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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.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are incredibly rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also very rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
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