Atlanta's March Unemployment Report Offers Hope for the Region

The unemployed in Atlanta may have finally breathed a small sigh of relief upon seeing the city's March unemployment figures this week. With little variation over the last 12 months, the unemployment rate for Atlanta has been hovering between 9.7% and 10.4%. February's rate sat at 10.2% and the March figure posted a marked improvement at 9.8 %. Metro Atlanta, as one of the country's largest metropolitan areas, continues to be hard hit by the recession with more than 260,000 unemployed. In February this year, Atlanta was the only metro area among the nation's top 12 metropolitan regions to show a year over year net loss of jobs.

With a real estate market that continues to decline and an increase in gas and food prices, this week's unemployment report provided a bit of good news that Atlanta really needs. The improvement translates to 8,600 jobs that were added last month, many within the hospitality, leisure and health care fields. While much of this hiring is temporary, as hotels and restaurants start to staff up for the summer season, some permanent tech jobs were added. In fact, the need for computer network designers increased by over 11% over last year and wireless telecom jobs grew by over 7%. While these statistics are encouraging, despite posting improved earnings figures, some of Atlanta's larger corporations like Coca-Cola and UPS have yet to make any hiring announcements. Atlanta's residential and commercial real estate values also lag behind the national average. Home prices in the metro area fell by 5.8% between February 2010 and 2011. Together with Detroit, Las Vegas and Cleveland, Atlanta's home values are still below 2000 levels. Overbuilding in the construction industry at the beginning of the recession hurt Atlanta more than most cities around the country. The glut in commercial real estate was made worse by job losses in the financial and legal sectors.

Workforce reductions at larger institutions in these sectors created less income for property owners and caused many commercial buildings to go into foreclosure. Many institutions closed their doors, but the companies that did survive found ways to augment declining revenue. Atlanta's legal firms that survived the initial economic downturn, for example, found ways to fill vacant office space after headcount reductions.

Newly freed up Atlanta law space provided an opportunity for cash strapped independent law practitioners in need of office space. In 2010, Elaine M. Russell found a way to help law firms with open office space and solo law practitioners by creating www.LawSpaceMatch.com. This free service matches lawyers seeking to sublease law space with unoccupied office space at compatible law firms around the country. Elaine M. Russell is a corporate and business attorney representing clients throughout Georgia. Elaine's office is located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta. Notes: Taken from: Jobless rate slide fuels wary optimism

Mr. Mom & The Future Attorney

Contributed by: Natalie Lynn Fears

What exactly does it mean to be a wife, and eventually a mother, while also trying to finish first in the game of law school? At first, for me, it meant takeout, piles of dirty laundry, and an unmade bed five days a week. As a newlywed, and a second year law student, it is no doubt that balancing the role of a loving wife with being a diligent student is exhausting. Many sleep deprived nights, and five extra pounds later, I began to find a balance.

The thing about being a law student that is so gripping is the sense of purpose received after pushing through intellectual challenges. The only problem with having my head in a book hours on end daily is the nudging feeling that there may be something outside the text books that's missing. One Friday afternoon, and three baby shower invitations later, I found myself wondering if my husband and I would ever have time for children of our own. While the newly married couples around us were settling into new homes and expanding their families, my husband and I found ourselves climbing the professional ladder.

As a recent business graduate from Georgia Southern University, my husband was working two jobs and desperately trying to find a break in this unforgiving economy. Finding a minute to ourselves, without one of us falling asleep before 9 p.m., had become more challenging than the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. When finals and my second appellate brief were completed, I embarked on the coveted Christmas break. This meant four weeks of rest and relaxation. My biggest worry was finding a Christmas gift for my new in-laws. This hiatus gave me time to reflect on things in life outside law school. After being trained for almost two years to think and write in I.R.A.C. formation, this hypothetical consumed my brain: How could an over achieving law student, married to a double major business whiz, find time to start and raise a family. And then, I had the greatest epiphany of all: I. Issue: What if my husband could be a stay at home dad? And for that matter, how many female attorneys had husbands playing the role of Mr. Mom? R. Rule:

a. Traditional, Common Law Rule: Women should be confined to the home.
b. Proposed Rule for Adoption: Men can elect to stay at home with the children while women fulfill themselves professionally.

A. Analysis: I wondered how many career driven females, especially in the legal field, existed. Were there others like me who had a strong desire to fulfill themselves professionally, but still longed for a family of their own? And then it happened. A fellow peer of mine had a cesarean section the day after our fall semester finals were complete. She shared with me that when she returned to school, her husband would take care of the baby, all day, by himself. She expressed her concern over someone other than a biological parent being her baby's caretaker during those crucial first months. That day I realized that I had a committed partner, whom I considered my equal too. And, if after 3 years of intense legal training, I wanted to climb my way to partner of a private firm, there could still be a parent at home to raise our children. I wondered if I would feel selfish for sacrificing that precious time that so many stay at home moms covet. And then I realized this: Being a working mom gives you the ability to provide for your family in invaluable ways. And the best part is, when you tell your child, especially your little girl that she can be whatever she wants to be, you can say it with a vindication. C. Conclusion: The truth is some men are secure in their role as stay at home dads, and some never will be. My fellow law student was fortunate enough to marry a man that would put his career on the back-burner while she pursued hers. Many men still prefer to be the bread winner of the family, but fortunately there is a growing trend of men who will stay home with the kids for us women who want to pursue a fulfilling legal career.

 

What is the "Cloud" and How Can You Use it In Your Law Practice

Lawyers are talking about successful "cloud" case and document management. You may have heard attorneys talk about "the cloud" when discussing IT projects or back up for legal documents. The cloud simply means computer power that is available as a service, accessed securely through the Internet rather than using on-premise servers. After all, servers take up your valuable office space in your law firm. With cloud computing, great scale and best practice benefits are achievable, meaning high availability and productivity for you and your law practice.

Another term you may have heard is "unified communications". For most companies and law firms today, telephone, e-mail, IM, audio conferencing, video conferencing, Web conferencing and voice mail all live in their own disconnected silos. Unified communications reduces technology complexity by putting people at the center of the communications experience by integrating all of the ways we contact each other in a single environment. In order to leverage the cloud and cloud-based unified communication services, you'll need a reliable way to connect your office, satellite offices and remote lawyers to the cloud. There are numerous firms which provide private cloud hosting and part or fully managed outsourcing. Security and management of data are also key issues. Make certain that any vendor or company you may consider has appropriate certifications. With today's expansive choice and availability of services, law firms are now utilizing the cloud and are pleased with the predictable costs and high reliability it provides.

The Ethics of Legal Office Sharing Arrangements or Subleasing

4 Simple Tips to Keeping it Clean:

The benefits of legal office sharing arrangements or subleasing are highly valuable: Money savings, camaraderie, and availability of professional consultation. The legal ethics are highly important, yet simple. Here are four simple tips for keeping your legal office sharing arrangement or subleasing in line with your state's ethics rules.

1. Maintain Appearance of Professional Independence. Make it crystal clear to the public that you are independent lawyers, not a firm. Never imply otherwise on your letterhead, business cards, office signage, and directory listings; when answering the phone; or in fee agreement. (ABA Model Rule 7.5) For example, the receptionist should answer the telephone, "Law Offices," not "Smith and Jones Law Offices." And, your letterhead should read, "Smith Law Office" while your office mate's letterhead should read, "Jones Law Office," not "Smith and Jones Law Offices." (Example of state ethics rule: Georgia Rule 7.5)

2. Maintain Absolute Confidentiality. Keep your client files absolutely confidential. This means separate staff, files, computers, telephones, and fax. Confidences must not be shared. For example, you can share a receptionist if she does not have access to your client information. (Example of state ethics rule: Georgia Rule 1.6)

3. Avoid Even the Appearance of Conflict. Do not contemporaneously represent clients with adverse interests to those of your office mates. (ABA Model Rule 1.10) For example, if your office mate is representing adoptive parents in an adoption, don't represent the birth mother. Just keep it clean. (Example of state ethics rule: Georgia Rule 1.7)

4. You Can Share Fees. Follow normal co-counsel and fee sharing ethics rules (ABA Model Rule 1.5). Either allocate fees based on services provided or one lawyer assumes responsibility for the case and the client consents to fee sharing in writing. For example, Lawyer Smith does 40% of the legal work and receives 40% of the legal fees and Lawyer Jones does 60% of the legal work and receives 60% of the legal fees. (For example of states ethics rule: Georgia Rule 1.5) These 4 tips for keeping it clean in legal office sharing arrangements or subleasing are meant to raise the red flag of awareness. Be sure to consult your state's ethics rules for specific guidance and examples specific to your state for your legal office sharing arrangement or subleasing.

Atlanta Lenders and Developers Ignored Warning Signs of Recession

The amount of available office space in Atlanta over the past five years has increased by nearly 6%. As other cities in the country braced for the recession, Atlanta's lenders and developers ignored the warning signs and remained optimistic about the technology sector. Thinking that technology would continue to grow, many lenders eased up on financing terms, which caused some real estate developers to enter into risky projects. The resulting construction boom added an additional 3.6 million square feet of commercial space to the Atlanta market between 2008 and 2010. Even in the city's most affluent areas, the commercial real estate market historically has only been able to absorb between 200,000 and 300,000 square feet of additional space per year.

Further complicating the commercial real estate market, the unemployment rate in the city had hit 10% by the fourth quarter of 2010. Companies were downsizing the workforce and the space needed to operate. While analysts agree that a dramatic improvement in Atlanta's employment rate could help remedy the situation, forecasts suggest that a return to pre-recession employment may only occur after 2014. But even a return to pre-recession employment may not help much since the city's vacancy rate was already on the rise before the recession hit. As a result, employment figures would have to rebound well beyond pre-recession figures to positively impact the commercial market. As supply outstrips demand, landlords desperate to attract tenants are offering space at a significant discount. Rents are so depressed that it may take until 2016 for revenue to rebound. In the meantime, with less income generated, developers and landlords are hard pressed to meet their financial obligations. The result is an increase in the number of distressed properties, and ultimately, foreclosures. As of mid-2010, Atlanta led the country in seizures of real estate backed by securitized loans.

For a city used to leading the nation in relocations fueled by a growing economy, the cruel reverse of fortune is taking its toll. Between June 2009 and June 2010, Atlanta led the nation with the highest percent of real estate transactions involving distressed properties - 46 percent. In 2010, Elaine M. Russell created www.LawSpaceMatch.com, a service that matches lawyers seeking to sublet space with unoccupied office space at compatible law firms around the country. Elaine is a corporate and business attorney representing clients throughout Georgia. Elaine's office is located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta. Notes: Taken from: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-09-14/atlanta-awash-in-empty-offices-struggles-to-recover-from-building-binge.html

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