he could have no contact with that case and we directed a “Chinese wall” be erected around him. A number of our associates protested that this term was offensive. What should the firm do? A: Simply describe the preventative measure as an “iron curtain.” This has a historical connotation and was created by Winston Churchill. Few can argue with that. Q: Some of our partners have struck up social relationships with associates. Our firm once had a strong policy against such relationships, but the young associate lawyers in the firm have protested on the grounds that it invades their right of privacy. What do you advise? A: Romance is OK, as long as it does not stand in the way of 2,300 billable hours per year. Protect yourself. Associates must sign a waiver relinquishing any protests for any subsequent adverse personnel ratings or lack of promotions. The partner must forfeit his or her right to vote on promotions or raises of the associate while the romance is in progress, and for five years after any breakup. This is a reasonable restriction on their right of privacy. Q: With all of the mergers and acquisitions, is there anyone who is able to practice as a solo practitioner? A: The remaining solo practitioner in Pennsylvania is located in West Newton. Upon retirement, his office will be displayed in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Q: I have heard there are persons who give special psychological advice to lawyers. Can you suggest one? A: My firm offers the services of a psychologist for both associates and partners. This person provides counseling similar of those persons who are psychologists to professional golfers. They will advise the associate lawyers how to get ahead of their game, concentrate on the key issues, and handle the partner pressure. We also offer a partner psychologist who advises on peculiar partner pressures. The cost for the partner counseling is billed at a substantially higher partnership rate. Q: There is a move for alternative billing instead of billing by the hour. What is your opinion? A: It will not work. How will you measure the effectiveness of associates or junior partners? How will New York or Washington, D.C., partners demonstrate their superior skills from, let’s say, a partner from Columbus, Ohio? You will also open the door to bargaining with clients as to how much a job is worth. Avoid this at all costs. Q: I have learned that the Denver University Law School has formed a national task force to study and remedy abuse in the discovery process. What is your view on whether there is such abuse? A: There is no abuse and no need for such a task force. Discovery is the key to putting an end to trials (and it produces good billing). One local law school will soon offer an LL.M in discovery, and there is a movement to form the American College of Discovery Specialists. Q: In this era of law firm mergers and law firm offices in different parts of the country, conflicts of interest may not be discovered until substantial fees are expended. Is there a safety valve? A: I have always suggested creating an iron curtain (once referred to as a Chinese wall) around the lawyers in both matters but you must be careful, as I will illustrate. We used the technique in two matters involving the same corporate client, in which the law firm sued and defended the client in two separate cases. Things went well until the CFO was called as a witness in both matters. Because of a careless breach of security in the iron curtain, the CFO was impeached in the defense case with his testimony in the plaintiff case. Needless to say, this forced a quick settlement of both cases. The security is paramount in these situations. Look forward to future interviews with Zigwhy and his innovative tips on law firm practice PETER F. VAIRA is a principal shareholderin the Philadelphia lawfirm of Vaira & Riley. Heis the author of EasternDistrict Federal PracticeRules, Annotated (GannLaw Books). He may becontacted concerning issuesof Eastern District practiceat [email protected].

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