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New study ranks legal systems state by state

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform's 2006 State Liability Systems Ranking Study found Delaware's legal system to be the fairest, while West Virginia's is the least fair.

The ranking was based on a number of factors, including overall treatment of torts, contract litigation, class action, mass consolidation suits, judges' impartiality and competence and juries' predictability and fairness.

Delaware has been ranked number one by the study for the past five years. Other states scoring high in the study include Nebraska, Virginia, Iowa and Connecticut. Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Hawaii were among the low ranking states.

Another Philadelphia firm increases associate salaries
Philadelphia-based Cozen O'Connor has added $15,000 to its first-year associate salaries, the largest raise offered in the area so far this year.

The salary increase will bring annual pay for first-years to $125,000 effective July 1. The increase is restricted to the firm's Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, West Chester, Newark, Wilmington and New York offices. Senior associates will receive merit-based salaries.

Competitors Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, Drinker Biddle & Reath, Duane Morris and Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen have all made similar moves, increasing entry-level salaries to $125,000. Morgan Lewis & Bockius and Dechert remain the market leaders, offering $135,000 to first-years.

More attorneys moving in-house
Despite the significant salary increases offered by law firms, legal recruiters report an upward trend in the demand for in-house counsel positions.

Companies, especially venture-backed startups, have been bringing in attorneys at a growing rate. The regulatory requirements for going public have led companies to bring in to in-house counsel at early stages to ensure compliance with IPO regulations.

Corporations also look to in-house attorneys to take tighter control of the cost and quality of their legal work. An in-house legal perspective is often utilized to handle risk management in the routine work sent to outside counsel.

According to recent quality of life studies, attorneys working in corporate settings enjoy a far more manageable lifestyle than their peers at law firms. This may be a contributing factor to the increasing number of attorneys seeking in-house positions.

Birmingham firms to increase first-year salaries
Following the national trend, many Birmingham, AL-based law firms are planning to raise first-year associate salaries.

According to the National Association of Legal Professionals, Birmingham firms have not reported any significant salary increases since 2001, when the median base salary increased by 21% from $66,000 in 2000 to $80,000.

Eyeing competitors in Atlanta, firms like Bradley Arant Rose & White and Maynard Cooper & Gale are considering salary increases. Those firms currently offer $90,000 first-year associate salaries, but experts predict that a $10,000 raise may be in the works.

Lawyer Joke of the day
Today's lawyer joke has a bit of a Zen Buddhist edge to it. Beware, gentle readers. Sometimes the things you own wind up owning you.
A very successful lawyer parks his brand-new Lexus in front of his office, ready to show it off to his colleagues. As he gets out, a truck passes too closely and completely rips off the door on the driver's side.

The lawyer immediately grabs his cell phone, dials 911, and within minutes a policeman pulls up. Before the officer has a chance to ask any questions, the lawyer starts screaming hysterically that his Lexus, which he had just bought the day before, is now completely ruined and would never be the same, no matter what the body shop did to it.

When the lawyer finally calms down a bit, the officer shakes his head in disbelief. "I can't believe how materialistic you are," he says. "You're so focused on your material possessions that you don't notice anything else."

"How can you say such a thing?" asks the lawyer.

The cop replies, "Don't you know that your left arm is missing from the elbow down? It must have been torn off when the truck hit you."

"My God!" screams the lawyer. "Where's my Rolex?!"

Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

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