In this Roundup: the decline of law as a profession, small firm tries a new approach to legal secretaries, glimmers of hope for alternative fees, and Microsoft Vista woes. 

The Demise of Lawyers?
The Falling-Down Professions (New York Times, 6 Jan 08) reports on the declining prestige – and satisfaction – of lawyers and doctors. Must reading for anyone working in the legal market.

New Secretarial Model?
Law firms reorganize workflow with new models (Business First of Buffalo, 4 Jan 08) describes how a Buffalo (NY) law firm “recently revolutionized its firm structure by assigning to each secretary a specialty for which that secretary is chiefly responsible, and from which she or he is rarely distracted, rather than assigning each secretary to a specific attorney or two.” I’ve long suggested that law firms need to re-think the role of secretaries; this sounds like one good approach.

Glimmers of Alternative Fees
When it comes to alternative billing, there’s been more smoke than fire for 20 years. Two new small firms have been founded, in part, on the premise of new billing approaches: Valorem is described in Chicago Startup Touts Alternative Billing Structure, Lower Fees (National Law Journal 14 Jan 2008); Optim Legal in Australia offers “Premier lawyers for around 40% less”. If this trend continues (and that’s a big if), it can only help advance legal technology. Fixed fees and other structures would help provide incentives for lawyers to use technology to practice law more effectively and productively.

Microsoft Vista – Should You Upgrade?
Not from what I read. The reviews I’ve seen are generally negative or, at best, neutral. Ross Kodner is one of the leading legal technology consultants and experts. In his blog post Vista – a/k/a MOPH (My Own Personal Hell), well, I think the title says it all. After reading the litany of issues, I’m not sure what would persuade me personally to take a chance on Vista.