The “Fixed Fee” Future of Law
From 1987-2003, Mr. Heineman was the Senior Vice President-General Counsel for General Electric. He then served as Senior Vice President for Law and Public Affairs until his retirement at the end of 2005. Mr. Heineman was responsible for managing a team of 1,100 in-house lawyers in over 100 countries around the world. Under his guidance, GE's legal department became world-renowned for its excellence, not only in legal service, but also for the major role that its attorneys play in business and management.
Prior to joining General Electric, Mr. Heineman was a managing partner at Sidley & Austin, focusing on Supreme Court and test case litigation. Previously, he served as Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation with the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Carter. Mr. Heineman began his career as a staff attorney for the Center for Law & Social Policy in Washington, D.C., and moved on to become a litigator at Williams & Connolly.
Question: What’s the future of the legal profession?
Ben Heineman: I am a Senior Fellow at Harvard in the Program on the Legal Profession. I write about this a lot. I was very involved in changing the way inside lawyers do their job. I believe that there is a major change because of the economic conditions where corporations are putting tighter budgets on law firms, which is why law firms are being forced to either lay off partners, senior associates, and they are not hiring as many young people.
I think for people who are going to law school, I think this is a good thing to be perfectly honest. They need to think of other kinds of careers and there are many opportunities in the public sector and the non-profit sector that they can take advantage of. I do think we are going to see a decline in the legal business because corporations are just going to be tighter on their budgets and that's going to last for a long time and that will mean less business for law firms.
I also think, and I've written about this, that we are going to move away from the hourly billing rate toward something called the "fixed fee" where basically you pay a price for a legal service, even if it's a complex one. We don't bill fee for service on an hourly basis. It's a problem in the medical profession; it's why healthcare costs are running away. It's a problem in the legal profession; that's why legal costs are running way, so we've got to solve the problem in both law and medicine.
Question: Is this something that’s soon to come?
Ben Heineman: I think it's happening. The fixed fee arrangements, what are called alternative fee arrangements are definitely happening in a number of firms and in a number of major corporations are pushing very hard to change the economic relationship.
When I came to GE, we changed the paradigm for inside lawyers. We got great lawyers to come inside and that meant that there could be more cooperation between the inside lawyers who are the equal of the outside lawyers on matters, but there was always a dispute about money. What the fixed fee will do, hopefully, will create a partnership on the money as well as on the matters and that will be beneficial both for the companies, for the law firms, and I think, for the public interests.
Recorded on November 3, 2009
As costs run away in the legal and medical industries, pay practices are going to change, explains Ben Heineman, a senior fellow at Harvard Law School.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
Great again? Why America stopped looking forward to the future
- Income inequality is dividing Americans.
- Wages haven't risen in 30 years, while prices for housing, schools, and basic goods has.
- Canny (and uncanny) politicians have learned how to milk the politics of fear by comparing the present to the past.
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