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Nerds Cast a Wider Net : L.A. Lawyers Embrace the Online Arena

December 06, 1996|NANCY RIVERA BROOKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles lawyers are becoming computer nerds in a big way.

A recent survey by the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. found that nearly 70% of those responding had used the Internet in the previous three months. Many went online for purposes other than e-mail, including legal and other research, news updates, software downloads and even shopping.

The results of the bar association's survey echo a national study conducted last spring by Pitney Bowes Management Service in Stamford, Conn., in which 94% of lawyers surveyed said that technology makes their law practices more efficient. The Internet is playing an increasingly important role for 74%.

At Los Angeles law firms, attorneys are the biggest users, both at the office and at home. But 86% of support staff also use computers for such things as docket control, billing, detailed timekeeping and word processing.

The lawyers primarily belong to the Microsoft set, with only 4% admitting to Macintosh use. One cliche buster: A third say they don't have cellular telephones. Nearly half said they use notebook or laptop computers in their practices.

The Los Angeles County Bar Assn. is increasing its own use of technology, a spokesman said. The organization is in the process of redesigning its year-old site on the World Wide Web (http://www.lacba.org), and the new version should be ready within a month. It has also launched a fax-on-demand telephone line so members can get immediate access to association documents and forms.

Follow the Money

Forget the allure of big criminal cases with lots of media exposure. Law school students are finding that technology law is where the jobs and big money are, and they are flocking to classes to learn its intricacies.

The trend is particularly striking at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, where more than 200 students this fall signed up for an intellectual-property course that attracted only 86 students a year ago.

Berkeley's proximity to Silicon Valley has something to do with the demand, but interest in technology is up at law schools nationwide, said Robert P. Merges, co-director of UC Berkeley's new Center for Law and Technology. The center, which was created with big contributions from more than a dozen Bay Area law firms, sponsors conferences and has enabled the law school to increase the number of faculty members who are expert in law and technology, a spokeswoman said.

In addition to intellectual property, courses in contracts, trademarks, privacy and biotech are hot.

"The hiring is very hot right now," Merges said. Law firms "are dying for entry-level lawyers in this area. They have a ton of work."

Nancy Rivera Brooks can be reached via e-mail at nancy.rivera.brooks@latimes.com or by fax at (213) 237-7837.

Tuesday: Real Estate

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Lawyers' Starting Salaries

Here's what the largest California law firms pay newly minted 1996 law school graduates.

*--*

Average starting salary Firm San Francisco Los Angeles Pillsbury Madison & Sutro $77,000 $74,000 Morrison & Foerster 77,000 80,000 Latham & Watkins 78,000 78,000 O'Melveny & Myers 74,000 74-84,000 Brobeck Phleger & Harrison 77,000 77,000 Gibson Dunn & Crutcher 79,000 79,000 Wilson, Sonsisi, Goodrich & Rosati 77,000 (No L.A (Palo Alto) office) Cooley Godward Castro 77,000 77,000 Huddleston & Tatum (San Diego) Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe 77,000 tbd* Gray Cary Ware & Greidenrich 77,000 74,000 (Palo Alto) (San Diego)

*--*

*To be determined

Sources: Individual firms and UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law

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