February 07, 2005

Law Is A Service Business

Our Service Pledge:  We understand that the legal business is a service business built on meeting customer expectation and solving problems.  To keep cases and legal solutions on track, we document legal goals and strategies from the outset, define phases of representation and set legal budgets which fit within our clients' means and expectations.  We are not afraid to answer the tough questions and welcome client contact and participation as part of a true team effort.  There is a reason why our clients come back. Customer service does make all the difference.

Ask Us About Value-Based Billing

Embracing alternative and value-based business models:  We embrace alternative billing models which support our principle of 'paying value for value provided.'  If our activities are not providing real value to solving your legal problem, we don't bill it.  We never bill for phone calls under 10 minutes (we love to speak with our clients without having to worry about the billing clock).  Basic transactional and administrative activities (like transmittal letters, filing and other paper moving tasks) can add up to 15% or more of your monthly legal bill with many traditional billing models.  We treat these activities as part of the cost of business.  You only pay for activities which solve legal problems or are directed at accomplishing your legal goals.

Technology Advantage

Leveraging leading edge technology:  We are one of the most technologically advanced firms in Michigan.  Our incorporation of technology into our case management process creates efficiencies, promotes collaboration and provides more legal value per client dollar. You get more value at a reduced cost.  We stay focused on delivering results.

Hire The Best

Experience and Expertise:  We offer a breadth of experience in a variety of litigation and niche legal matters.  We encourage you to compare our credentials, experience and proven results with other law firms.  We are confident that you will conclude that this law firm is in the best position to deliver results within budget. If we can't handle your legal problem, we will help you find someone who can.

Our Staff

Attorneys

Paralegals

Global Representation of Business Interests

Founding Attorney Enrico Schaefer

Enrico_schaefer Mr. Schaefer is a seasoned trial attorney practicing internet, domain and trademark, class action and mass tort law on a global basis. Mr. Schaefer has first chair trial experience in a wide variety of litigation matters, including class action litigation, mass accident, internet and domain law, cybersquatting actions, intellectual property, commercial and fiduciary litigation, UDRP and IP licensing. He has represented some of the largest companies in the world in litigation, domain name, trademark and related matters. He has multiple million dollar plus verdicts to his name. He is a frequent author and presenter on issues related to protecting business interests in a global internet economy. Mr. Schaefer represents personal, company and business interests from around the world.

View Enrico Schaefer's profile on LinkedIn

Enrico Schaefer's Professional Resume

EMPLOYMENT

Founder, Traverse Legal, PLC, Traverse City, MI, January 2005 - present. Law firm focused on global protection of business interests, mass tort litigation and class actions. Specializing in internet law, intellectual property issues, domain disputes, complex litigation, technology company representation and general counsel services. using technology to connect to clients located throughout the world.

Partner, Smith & Johnson, PC, Traverse City, MI, January 2000 - December 2004. Business and internet law, first-amendment and defamation, commercial transactions, non-compete contracts, trade secret theft and commercial matters.

Founder, EPLF, PC, Bingham Farms & Leland, MI, May 1995- present. Business, commercial and intellectual property representation and litigation. Firm was founded specifically to pursue the case Overlooked Opinions, Inc. v. TransNational Communications, Inc. in the Federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Case involved breach of contract, unfair trade practices, intellectual property rights violations, FCC regulatory issues, insurance coverage disputes and UCC Article 9 security and collection issues. Also handled a variety of commercial and transactional work for telecommunications clients, including loans, financing and vendor-supplier contracts. The jury returned a $2.4 million dollar verdict in favor of Mr. Schaefer's client.

Of Counsel, Hilborn & Hilborn, PC, Birmingham, MI, January 1999 - 2000. Litigation firm specializing in national product liability and commercial litigation. Handled complex litigation on a project basis in cases pending throughout the United States.

President and General Counsel, All-One Intranet, Inc., Boulder, CO, October 1996 - June 1998. Internet technology company located in Boulder, CO. Provided representation and managed outside counsel in a variety of corporate, finance and commercial contract issues, including: corporate structure; venture capital financing; reseller and strategic partner contracts; merger strategies and vendor relations.

Litigation Attorney, Jaques Admiralty Law Firm, Detroit, MI, September 1993 - January 1995. Admiralty & maritime law firm focusing on complex toxic tort litigation and mass tort class action on behalf of merchant mariners. Toxins included asbestos and benzene. Front-line involvement with mass tort class action proceedings, federal MDL litigation, bankruptcy proceeding against insolvent ship owners and insurance (P & I) coverage disputes.

Litigation Attorney, Bowman and Brooke, Detroit, MI, July 1991- September 1993. Automotive product liability and toxic tort defense litigation. Represented automotive manufacturers and large insurance carriers in complex product liability litigation on a national basis. Handled all aspects of litigation, from case strategy and pre-suit investigation through discovery and trial.

Law Clerk, The Honorable Richard F. Suhrheinrich, July 1990- July 1991. U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Detroit, MI & Cincinnati, OH

EDUCATION

Michigan State University College of Law, January 1990, Summa Cum Laude (Rank 1 / 96). Numerous academic awards and scholarships. Recipient, American Jurisprudence Awards: Contracts, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Corporations, Evidence, Estates and Trusts and Research Writing and Advocacy. Managing Editor, Detroit College of Law Review, 1989. Author: Case Note Publication, "Barring the Tort Claims of Fire Fighters and Police Officers," Detroit College of Law Review, Issue 3, Summer 1988.

Albion College, Albion, MI, January 1986. B.A. Political Science

MEMBERSHIPS AND AFFILIATIONS

Michigan State Bar, admitted January 1990
Detroit Bar Association, since 1991
Defense Research Institute (DRI), 1990-93
American Trial Lawyers Association
Michigan Trial Lawyers Association
Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Antrim Bar Association
Intellectual Property Section,  MSB
ConnecTech GT, President
Linked ICANN
IP Lawyers Group
Domainers Group

PERSONAL

Extensive experience in internet-based technologies, including client / server software, data security and data transmission.  Enrico enjoys backcountry camping, hiking, jogging and reading.

April 26, 2005

Alternative Billing Becomes National Trend

Larry Bodine's Blog reprints an article from the April 18 issue of the Chicago Tribune titled "Hourly legal fees under attack, Traditional billing by time spent is standard at most big law firms, but McGuireWoods is advertising alternatives." 

One of the more interesting things about entering the blogosphere has been the realization that we at Traverse Legal are not the only people who (1) believe hourly billing is bad for clients and bad for the profession of law and (2) are trying to change the way law is practiced.   In the above noted article, there are several references to large law firms which offer innovative and service-oriented billing alternatives to their clients.  Here are some of my favorite quotes:

  • Survey after survey of in-house law departments shows that their top priority is reducing the money they spend on outside law firms.  Some of the growth in legal expenses is out of their control, as companies deal with more lawsuits and regulations and turn to outside lawyers to handle these matters.
  • One Chicago firm has found that alternative arrangements work in handling large, complex lawsuits. Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott, a boutique litigation firm, typically charges a flat fee, payable in monthly installments. The client retains a percentage that it pays only if the firm is successful. Otherwise, the client keeps the money.
  • "We like to get paid for results rather than the hours," said Sidney "Skip" Herman, Bartlit Beck's managing partner.
  • McGuireWoods has been offering alternatives to hourly bills for years. About 35 percent of the firm's annual revenue of about $300 million comes from alternative billing arrangements.

Traverse Legal looks forward to continuing its innovation on billing models which serve client goals and stay within budget. We are part of a national trend to deliver more value to clients by leveraging technology and focusing on focusing on client goals.

Traditional Firms Destined to Perish

Dennis Kennedy reports a great link to a great article which covers a range of topic.  My reading suggests an unspoken premise that most  traditional firms will soon perish.   He  links to an article titled The Tech Evolution: Change or Die, By Laura Owen, Law Technology News [January 4, 2005].  Ms. Owen sets forth a wish list for corporate clients and projects the future of legal practice.  Some of my favorite quotes [and there are many]:

Move your legal work to low cost firms located in the Midwest, South or other regions away from high cost centers. Doesn't sound like technology here, but it is. Extranets provide ways for companies to work with firms across the country (and the world ). Web-based worksites are always open, always on. Work flow tools -- putting the right person in the right order at the right time -- can dramatically improve productivity and reduce costs. ...

Bundle work for leverage. A solid request for proposal (RFP) process can achieve incredible results. If you combine your buying power by bundling all of your legal work into one bid, i.e., all real estate work in the U.S., or all legal work in all practice areas for a particular country, legal departments can improve the quality of work they get from outside counsel, and decrease costs.

Coupled with a consortium of legal departments, a combined legal spend that represents a ready-made set of customers can motivate outside law firms to acquire the right technology to get the work done in a more efficient, price-conscious manner. With a volume of similar transactions over which to spread the work, firms can be more aggressive on pricing than if they bet the ranch on one transaction, while improving their profit margins. ...

Move 80 percent of your fees to a non-billable hour basis. Hourly rates hinder progress -- there's no incentive for firms to improve productivity if they make more money by billing more hours. In-house counsel must demand fixed prices for work; firms must learn that a fixed price is not based solely on time.

Fixed prices encourage firms to use more technology to improve productivity while clients save in legal fees. ...

Both links are a must read for anyone considering the future of legal practice for solos and mega firms alike.

Lawyers: Beware of Technology!

Monica Bay at The Common Scold asked an interesting question the other week which I finally got around to answering.

The Question: "Q: What's the biggest mistake small firms make when using litigation support technology?"

My Response:  Having been the point person at several law firms implementing various levels of technology, I think there are a few things that regularly get lost in translation:

1.  Technology is not a one time spend.  It is an annual budget which requires a big down strokes of capital, and then monthly expenses for maintenance, upgrades and add-ons.  I can't count the times someone has asked me whether we will have to spend any more money this year on the computer systems.  My answer is always the same, 'of course.'

2.  Technology does not always work as planned. Expectations are important.  The goal is not to eliminate down time.  It is to reduce down time and make sure support mechanisms are in place when things go wrong.

3.  Can we shift the cost of technology to our clients?  I hate this question for many reasons.  I suppose the answer may be yes, with adequate disclosures to the client.  But any firm that passes technology costs to clients is missing the point of technology. Technology allows lawyers to provide more efficient service to clients and higher quality services.  Technology to me has always been about client satisfaction and retention.  The value of that exceeds the investment you will make if technology is installed, maintained and used correctly.

4.  The alternative to investing in technology is being left behind. When lawyers wince at the cost of software or hardware, remind them what the pay for their Yellow Pages advertisements.  Do they make their cleints pay for ad space?  While the Yellow Pages may bring a new client in the door, technology and good service will keep them coming back and improve the odds of success for both you and your client.

Re-Defining Legal Value

Dennis Kennedy - a true voice in the area of alternative billing and delivering value to clients -- comments on a   Law Practice Today interview of Jeff Carr concerning alternative billing which could not be more 'right on.'.

On forming his own firm: "I thought I was fed up with being a lawyer. What I learned was I didn’t hate the practice of law, I hated the business of law as it was being practiced at law firms. What brought me back to in-house practice after this little five-year experiment was the fact that at my core I’m a lawyer. I worry about our profession and I worry about the failing of lawyers in law firms to understand that they are in a business and to understand that it is a customer service business, and understand what customer service means."

On the great attorney / client "disconnect": "If you think of the law firm model, the economic model is based upon total revenue brought in the door. And that’s a function of hourly rate times the number of hours that you actually bill for and can collect for. That has absolutely no relationship, whatsoever, to the value that the corporate client places on the services."

On what has been called the "latent market for legal services": "I think quite frankly legal services have gotten too expensive in this country. Look at the rise of things like Nolo Press and Willmaker, software packages, that essentially permit people to do a lot of what would have been done by a lawyer on their own. Let’s face it, most legal work, about eighty percent of it, in any context, whether it’s your personal stuff, or whether it’s in a corporate world, is commodity type of practice. It’s really that only twenty percent are high value, high risk, bet the company, go to jail, lose your house matters. Those are the things that you really need the specialized service for. I think, in general, legal services have been priced out of the market for the general

Law Practice today has some great articles on alternative billing, one of the pillars which will support the Traverse Legal law firm. 

The question presented is can lawyers provide legal value to clients in fewer hours and thus less cost? Anyone who has worked in a law firm knows the answer is a resounding 'yes' in many types of cases and matters.  Lawyers must,  however, commit to find legal solutions for clients as opposed to creating problems which 'front' for an excuse to bill (or allowing an angry client to make poor decisions which provide little value but drive costs up), (2) to handle cases and matters which are within your core talents and (3) farm out issues and matters to other 'value billing lawyers who specialize in such matters.

All the incentives of hourly billing are to hold a file until the client has spent substantial funds.  Hourly billing contains literally no incentives to solve problems.

Dennis Kennedy scores again with his great link page for resources concerning alternative billing strategies and controversies.

And yes Dennis, we have read Arthur G. Greene's article on alternative billing which we agree is a must read for anyone interested in this important topic. As Mr Greene notes:

Lawyers have to understand value.
Lawyers have to deliver value.
Lawyers have to communicate value.

From the client’s perspective, a fair fee is often described as being both predictable and providing value commensurate with the dollars spent. In many situations, hourly billing does neither. And from the lawyer’s perspective, a fair fee is one that rewards the lawyer’s efficiency and expertise, and provides a return on the lawyer’s investment in technology and related systems. Hourly billing provides none of these benefits.

Value-based billing serves the client's interest and provides access to justice for many who could not otherwise afford it.  Value-based billing serves the lawyers business interest in that it creates opportunities to provide legal services to a broader market and to build relationships with clients which result in repeat business and referrals.  A good lawyer becomes a low cost resource for people with all sorts of legal problems.  'Word of mouth' brings people to the law office's front door, not the yellow pages.

April 27, 2005

The Ultimate Advantage: Great Customer Service

Since when did lawyers and law firms become exempt from the laws which govern other service industries?

The [non]billable hour points to an interesting article by Mark Merenda about the movement towards customer service in providing legal services. He correctly notes:

The fact is, even if you are very, very good at what you do, that circumstance will not set you apart from, or above, your competitors. Most of them are pretty good, too. And moreover, your clients are not really capable of distinguishing between an A-plus or a C-plus attorney or financial advisor. They aren't qualified.

But every one of your clients considers him- or herself to be an expert on customer service. They know when they are being ignored, or treated rudely. They know when someone doesn't return a phone call, or keeps them waiting 20 minutes past the appointed time.  They understand when your office looks like a pigsty and your staff is condescending and your phone answering system is a nightmare.

At Traverse Legal, we put the 'service' back in legal services. We offer leading edge communication technology and collaboration tools at our cost.  And don't be afraid to call us.  We don't charge for most phone calls with our clients because we like to know what is going on with you.  We have removed the traditional barriers  which law firms have raised to customer service.  Traverse Legal is focused on providing you with the customer service which you deserve.

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Events & Conferences:
  • International Trademark Association 2011, San Francisco, California
  • Cyber Law Summit 2011, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Game Developers Conference 2011, San Francisco, California
  • DOMAINfest 2011, Santa Monica, California
Recent Attorney Speaking Engagements:
  • South By Southwest 2010 SXSW Interactive Conference, Austin, Texas
  • West LegalEdcenter Midwestern Law Firm Management, Chicago, Illinois
  • Internet Advertising under Part 255, Altitude Design Summit, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Online Defamation and Reputation Management, News Talk 650 AM, The Cory Kolt Show, Canada Public Radio Saskatewan Canada
  • Alternative Fee Structures, Center for Competitive Management, Jersey City, New Jersey
  • FTC Part 255 Advertising Requirements, Mom 2.0 Conference, Houston, Texas
  • Webmaster Radio, Cybersquatting & Domain Monetization, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Notable Complex Litigation Cases Handled By Our Lawyers:
  • Trademark Infringement, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Cybersquatting Law, Trademark Law and Dilution Detroit, Michigan
  • Internet Defamation & Online Libel Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Trade Secret Theft, Chicago, Illinois
  • Cybersquatting Law, Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act Miami, Florida
  • Cybersquatting Law, Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act Eastern Dist. of Virginia, Alexandria
  • Stolen Domain Name, Orlando, Florida
  • Commercial Litigation, Tampa, Florida
  • Copyright Infringement and Cybersquatting Law, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Mass Tort Litigation, Los Angeles, California
  • Stolen Domain Name, Detroit, Michigan
  • Adwords Keyword Trademark Infringement, Los Angeles, California
  • Trademark Infringement & Unfair Competition, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Non-Compete Agreement and Trade Secret Theft, Detroit, Michigan
  • Mass Tort, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Mass Tort, Tyler, Texas
  • Insurance Indemnity, New York
  • Copyright Infringement, Detroit, Michigan