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经济学人:网络给你50种选择来挑律师

2014-03-25    来源:网络    【      美国外教 在线口语培训

Business 商业

Alternative law firms 律师事务所可他选

Bargain briefs 概说律所议价

Technology offers 50 ways to leave your lawyer
网络给你50种选择来挑律师

CONVENTIONAL law firms charge vast hourly fees and then hand the work to underlings while the partners play golf at clubs their clients are too poor to join. At least, that is how it seems to many clients, whose irritation at being overcharged turned to fury during the recession.
传统的律师事务所每小时的收费很多,但之后老板就把工作丢给手下去办,以至于当律所合伙人在俱乐部里打高尔夫的时候,他们的客户却只能望门兴叹。至少,对很多的客户来说就是这么一回事,律所的过度收费使得在经济危机期间这些客户的怨气重重恶化成了恼羞成怒。

Some clients are switching to unconventional law firms, which claim to offer equally good lawyering for much less money. Take Clearspire. The firm's 20 or so lawyers work mostly from home, collaborating on a multi-million-dollar technology platform that mimics a virtual office. A lawyer checking in on a colleague automatically sees a picture of her on the phone when she is, in fact, on the phone. Clients use the platform too, commenting on and even changing their own documents as they are being drawn up. Conventional lawyers are far less open.
因此很多客户转向非传统的律师事务所,这些公司宣称提供同样的律师服务,但收费低廉。拿Clearspire来说。这家律师事务所里的约20名律师中,大部分都在家里工作,他们在一个价值百万美元的技术平台所模拟构建的虚拟办公室中互相合作。一个律师要找另一个同事,而他的同事在打电话,他就会看到自动显示的这位同事在打电话的画面。客户们也使用这个虚拟平台,为自己的文件材料作批注,甚至想起草文件一样修改文件的内容。传统的律师们可就没这么灵活了。

From the start, Clearspire offers cost estimates for each phase of a legal job. Employees who underestimate how long it will take cannot simply jack up the bill—they must take the hit themselves. But if a lawyer finishes his work faster than promised, he gets a third of the savings. The client also gets a third, as does Clearspire. This gives everyone a stake in making the process more efficient and predictable.
从一开始,Clearspire就提供了一项法律服务每个阶段的收费金额。那些低估业务需要时间的律师们可不能随便地加费——他们必须自己承受损失。但如果一个律师在承诺的时间期限之前完成了工作,他还能得到保留金的1/3。客户和Clearspire也都能分别拿到保留金的1/3,这一政策就是给那些做事有效率且有预见性的律师一个奖励。

Bryce Arrowood, the founder, notes that law firms reward partners who bring in business, and not necessarily the most brilliant lawyers. Yet clients' priorities are exactly the reverse. So Clearspire has an unusual dual structure. American law firms cannot have non-lawyers sharing fees with lawyers. (Britain used to be the same, but will ditch this pointless rule this year.) So Clearspire must be two entities: a law firm, with salaried employee-lawyers rather than partners, and a second company that focuses on bringing in business and supporting the lawyers.
布赖斯. 艾尔伍德,这位Clearspire的创建者指出,律师事务所奖励那些招揽生意的合伙人,而这些人不一定就是最出色的律师,但是客户们的首选可不是这些人。所以Clearspire有一个双重的运作结构,因为美国的律所不能分享律师们的非律师业务的收费,(英国从前与美国一样, 不过今年英国要废除这一毫无意义的规定。)因此Clearspire必须为两个公司:一个为律师事务所,与领工资的雇佣律师们而不是合伙人打交道,另一个工资则旨在招揽生意并给律师工资。

The discount for clients is sweet. George Kappaz is a private-equity boss who recently gave a complex job to Clearspire (structuring an equity package for Astrata, one his fund's firms). He estimates that it cost a quarter of what he would have paid the big firms he used before, and Clearspire's work was just as good. (Many of its lawyers come from top-notch law firms.) Mr Kappaz predicts that the Clearspire model, or something like it, will revolutionise the legal business.
非传统的律所给客户带来了甜头。乔治.卡帕兹是一个私有股份公司的老板,它最近委托Clearspire一个复杂的业务。(为他的一个基金公司Astrata建构一个股份组合)他估计这个业务的花费,可能只为以往他用的那个大律所的花费的1/4.并且 Clearspire干的一样的好。(很多Clearspire 的律师来自高级律所。)卡帕兹预测说Clearspire的这种模式,或是类似它的运营模式,会在律师界引起大革命。

Perhaps so, but for Clearspire it is early days. Can it make money? A company like 11-year-old Axiom proves that clients have an appetite for alternative models. Axiom either seconds some of its hundreds of lawyers to a company, takes on a whole chunk of a client firm's legal work (such as commercial contracts), or performs "discovery" (reviewing documents for litigation). Rather than charging by the hour for each lawyer, it asks for a single flat fee, or charges for a team by the week or the month. Expenses are kept low by having headquarters in SoHo, a chic bohemian bit of New York, and by stashing many lawyers in even cheaper places such as Houston and Hyderabad.
也许是这样的,但是对于Clearspire 来说此言尚早。Clearspire会盈利么?Axion这一运营了11年的公司证明了客户喜欢不同的律所模式。Axion要么从几百名律师中调派一些去客户公司,处理大量的客户公司的法律业务,(例如商务合同)要么做"证据开示(程序)"(复审诉讼文件)。 比起按律师按小时收费,公司简单地收取统一价。或者按周/月收取一组律师的费用。通过把总部设在索霍区/休南区——这个雅致又富有波西米亚风格的纽约一角,还有通过把律师们储备在像休斯顿和海德拉巴这样消费更低的地方,律所的开销就能保持低廉了。

The recession was good to Axiom. After it sent its consultants, recruited from the likes of McKinsey and Accenture, to clients to help them trim their legal spending, the clients gave Axiom more work. Revenue grew from $55m in 2008 to $80m in 2010. This year the firm expects to rake in $120m. Companies were always under pressure to cut their legal bills, says Mark Harris, Axiom's boss. But "fake pressure" before became "real pressure" during the downturn.
对于Axiom,经济危机是件好事。Axiom将从Mckinsey和Accenture那里挖来的咨询师派到客户那里之后,他们帮忙客户们削减了法律开支,这些客户则为Axiom带来了更多的客户。公司的利润从08年的5500万美元增长到了10年的8000万美元。今年Axiom预计能将12000万美元敛入囊中。公司总在削减法律账单的压力下,Axiom的老板马克.哈里斯如是说,但以前的"伪压力"在经济危机中变成了"真压力"。

Axiom and Clearspire serve some of America's biggest companies. Other entrepreneurs are aiming at small-business clients. These would normally take a chance on finding the right sole practitioner or small firm. But on LawPivot, a year-old social-networking website for lawyers and those who need them, potential clients post questions (up to three a month), and lawyers provide free, brief answers. The lawyers make nothing, but use the service to drum up custom. Clients can test a lawyer's skill before opening their wallets.
Axiom和Clearspirewei 为美国的一些大公司服务。其他的律所则瞄准了小型企业客户上,他们一般会试着找个体户或是小公司。但是在Lawpivot,这个为律师和需要律师的人运营了一年的社交网站上,潜在客户们提出问题(每月限制3个),之后律师们提供免费的简洁的回答。律师没在做别的,不过是用这一服务去争取顾客。这样客户们在掏腰包之前就可以测试律师的水平了。

LawPivot is a social-networking site, not a law firm—it will make its money initially by charging lawyers to upgrade their profiles (similar to the networking profiles on LinkedIn). Google Ventures is a backer, and Apple's former top lawyer for mergers and acquisitions is a co-founder. This kind of heft will bring it up against LegalZoom, the biggest seller of online forms and easy, repeatable legal services for small businesses and individuals. LegalZoom now wants to put more of its contract lawyers to work directly for clients at a flat rate.
LawPivotshiyige 是一个社交网站,并不是律师事务所——它靠起始阶段向律师们收取信息更新费赚钱。(这与Linkedln的网络信息相似)不过有谷歌风投作为赞助商,还有苹果公司的前任合并收购高级律师做为共同创建人。这种强强组合将会使LawPivot能与LegalZoom一较高下。LegalZoom是最大的以在线形式为小型企业和个人提供简易并可重复的法律服务公司。如今,Legalzoom想要使其更多的签约律师去按统一收费率直接为客户服务。

It is more than a decade since the internet made book-buying cheaper and more convenient. If technology now helps cut gargantuan legal bills in America and elsewhere, it will be better late than never.
互联网使得买书更便宜,方便已经有10多年了。对于法律,互联网如果能在这时候,在美国还有其他地方,帮忙削减大笔的法律开支的话,就会是亡羊补牢了。



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