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Disconnect between what law firms think and what they do

Disconnect between what law firms think and what
they do

2016 ALPMA/InfoTrack Adapting
to the Changing Legal Landscape

8 September

The majority of Australasian law firms rate
themselves as innovative but there is little evidence to
support this claim, according to the results of the 2016
ALPMA/InfoTrack Adapting to the Changing Legal
report released at the 2016 ALPMA
Summit in Melbourne today.

Surveying 163 law firms across
Australia and New Zealand, 65 percent of survey respondents,
across small, medium and large firms believe their firm is
innovative or very innovative, with only 6 per cent
indicating they were not at all innovative.

“There is a
real discrepancy between how innovative firms believe they
are and what they are actually doing in terms of their
investment in innovation and in people, process and
technology initiatives to drive their firm forward,” ALPMA
President, Mr Andrew Barnes said.

More than 60 percent of
respondents said innovation was part of their strategic
plan, yet few have a dedicated innovation budget, have a
proactive group responsible or give staff time scheduled for

The research also highlights significant
inconsistency with satisfaction on firm innovation
investment levels. While nearly half of the survey
respondents believe their firm dedicates sufficient time,
people and funds to innovation, one third of respondents are
unhappy with the level of innovation investment at their

“There is pressure on partners and practice
managers to pursue innovation. They can see the rewards for
innovative projects but ‘innovation’ is becoming an
over-used word to describe everything from culture and
processes to client delivery.”

“The question we need
to really ask ourselves is ‘are we innovating or merely
adapting to changes thrust upon us?’” he

Launching the research report at the ALPMA Summit
today, InfoTrack CEO Mr John Ahern said customer demand for
better value, rapidly evolving technology, increased
competition and the staff demand for work/life balance were
the key external factors impacting on Australian and New
Zealand law firms.

“Interestingly, most respondents were
critical of the legal profession’s response to these
external drivers, saying the industry was adapting to the
changing legal landscape only when necessary and certainly
not quickly enough – and this backed-up by other
findings,” he said.

Only half (54%) of the respondents
believe their firm has an effective blueprint for change.

“The demand for better work/life balance has been
addressed by the industry with our research showing that
remote and flexible working arrangements and the technology
to support this has now been implemented at most firms.”

“Firms that do not offer this for their staff are now
lagging well behind the norm,” he said.

Most firms are
currently working on implementing workflow automation,
electronic settlement, customer relationship management
systems and improving their approach to performance

“The really innovative firms have already
implemented these initiatives and are starting work on
things that most firms report are not even in their
foreseeable future – artificial intelligence, customer
apps, Lean Six Sigma process improvements and legal process
outsourcing,” he said.


“To become truly innovative requires
an overhaul of cultural DNA of most firms. This is not easy
and not for everyone so advance with caution,” ALPMA
President, Mr Andrew Barnes said.

The report found that
most firms (78%) were satisfied with their culture. Despite
this, 57% are planning cultural change this year (rising to
87% of very large firms).

“Improved productivity,
efficiency and profitability are the primary objectives of
these cultural change programs,” he said.

Few were
planning cultural change to support diversity, personal
initiative or entrepreneurship.

The full report is
available from ALPMA and InfoTrack’s

© Scoop Media

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New firm to guide SMEs through the human resources law maze

TWO leading lawyers have established a firm which will provide employment law advice to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across Yorkshire.

Founding partners and long-standing friends, Tiggy Clifford and Emma Whiting, decided to establish Torque Law in response to the growing numbers of small business owners who need help untangling employment law problems.

Ms Clifford and Ms Whiting are employment law specialists who have clocked up more than 30 years’ combined experience advising Yorkshire-based businesses, including many SMEs, on a wide range of human resources issues.

Ms Whiting, who was previously a partner at Addleshaw Goddard, said: “We’d both contemplated setting up in business ourselves, but knowing that you’ve got someone you trust and respect to share the success, as well as shoulder some of the burden, was a very big draw for both of us.

“The timing felt right to do something different too. We’re both mums to two primary school-age girls and we wanted to wrestle greater control back.

“We want to be able to invest more quality time with our families, while also having a fulfilling career in employment law, which we are both very passionate about.

“As owners of our own specialist employment law firm, we’re now both much better placed to be able to achieve this for ourselves.”

Torque Law, which is based in York, is among a small number of boutique firms offering specialist services across Yorkshire.

Ms Whiting said: “For me, it’s all about genuinely understanding clients’ needs, their risk appetite, and to be clear what’s driving their key decisions. Employment law is one of those areas that is very fast-paced. The biggest challenge for HR professionals is keeping up to date; that’s where I think we will help. We’ll ensure they are bang up to date and parachute ourselves in, as and when we need to. We will stand in our clients’ shoes and give them advice which is best for them.

“We’re quietly confident of the potential of this business. All the signs so far have been really positive.”

Ms Clifford, who is a former partner at Denison Till, added: “This is all about that personal touch, because I believe people are more and more selective in the advisers they want to use. Part of what we want to do, by knowing the clients so well, is to be able to pre-empt issues that might crop up.

“They can leave the employment law to us. We can provide advice that quickly solves a problem.”

YORK-based Torque Law has been established by Tiggy Clifford and Emma Whiting, who have years of experience in helping employers with HR legal matters – from day to day HR queries, through to complex restructuring projects and employment tribunal claims.

Torque also supports senior executives with their employment issues and deal with Settlement Agreements.

The firm says it won’t sit on the fence, and will talk plainly and give tailored but pragmatic advice.

Ms Whiting said: “Our clients get advice from highly experienced, partner level solicitors without the big firm price tags.”

The company’s website address is

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Viewpoints: Health Law’s Improper Payments; Pass Mental Health Bill, Zika Funds Now

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

The Wall Street Journal:
ObamaCare’s ‘Improper’ Failure

Along with “stakeholders” (campaign donors), “investments” (government spending) and “obstruction” (Congress), one of our favorite political euphemisms is “improper payments.” That’s how Washington airbrushes away the taxpayer money that flows each year to someone who is not eligible, or to the right beneficiary in the wrong amount, or that disappears to fraud or federal accounting ineptitude. Now thanks to ObamaCare, improper payments are soaring. (9/6)

Modern Healthcare:
Time To Act On Mental Health Legislation

With Congress returning from its long summer recess this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could help improve the low standing of the entire institution by allowing a vote on the mental health reform bill that passed the House this summer by a 422-2 margin. Even though this is an election year and other major issues—including the budget—are on the table, helping people with severe mental health problems is an issue that unites both political parties, the American public, mental health advocacy groups and the nation’s criminal justice and healthcare systems. (Merrill Goozner, 9/3)

Modern Healthcare:
More And Better Enrollment Assistance Could Stabilize The ACA Markets

Everyone agrees the Affordable Care Act exchanges need more people to sign up for coverage to make those marketplaces more stable. A larger number of enrollees — especially a higher percentage of younger and healthier people — would help convince nervous insurers to continuing selling plans in the exchanges and would moderate premium increases. But as I was reminded on a reporting trip here last week, many Americans haven’t enrolled because they find the health insurance and healthcare system complex and confusing – before, during, and after they sign up for coverage. (Harris Meyer, 9/6)

Huffington Post:
What Obamacare’s Successes Should Tell Us About Its Failures

[T]he focus on what’s going wrong with Obamacare makes it easy to lose sight of what’s going right. The law has ended the insurance industry’s most pernicious practices, fostered improvements in the way doctors and hospitals deliver care and brought the number of Americans without coverage to a historic low. Some state markets appear to be working just fine, and at least a few insurers are making money. The law’s achievements don’t make the problems any less real. But they do put those problems into perspective ― and suggest that fixing them is worthwhile. (Jonathan Cohn, 9/3)

Los Angeles Times:
Congress: What I Didn’t Do This Summer — Fund Zika

Welcome back to work, Congress! We see the Senate picked up right where it left off before its seven-week summer recess — blocking a bill to provide $1.1 billion for Zika prevention efforts because it would bar funding for Planned Parenthood and its affiliates. While you were out campaigning, fundraising or barbequing, however, the number of Zika cases in the U.S. more than doubled to 2,700, and people infected with the virus have turned up in every state. A total of 17 babies have been born with Zika-related birth defects (two in California), and about 1,600 pregnant women are known to have been exposed. (9/7)

The Wall Street Journal:
The Coming Trials Of Generation Zika

Some four million children are born each year in the U.S., about half in areas where the mosquito species capable of carrying the Zika virus is found. If we assume that 3% of pregnant women in the U.S. will become infected over the next three years and at least 1% of children born to those mothers will be microcephalic, we can anticipate up to 20,000 microcephalic children. Humanitarian considerations aside, the estimated cost of caring for one such child over the course of his lifespan is $10 million. (W. Ian Lipkin, 9/6)

Vacation Is Over, Congress. Fund The Fight Against Zika

[A] single health center like ours, even an entire city like Houston known for its world-class medicine, can’t manage Zika alone. Nor can the state of Texas, which has admirably stepped up to allow Medicaid to pay for insect repellant for low-income pregnant moms. Governor Greg Abbott has allocated state and federal funds to help prevention efforts. All of the public health players are doing their part. Except the United States Congress. (Katy Caldwell, 9/6)

Fox News:
We Need To Fight Zika Now. Democrats Must Stop Playing Games

Securing funding to combat the Zika virus was supposed to be one issue on Capitol Hill that would be free of the political games that are typical in election years. That’s because we have all seen the heartbreaking photos of Zika babies and heard the toll the virus has had on families in affected countries, including right here in the United States. The call for Washington to fund the effort to stop the spread of Zika was swift and bipartisan. (Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., 9/7)

Electronic Health Records ‘Inflict Enormous Pain’ On Health Care Providers. Here’s How We Got Into This Mess

Electronic health records slow doctors down and distract them from meaningful face time caring for patients. That is the sad but unsurprising finding of a time and motion study published in Tuesday’s Annals of Internal Medicine. A team of researchers determined that physicians are spending almost half of their time in the office on electronic health records (EHRs) and desk work and just 27 percent on face time with patients — which is what the vast majority of doctors went into medicine to do. Once they get home, they average another one to two hours completing EHRs. (Jonathan Bush, 9/6)

Georgia Chamber’s Obamacare Medicaid Expansion Plan Is Anything But Conservative

This week, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce released a new plan to impose more of Obamacare on their state. The Chamber acknowledged that their “guiding principle” in crafting the Medicaid expansion plan was simply to “take advantage of all federal dollars available.” As such, they’re lobbying for policymakers to expand Medicaid to a new welfare class of more than 700,000 able-bodied adults. (Nic Horton, Jonathan Ingram and Josh Archambault, 9/6)

Dallas Morning News:
Northeast Texans Die Earlier Than Other Americans. Fixing The Problem Will Require A Statewide Effort

2,615. That’s the number of people who died in Northeast Texas in 2014 who wouldn’t have died if mortality rates in the region were simply the same as in Texas overall. That’s 16 percent of all deaths in the region that year. We don’t always think of this region on its own terms, as a distinct part of Texas. If Northeast Texas were its own state, however, it would be the size of West Virginia and would rank 45th in the nation in overall mortality, sandwiched in between its geographic neighbors Arkansas (44th) and Louisiana (46th). Texas, by comparison, ranks 31st even if you include the Northeast region in the numbers. (David Lakey, Kirk Calhoun and Eileen Nehme, 9/6)

The Richmond Times Dispatch:
2017 Brings Potential For Real Progress Improving Health Care Access For Every Virginian

Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law requires government permission before a health-care facility can expand, offer a new service, or purchase certain pieces of equipment. These laws were enacted with the belief that restricting entry would lower health-care costs and increase availability of these services to the poor. But research has shown that COPN laws actually have the opposite market effect, reducing the availability of services and hospital beds. Not only is the COPN law not a solution to escalating hospital bills, but this lengthy and expensive application process also may hinder our state’s ability to attract private business investment to ensure a 21st century health-care system that meets the future needs of everyone. (John Watkins, 9/6)

JAMA Internal Medicine:
What to Expect When [Your Employer Suspects] You’re Expecting

Employers are increasingly contracting with firms that use big data to predict and promote employee health. By aggregating claims data, browser searches, and demographic information, these firms can foresee whether employees are at risk for health issues—and their associated costs—and target preventive resources accordingly. However, a recent report indicates that this analytic capability is being extended to predict not only diabetes or the need for back surgery but also whether an employee is or is considering becoming pregnant. This trend raises troubling questions about the appropriate limits of wellness program analytics. (Stephanie R. Morain, Leah R. Fowler and Jessica L. Roberts, 9/6)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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Proposal to push private firms to use Makani

Dubai Municipality and Emirates Telecommunications Corporation – Etisalat on Wednesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the project Makani. As per the MoU, the Municipality shall provide Etisalat all the requirements for the use of its Makani app. The MoU comes as part of Dubai Municipality’s keenness to implement smart government standards in accordance with the directives of the Government of Dubai, and to complement the success of the Municipality’s new GIS mapping app Makani, which uses only the language of numbers to enable all individuals to use it easily without relying on a particular language. The MoU was signed by Eng. Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality and Abdullah Salem Al Mana, Director General of Etisalat, Dubai branch.

Dubai: Dubai Municipality is pushing for a law to make it mandatory for private companies to use its digital address and navigation system Makani, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Abdul Hakim Malek, director of the Geographic Informatin System (GIS) Department,‎said a proposal in this regard has been submitted to the Smart Dubai Office of the Dubai Executive Council.

“We want a regulation or law which pushes the private sector to support this new system because everyone should contribute to achieve our [Smart Dubai] goals…not only the government sector,” he told Gulf News after the municipality signed an agreement with etisalat to use Makani in the telecom company’s GIS mapping system.

“The private sector has a role and responsibility. They have to support us in implementing the smart system which we have created for the benefit of the public and companies as well.”

While prominent shipping companies have given a cold shoulder to the municipality’s invitation to enter into an agreement for using Makani, the majority of the 10 major restaurant chains that already made an agreement are still not using the system. The fast food restaurants have cited additional expenses for providing smartphones and data package for delivery men as the reason, said Malek.

“It’s really upsetting that private companies, especially service providers like shipping companies and restaurants, are not using the Makani service…We will give them a chance for some more time and after that we will go to higher authorities to push them to implement Makani,” he said.

Unlike other navigation systems, Malek noted that Makani uses 10 digit geo-coordinates that give the location to all entrances of buildings and public places with a one metre accuracy. ”The traditional addressing does not cover free zones. Some streets in free zones don’t have names and some authorities are using their own navigation system. Makani is universal for Dubai. So, it covers each building entrance and streets, even in free zones.”

Almost 70,000 out of 130,000 Makani plates have been installed in Dubai buildings and public places.

The remaining ones will be fixed by the first quarter of 2017.

Dubai Taxi

Taxi users in Dubai are soon expected to find locations faster as the Roads and Transport Authority will now use the Makani system in Dubai taxis. The authority is currently incorporating Makani into its navigation system.

By the end of this month, Malek said the RTA taxi despatch centre will start guiding cabs with Makani. ”In October, taxi drivers themselves will start using the Makani numbers. You just have to give the Makani number of your destination to them,” said Malek.

Dubai Police, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) and the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) were the first government entities to use Makani.

“After we finish fixing the plates, Rera will make it compulsory ‎for real estate companies to use Makani. Then the companies will have to provide their Makani numbers to the Economic Department,” Malek said.

Dubai Ambulance and Civil Defence are also yet to modify their systems to use Makani. Malek said these departments will also be pushed to start using Makani soon.

Earlier, Hussain Nasser Lootah, director-general of Dubai Municipality, and Abdullah Salem Al Mana, director-general of etisalat, Dubai branch, signed a Memorandum of Understanding through which the municipality will provide etisalat all the requirements for the use of the Makani app. Al Mana said etisalat will apply Makani in its address system in Dubai and other emirates which use the Makani system such as Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah.

The telecom major will provide a box for adding Makani plate numbers of its customers’ addresses in application forms.

“Customers can give their Makani numbers so that our staff can locate them easily for providing services at their homes or offices. Customers can also use our Makani numbers to locate our offices,” said Al Mana.


Download the Makani app

Users can type the name of the building or location in the search bar and click on the desired result

Or residents can zoom in on the map, clicking on the building or location

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Judge upholds law allowing counties to hire outside auditors

Published 5:02 am, Wednesday, September 7, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota judge has upheld a new state law that allows counties to hire private companies for their annual audits.

State Auditor Rebecca Otto is fighting the 2015 law that lets counties forego her office for the financial reviews. Minnesota Public Radio News ( ) says the ruling by Ramsey County Judge Lezlie Ott Marek released Tuesday preserves the auditor’s ultimate jurisdiction to conduct reviews in certain circumstances at county expense.

Republican Rep. Sarah Anderson spearheaded the law change that gave counties more room to opt out of the state-conducted audits and enter into contracts with private firms. At least 50 of Minnesota’s 87 counties are planning to hire outside companies.

Otto plans to ask a higher court to step in.


Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News,

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Canon Solutions America and nQueue Partner on Document Processing Solution for Law Firms

Canon Solutions America, Inc., a subsidiary of Canon U.S.A., and nQueue, a provider of software-based cost recovery and document scanning and routing solutions for law firms, have jointly announced the availability of nQ360, a document processing solution for law firms. The new solution combines nQueue’s cost recovery solution, and Therefore, Canon’s information management and archiving system, to provide firms with a secure and automated way to manage documents.

According to the vendors, nQ360 represents the complete scope of coverage of the document lifecycle across capture, process, output, and archive.

nQ360 leverages nQueue’s platform of cost recovery solutions, assisting firms by automating, processing and recovering operational and administrative expenses, including print, copy, scan, phone, fax, travel, court fees, research, courier costs, and credit card charges.

nQ360’s document scanning and routing features enable firms to capture, format and route scans to improve efficiency and reduce costs associated with document retention and retrieval. The technology can be embedded into multifunction devices or reside on tablet computers and terminals.

For more information, go to and

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One of Bolton’s oldest law firms opens new office

ONE of Bolton’s oldest law firms has opened a new office in the town centre.

Russell & Russell, started in 1887 by William Russell, has its head office in Wood Street. Now, it has also opened a new “legal shop” in Newport Street in one of the premises upgraded in a £3 million central scheme close to the new £48 million transport interchange.

This is in addition to the firm’s offices in Atherton, Bury, Chester, Farnworth, Horwich and Middleton.

Part of the firm’s personal injury department is working from the upper two floors of the building, moving in teams from Bolton and Atherton to create this new centre of expertise. It deals with accidents at work, road traffic accidents, slips and trips and any other type of accident or injury including clinical negligence.

The ground floor is a legal advice centre for clients wanting help with residential and commercial property, wills and probate, family matters and criminal defence services.

There is also a free legal clinic each Saturday from 11am to 3pm dealing with personal injury inquiries of all kinds.

Twenty-one Russell & Russell staff have moved into the new office – a mixture of secretaries, solicitors and partners. Derrick Smethurst, head of the personal injury department, said: “We deliberately chose this site in the heart of the retail district because of its prominent visible position and its easy accessibility for clients.

“We wanted to improve our service offering to the Bolton community by being very welcoming and accessible, without losing our core values of professionalism, quality advice and efficient service. We had planned for some time to offer a drop-in centre for any legal problems and this move has provided that opportunity.

“So far, we have had a very positive response from the public. I think people particularly appreciate the fact that no appointment is necessary and that we open during the week from 8.30am to 6pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 4pm.”

“We understand that it’s not always possible to see a solicitor during normal working hours so we’re trying to ensure that we’re available to everyone.”

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How gender discrimination law has businesses scrambling

“Raise your hand if you are for equal pay for equal jobs; no one would argue with that,” employment attorney Christopher Olmsted told a crowd of human resources executives at a Long Beach conference last week.

Hands flew up in the audience.

But Olmsted quickly warned, “The devil is in the details.”

On the first Labor Day since the passage of the 2015 California Fair Pay Act, touted as the nation’s toughest gender discrimination law, no workplace issue is grabbing more attention across the state.

Employment lawyers are predicting a wave of class-action lawsuits under the new statute, which makes it far easier to sue an employer for discrimination.

The law shifts the burden of proof to employers to show why a worker is paid less than a colleague and applies to companies of any size.

The new law has bosses scrambling to audit their payrolls, rewrite job descriptions, research industry comparables and document the reasons for individual discrepancies.

In certain cases, they are proactively boosting the wages of some workers and considering whether to cap the salaries of others.

“The earthquake has happened,” said Olmsted, whose firm, Ogletree Deakins, has five California offices, including one in Costa Mesa. “The tsunami is on its way.”

The law’s impetus was the state’s documented pay gap. In California, according to government data, a woman working full-time, year-round earned an average of 84 cents to every dollar a man earned.

The gender wage gap, although somewhat narrower than the national gap of 79 cents to a dollar, extends across almost all occupations in California.

The discrepancy is worse for women of color. Latina women in California make only 44 cents for every dollar a white male makes, the biggest gap for Latina women in the nation.

In July, Qualcomm, a multinational chipmaker, chose to settle a threatened class-action lawsuit before it was even filed in court, after plaintiffs uncovered extensive data on company practices.

Female engineers in Qualcomm’s San Diego headquarters alleged systemic discrimination in pay and promotions. Women hold less than 15 percent of Qualcomm’s leadership positions, according to the complaint.

Under the settlement, which covers 3,300 female employees, the company will pay $19.5 million in back wages. More significantly, it agreed to hire outside consultants to help revamp hiring, promotion, salaries, bonuses, complaint procedures, weekend and evening demands, and mentoring policies.


The Qualcomm case follows a similar settlement last April in which Los Angeles-based Farmer’s Insurance Co. agreed to pay $4 million to some 300 women who worked as claims litigators.

The suit was brought by a Farmer’s Insurance attorney who discovered her male litigation partner was paid twice her salary, although he had less experience. Similar gaps were documented across the company’s national offices.

Farmers agreed to broad reforms in its pay practices as part of the settlement.

California’s aggressive law is part of a national trend. In 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first new law President Barack Obama signed after taking office, fulfilling a campaign pledge to strengthen federal discrimination protections.

The law extended the statute of limitations for filing claims to within 180 days of the last discriminatory paycheck.

In January, the Obama administration announced an executive action to require companies with 100 or more employees to report to the government their employees pay by race, gender, and ethnicity.

“Why is the government making you do this?” asked Michele Patterson, a Rancho Palos Verdes attorney, addressing another group at the Long Beach conference. “Because it wants to catch you for discrimination!”

The three-day Professionals in Human Resources Association conference, a gathering of 2,400 employment personnel and exhibitors, featured no less than seven sessions focusing on the Fair Pay Act and federal gender discrimination law.

The floor of the vast Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center was filled with exhibits from law firms promising protection against class actions and software companies touting auditing and data analysis to parse gender-related compensation.

With the new California law, “companies are going to have to do more due diligence to support pay decisions,” said Briana Heathcott, a conference attendee who oversees human resources for Costa-Mesa based Fisher & Paykel Appliances, which has 150 U.S. employees. “Does Jane Doe make the same as John Smith for the same job with the same experience? You never know until you lift up the rug (to see) what’s underneath.”

Many businesses are not waiting for lawsuits to materialize. Last year, Salesforce, the San Francisco-based software giant, undertook a voluntary audit. The result: $3 million in pay hikes for women, along with a few men.

This June, Obama announced The White House Equal Pay Pledge, under which companies commit to reviewing hiring and promotion practices and to conducting annual across-the-board gender pay analyses.

So far, more than 50 big corporations have signed on, including Apple, CVS, Facebook, Target, Hilton and General Motors.

California’s new statute tightens gender discrimination protection several notches beyond federal law. Golden State companies must show men and women are paid equally for “substantially similar work,” not just for “equal work.”

“That gives employees a lot of wiggle room,” said Greg Labate, an Irvine labor lawyer.

In the past, for instance, a hotel might pay a male janitor more than a female maid. Now, it would have to justify the disparity.

Labate advises clients to get their employees to sign arbitration agreements, waiving their right to sue in court, and sending disputes to privately hired arbitrators.

The controversial tactic means disputes are settled behind closed doors with no public disclosure, no right of appeal, and none of the strict procedural rules that courts follow.

“People question whether arbitration tends to favor employers,” Labate told a conference session. “I believe they do. I use the same arbitrators over and over, and they get paid when I pick them. They know where their bread and butter comes from.”

The California law also forbids discrimination across different locations of one company. In the past, employees could only sue based on unequal pay within a single establishment.

Now a bank with an East L.A. branch would have to show why it pays a manager less than at a West L.A. branch.

The change likely will centralize hiring decisions at company headquarters, where human resources professionals can standardize pay scales.

“Before, you’d have a guy in Bakersfield doing whatever the heck he wanted,” Olmsted said. “When local managers make hiring decisions, you see pay differentials and favoritism.”

Detailed hiring and performance information will determine the outcome of court cases, he added, “but I have yet to see one company able to put that on a data grid and showed me exactly why their employees are paid what they are being paid.”

Courts also will face the challenge of untangling the nuances of how and why various bona fide factors — such as education, quality and quantity of work, seniority, responsibilities, merit or geography — can justify a pay gap.

“You can pay Bob more if he lives in San Francisco than if he lives in Irvine, but you can’t pay him 25 percent more if the cost of living is only 10 percent more,” said Nancy Yaffe, a Los Angeles employment lawyer. “Education could be irrelevant if Bob (is) a CPA, but he is working in marketing.”

No wonder, she adds, “A lot of my clients are very overwhelmed.”

Patterson is helping several clients with audits, including a large Orange County company.

“I just got off my sixth phone call,” she said. “They are bogged down. The company has merged over and over, so compensation structures are all over the place.”

In many cases, she added, companies don’t have lawsuit-proof job descriptions.

“The job has morphed a million times, but they haven’t gotten around to updating the description,” she said.

Recruiting practices are likely to change. Companies will no longer be able to base a pay offer on a job-seeker’s previous salary, given that a woman might have been discriminated against by a previous employer.

“Statistics show men negotiate harder for opening salaries,” Yaffe said. “So they come in at a higher salary, and then 10 years later, you have a big pay differential.”

Employers will need to set written pay ranges for positions.

“You can’t just pop someone into a position and pay them a premium because you really want them,” Olmsted said.

The new law also prohibits companies from retaliating against employees who assert their equal pay rights or discuss salaries with each other.

“You can’t punish Sally for asking Bob,” Labate said.

The Irvine lawyer is guiding audits of several Orange County-based clients with thousands of employees across the country.

“They’re linking spreadsheets with education, experience, starting salaries, performance,” he said. “It is onerous, and incredibly complicated. But if they haven’t done the legwork, it could be a massive problem to do it on short notice.”

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Revealed: Scottish firms fronting global child-porn websites

Scottish firms are acting as fronts for international websites used to share child pornography.

A Sunday Herald investigation has discovered that secretive shell companies registered in Scotland are behind online file-sharing systems accused of enabling access to everything from images of young children being abused to “rape” videos.

The firms involved are Scottish limited partnerships, or SLPs, a once obscure kind of company now widely marketed across the former Soviet Union as a way for entrepreneurs to hide both their wealth and their identity.

At least two such businesses registered in Scotland are formally hosting at least four so-called “cyberlockers”, sites which appear to facilitate industrial-scale piracy of software, music, games, big TV shows, and Hollywood blockbusters.

These cyberlockers also host material featuring children under nine. Other forms of extreme pornography available featured rape and incest.

Our internet checks also uncovered links to piracy, with numerous mainstream films and television shows available, including movies currently on general release in cinemas, such as the latest Jason Bourne production.

The Sunday Herald has forwarded our findings to Police Scotland, which has launched its own investigation. After discussions with detectives we have decided not to publish the names of either the websites concerned or the Scottish-registered companies behind them in order not to alert the firms and impede the police investigation.

Detective Inspector Eamonn Keane, one of the country’s leading cybercrime experts, has seen the links discovered by the Sunday Herald. He said: “Police Scotland is investigating this matter.”

Keane stressed that there are numerous file-sharing systems available and that most of them do not facilitate access to any material that breaks indecency or child protection laws in Scotland or other countries.

He added: “But there are those sharing content that is criminal or close to criminal.”

Cyberlockers are just the latest unethical or illegal business being fronted by Scotland’s increasingly controversial limited partnerships.

The Sunday Herald last year detailed how such firms, sometimes based at modest council houses or virtual offices in provincial Scottish high streets, were used to launder proceeds of the alleged looting of $1bn from banks in Moldova, Europe’s poorest country.

Similar SLPs, with secret partners formally registered in jurisdictions such as Dominica, Panama, the British Virgin Islands or Belize, were named in corruption scandals in Latvia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Our sister paper, The Herald, has also revealed that they have been used as front companies for a variety of controversial online businesses, including those offering to write essays for students or pushing diet pills regarded in the UK as a scam.

Some cyberlockers linked to Scottish shell companies have already come to the attention of international campaigners.

A group based in Australia, Copy Control, has described one of the sites identified by the Sunday Herald as “a haven of illegal pornography” and campaigned for major credit card companies to boycott it.

The group, which is backed by the mainstream adult entertainment industry, claimed the cyberlocker concerned contained pirated software and movies, including legal porn, as well as images of children, animals and adults being sexually abused.

All four cyberlockers linked by the Sunday Herald to Scottish limited partnerships have published terms and conditions claiming to prohibit any illegal pornography or any images of children. The websites also say they do not allow users to upload copyrighted material.

However, such claims have been undermined by Copy Control which uncovered links entitled “rape medley” and “incest films” featured in promotions for $89 annual subscriptions to “Scottish” cyberlockers.

Law enforcement sources stress that such sites operate over a number of different jurisdictions, including those where child pornography or copyright protection are not taken as seriously as in Scotland.

The two Scottish limited partnerships linked to cyberlockers are registered at virtual offices in central Scotland and have no physical presence here. At least one of the sites in their name is also registered through a virtual office here. The cyberlocker sites themselves, while operating under the name of the Scottish shell companies concerned, give management addresses in other countries, such as Russia and South Korea.

The Sunday Herald shared some of its findings with the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT). Its director general, Kieron Sharp, said: “In principle there are many legitimate uses for cyberlockers, such as sharing photo albums or work related files.

“However, they are increasingly being used to illegally share copyrighted TV and film content. Popular cyberlockers receive millions of hits a day and are generating substantial profit through advertising or premium subscriptions and affiliate schemes – whilst the businesses and creators who put the time, effort and income into creating the content, are being short changed of their well-deserved revenue.

“What is even more concerning is that illegal piracy sites have also been found to be linked to other types of serious organised crime.

“Our investigations in the past have uncovered information that the individuals behind these sites are also linked to other illegal activity such as counterfeit pharmaceuticals and drugs and we continue to work with the police and other law enforcement agencies to ensure this criminality is combated.”

An MP, Roger Mullin of the SNP, will this week seek an amendment to the UK government’s Finance Bill to review Scottish limited partnerships amid growing cross-party concerns that the corporate structure, created under a Westminster law of 1907, is facilitating international tax evasion, money-laundering and cyber crime.

Children’s tsar: “I applaud Sunday Herald”

Scotland’s official champion of children’s rights has called for those who access images of abused youngsters to be pursued with the same “vigour” as abusers.

Tam Baillie, Scotland’s commissioner for children and young people, said: “We need to be clear: accessing pornography is not a victimless crime. The demand for it is leading to countless numbers of children being abused across the globe. The origin of the images doesn’t matter, it is accessing them that creates the crime and fuels the demand for children to be used and abused.”

Speaking after being alerted to the role of Scottish firms in fronting for websites where abuse files are shared, he said: “It is obvious that some adults will use any means at their disposal to access child pornography and the discovery that so-called ‘cyberlockers’ are being used for this purpose, is another illustration of the need to be always vigilant.”

Baillie added: “Pornographic images have a longevity in the digital sphere and the impact of the abuse on children is devastating which makes it all the more urgent that we pursue those who access these images with the same vigour as we pursue those who abuse children, using whatever means we can.

“I applaud the Sunday Herald for shining a light on this issue.”

Children’s charity NSPCC last week revealed that Police Scotland had recorded 1900 child pornography offences over the last three years. The figure for the whole UK topped 21,600 in the same period.

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Few Law Firms Pitch to Defend Lawsuits Against the City of Jackson

Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote said that more firms might want to present to the council but were unavailable for the late Friday meeting before the Labor Day weekend.

Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote said that more firms might want to present to the council but were unavailable for the late Friday meeting before the Labor Day weekend.

Photo by Imani Khayyam.

— As many residents headed out of town for a long Labor Day weekend, the Jackson City Council heard short, three-minute presentations late today from local law firm for the contract to represent Jackson in the recently filed discrimination lawsuits.

Adams and Reese, Phelps Dunbar, Bryant Arant Boult Cummings and individual practitioner Sam Begley all pitched their services to the council, although the body did not make a decision today. One reason for the delay, as Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote pointed out to the rest of the council, was that not all the available firms were able to attend the meeting or were aware of the opportunity.

“So it is really tough to have a meeting on the Friday, late in the afternoon, before a three-day weekend,” Foote said. “So we appreciate all the people that did make it here, but there are other firms that for whatever reason could not be here.”

Foote said he contacted Watkins & Eager, Jones Walker, and Hawkins and Gibson about the meeting but that each could not attend due to scheduling conflicts.

Council President Tyrone Hendrix said that the council would continue to look through the options available to the body before making its decision.

“But it is important for us to do our due diligence and go through each and every one of these packets and anyone that may come to us and make the best possible decision about who will represent the City,” Hendrix said, before thanking the firms for attending.

The Jackson Free Press will request copies of the proposed packets.

The matter, Ward 4 Councilman De’Keither Stamps reminded the council, was also on the agenda for the next regular council meeting next Tuesday.

The council then entered into executive session to discuss strategy about the “pending legal matters” before the council, which passed unanimously.

The council still has scheduled a meeting at 6 p.m. about the proposed budget for next year.

Email city reporter Tim Summers Jr. at Read more about lawsuits against Jackson and its suburbs at

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