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Despite huge potential profits, many if not most Connecticut law firms continue to have a deep-seated aversion to using temporary lawyers. And if they do use them, they’re usually even more reticent to admit it. Donald J. Kaiser, president of Kaiser Whitney Staffing in New Haven, said most law firms and their corporate clients are still just coming around to the idea of hiring temporary attorneys. Previously it was thought to be only a market for paralegals and legal secretaries. “We’re getting much more into attorney placement,” said Kaiser. He said Kaiser Whitney has experienced 10 to 15 percent growth in that area of its business in each of the last four years. Though the use of temporary attorneys hasn’t caught on in Connecticut like it has in other legal markets, “it is a growing trend,” agreed Mark Davies, managing director of Kelly Law Registry’s Hartford office, “particularly as firms get into alternative fee structures.” One such firm is Hartford-based Murtha Cullina, a local pioneer in alternative billing arrangements as one of international conglomerate DuPont’s 43 “primary law firms.” According to Davies, Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont saved more than $10 million in 2003 by requiring outside counsel to use temporary attorneys for document review. Veteran Murtha litigator John C. Wyman oversees the firm’s work for DuPont. He said the company may be onto something besides cost savings. Law firms like Murtha used to do document review internally, but have discovered it’s not an effective process, he said. “It’s not a core competency of most law firms.” MAJOR MARK-UPS Wyman can’t put a finger on how many temporary attorneys are used by Murtha’s litigation department. But he acknowledged that other companies, such as Tyco International, also require it. “It’s an interesting environment,” Wyman said. “The clients and law firms are being challenged to look at how they work and [how] services are delivered to make the process more efficient.” And profitable. Kaiser said law firms often bill clients much more for temporary lawyers than they pay for them. Kaiser said his agency pays temporary lawyers $50 to $75 an hour. To that it adds its fee, which Kaiser would not disclose. Law firms may then turn around and bill clients $175 an hour for the temporary lawyers’ services and pocket the difference, he said. At Kelly Law Registry, compensation for temporary lawyers ranges from $18 to $20 per hour for document review up to $200 for more specialized work, according to Davies. The temp agencies make out good, too. A temporary lawyer who recently completed a stint at Bingham McCutchen’s Boston office said he was contracted through Kelly Law Registry, which was paid a $5-an-hour bonus for every hour the temp lawyer worked past 100 hours during a four-week period. The contract lawyer, however, said he had to work a minimum of 180 hours in the same four weeks before qualifying for the bonus from Kelly. His standard pay, he said, was $28.50 an hour. He said he later learned the firm was billing his work out at $150 an hour. Despite such financial incentives, concerns linger over the quality of work that temporary attorneys produce. At Hartford’s Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, temporary attorneys just aren’t used, David Sturgess, the firm’s managing partner, insisted. “To the extent that we’ve given it some thought, the financial incentives are outweighed by our comfort with the attorneys’ ability, client confidence and malpractice concerns,” Sturgess said. “My gut reaction is the control over the work product isn’t the same. A firm needs to implement a strong system of oversight.” “We like training our full-time attorneys,” Sturgess added. “We would not like to take away good work from them.” Jeffrey R. Babbin, a partner in New Haven-based Wiggin & Dana’s appellate practice, said temporary attorneys are of little use in his area because attorneys in the appellate field need to be familiar with particular courts and judges. An attorney familiar with Wiggin & Dana, who didn’t want to be named, said the firm used temporary attorneys when representing Arthur Andersen in the Colonial Realty litigation that lasted from 1990 to 1999. “The temporary attorneys were used to get a handle on the real estate documents,” he said. The attorney didn’t know if temporary attorneys had been used by the firm since then. Firm management didn’t return telephone calls. Kaiser said there is a trend of firms hiring temporary attorneys as an extended tryout to determine their skills before offering them permanent positions. Firms can easily replace temporary attorneys who don’t work out. “It’s our dilemma rather than theirs,” he said. Temporary attorneys run the gamut from freshly minted law school graduates to veteran attorneys with specific skills looking to make an extra buck in between trips to Florida. But no matter their level of experience, there’s still a perception that temporary attorneys aren’t “real” attorneys, and that perception could play a factor when they apply for full-time jobs. Sturgess said, “If we’re looking to hire somebody, it could be a factor, but not a predominant one if you could show quality work.” The Bingham McCutchen contract lawyer said his interactions with the firm’s full-time lawyers were polite but also illustrative of the hierarchy. “There is no give and take in terms of being colleagues,” he said. “There is a perception that you are a second-tier lawyer.” But Wyman said temporary lawyers shouldn’t lament their lot in life. Not everybody is going to be hired as an associate and then not every associate is going to make partner. “The nature of what lawyers do was revolutionized first by copiers and then by computers,” he said. “Either move into the next environment and function or somebody else will. The world is a very opportunistic place. I think there will continue to be change and people will have to respond,” Wyman said. “It’s all healthy.”

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