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经济学人:可选择的律所

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Business

商业报道
Alternative law firms
可选择的律所
Bargain briefs
讨价还价
Technology offers 50 ways to leave your lawyer
再也不用依赖您的律师了,技术提供了更多方案
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.
通常律师事务所会按小时收取高额费用,而后将工作扔给下属,而合伙人得以出入一些客户都支付不起的高尔夫俱乐部。
At least, that is how it seems to many clients, whose irritation at being overcharged turned to fury during the recession.
至少,很多客户看起来是这样,为此他们很恼怒。在经济低迷期,这种做法更是让他们暴跳如雷。
Some clients are switching to unconventional law firms, which claim to offer equally good lawyering for much less money.
一些客户于是转向一些非传统律师事务所,这些律所宣称提供同样优质的律师服务,但价格更低廉。

Take Clearspire.

就拿Clearspire来说吧,
The firm's 20 or so lawyers work mostly from home, collaborating on a multi-million-dollar technology platform that mimics a virtual office.
该公司近20名律师大多数在家办公,通过一个虚拟办公室—由一个造价达几百万美元的技术平台所模仿而成—合作。
A lawyer checking in on a colleague automatically sees a picture of her on the phone when she is, in fact, on the phone.
只要律师打电话给同事就会自动在电话上看到她的图片,而事实上她只是在通话。
Clients use the platform too, commenting on and even changing their own documents as they are being drawn up.
客户也使用这个平台,提供意见和建议甚至修改他们已经制定好的文件。
Conventional lawyers are far less open.
传统的律所则没这么开放。
From the start, Clearspire offers cost estimates for each phase of a legal job.
一开始,Clearspire为法律业务的每个阶段给出一个估价。
Employees who underestimate how long it will take cannot simply jack up the bill—they must take the hit themselves.
即使律师低估了完成业务所需时间,也不能随意抬高价格—律所必须承担这个风险。
But if a lawyer finishes his work faster than promised, he gets a third of the savings.
但如果某律师比预期提前完成了工作,他就能拿到三分之一的存款,
The client also gets a third, as does Clearspire.
客户和Clearspire也各拿到三分之一。
This gives everyone a stake in making the process more efficient and predictable.
这样一来,更有效更有预见性地完成任务就与每一方都利益攸关。
Bryce Arrowood, the founder, notes that law firms reward partners who bring in business, and not necessarily the most brilliant lawyers.
创始人Bryce Arrowood注意到律所会奖励带来业务的合伙人,而不一定会奖励最出色的律师。
Yet clients' priorities are exactly the reverse.
但客户的想法却刚好相反。
So Clearspire has an unusual dual structure.
于是Clearspire想到一个独特的二元结构方案。
American law firms cannot have non-lawyers sharing fees with lawyers.
美国律所不允许非律师及律师享有同样的叫价。
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.
因此Clearspire必须开两家实体公司:一家是聘请律师而非合伙人的律所;一家是专门物色业务并协助律师完成业务的公司。
The discount for clients is sweet.
该律所给出的折扣很诱人。
George Kappaz is a private-equity boss who recently gave a complex job to Clearspire.
某私企老板George Kappaz最近委托Clearspire做一项复杂的业务。
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.
他所需支付的费用是他曾经支付给大公司的费用的四分之一,并且Clearspire完成得很出色。
Mr Kappaz predicts that the Clearspire model, or something like it, will revolutionise the legal business.
Kappaz认为Clearspire这种模式,或者类似这种模式,将给律师业带来一场大变革。
Perhaps so, but for Clearspire it is early days.
也许是吧,但对于Clearspire来说还为时太早。
Can it make money?
这种模式有利可寻吗?
A company like 11-year-old Axiom proves that clients have an appetite for alternative models.
已有11年历史的Axiom公司证实了客户钟情于多选模式。
Axiom either seconds some of its hundreds of lawyers to a company, takes on a whole chunk of a client firm's legal work, or performs discovery.
Axiom会派出它所雇佣的几百名律师中的一部分,或者是去客户公司处理客户所提交的一大卡车的法律文件,或者是去做调查。
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.
Clearspire不会按小时支付律师,而是给出一个统一费率,或者按一周或一个月来支付一个团队。
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.
由于总部设在SoHo,此外,很多律师还在一些类似Houston和Hyderabad等价格低廉的地方办公,因此Clearspire得以给出比较低廉的价格。
The recession was good to Axiom.
经济衰退对Axiom来说是件好事。
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.
它派出顾问—从McKinsey以及Accenture等地方挖过来的—去帮助客户降低法律业务价格之后,客户就委托Axiom做更多项目。
Revenue grew from $55m in 2008 to $80m in 2010.
公司收入从2008年得5500万美元上升到2010年得8000万美元。
This year the firm expects to rake in $120m.
今年该公司计划大揽1亿2千万美元。
Companies were always under pressure to cut their legal bills, says Mark Harris, Axiom's boss.
公司总是想方设法减少法律业务开支,对此也有压力。
But fake pressure before became real pressure during the downturn.
Axiom 的老总Mark Harris说道。但在经济低迷期,压力还没真正到来之前,先装一装。
Axiom and Clearspire serve some of America's biggest companies.
Axiom以及Clearspire服务于美国一部分大型企业。
Other entrepreneurs are aiming at small-business clients.
其它企业家正准备找一些小公司下手。
These would normally take a chance on finding the right sole practitioneror small firm.
通常,找新开的小公司都有风险。
But on LawPivot, a year-old social-networking website for lawyers and those who need them, potential clients post questions, and lawyers provide free, brief answers.
但在LawPivot——某专为律师以及需要律师的人服务的网站,已运营一年——上,潜在客户可以在上面提出问题,律师就会免费提供简短的回答。
The lawyers make nothing, but use the service to drum up custom. Clients can test a lawyer's skill before opening their wallets.
律师什么都得不到,无非是利用这个服务去吸引客户前往;而客户也得以在掏钱之前测测律师的能力。
LawPivot is a social-networking site, not a law firm—it will make its money initially by charging lawyers to upgrade their profiles.
LawPivot是一个社交网站,而非律所—它最初会向更新个人资料的律师收取费用。
Google Ventures is a backer, and Apple's former top lawyer for mergers and acquisitions is a co-founder.
谷歌风险投资公司对此表示支持,而苹果的前任从事并购业务的高级律师是创始人之一。
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.
这些重量级的投入将是它成为LegalZoom—为小公司或者个人提供在线表格以及简易法律服务的最大销售商—的对手。
LegalZoom now wants to put more of its contract lawyers to work directly for clients at a flat rate.
如今LegalZoom想按照统一费率派更多的律师直接为客户服务。
It is more than a decade since the internet made book-buying cheaper and more convenient.
网民通过互联网以更方便更低廉的价格购买图书已有十年历史。
If technology now helps cut gargantuan legal bills in America and elsewhere, it will be better late than never.
如果技术的进步能够在美国以及其它地区削减高昂的法律价格,那还为时未晚。

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