A Next Generation Law Firm

“The law must be stable…but it cannot stand still.”  - Roscoe Pound


The energy industry is undergoing rapid change. Companies, communities, state commissions, consumers and other stakeholders are grappling with challenges such as increasing and integrating renewable energy supply, responding to global warming, planning and developing transmission infrastructure, incorporating smart grid and demand response solutions, ensuring the reliability and security of the grid and building robust and building competitive markets for new energy products. And while delivery of energy still remains largely local, nevertheless, many of today’s energy companies operate in national and global markets where they face increased competition and pressure to keep costs down.

Yet even as the energy industry has changed, law firms haven’t.   Most law firms overstaff cases with inexperienced associates, duplicate effort, bill by the hour and either go over budget or cut corners to remain within their estimate.  Most law firms fail to leverage social media to stay on top of new developments or to gain an understanding of how this powerful new tool is impacting the energy industry. Law firms are not sufficiently nimble to turn on a dime – to quickly leverage new technology that benefits clients or to stay abreast of developments 24/7. Even as energy industry stakeholders are under enormous economic pressure in today’s regulatory markets, for law firms, it’s still business as usual.  That’s why it’s time for the next generation of law firms.

What is a law firm for the next generation?

  • Expert lawyers at the top of their game:  In a 24/7 global world, the Law Offices of Carolyn Elefant (LOCE) recognizes that our clients need answers to hard questions almost instantaneously and don’t have the time to work their way through levels of highly-paid, inexperienced associates. That’s why at LOCE, clients always have direct access to Carolyn Elefant, a veteran energy lawyer with more than two decades of experience in complex energy regulatory matters of first impression and last resort. Moreover, because the energy industry changes so rapidly, the firm doesn’t rest on its laurels. Ms. Elefant and the firm’s team members attend trainings and continuing legal education seminars, speak at industry events and publish articles in a range of forums, from our blog to peer-reviewed and scholarly journals.
  • Free Agent Nation:  The firm recognizes that many energy matters require more than a single attorney. Yet rather than assign lawyers to a project simply because they happen to work at the same firm even if they are not suitable for the job, LOCE can customize the appropriate team for a client’s unique needs. Because of her longevity in the energy industry and integration of social media, Ms. Elefant has cultivated and maintained relationships with energy regulatory lawyers of varied levels of experience — including service as FERC attorney-advisors, ALJ clerks or state commission staff, partners at AmLaw 200 firms or in-house at Fortune 500 companies — whom the firm can call upon to staff cases. LOCE also employs virtual assistants and energy paralegals to fill out the firm’s project teams. Think of us as Law Firm 2.0: a customized client experience.
  • Alternative Billing Arrangements:  As legal futurist Richard Susskind emphasized in THe End of Lawyers: Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services, technological advances have automated many routine, repetitive tasks once performed by lawyers, and commoditized the nature of many legal services. Consequently, clients rightly expect to pay for an end product – whether it’s value rendered or results achieved – not time. The billable hour measures time and not results or efficiency and thus, represents an antiquated metric for 21st century pricing. That’s why LOCE rarely employs the billable hour. Because of the firm’s expertise, the firm is generally able to assign ethically compliant, flat-fee pricing or phased billing for FERC proceedings and appeals or work with clients to develop a scope of deliverables to be performed for a fixed price.
  • Limits of the Law:  Today’s energy issues are so-multi-faceted that legal support alone will not suffice. For that reason, LOCE partners with lobbying, policy and communications firms, such as the teams at SML Consulting,  SMI/Helios or Symmetrix.
  • State of the Art Technology:  Technology is the lifeblood of any new generation energy law firm. LOCE employs state-of-the-art, user-friendly and highly secure cloud-based applications that enable the firm’s clients to access and collaborate on documents, enter into retainer agreements and receive and pay invoices online. Indeed, LOCE’s early adoption of technology has been profiled in major legal publications such as the ABA Journal and the Washington Legal Times. Technology streamlines the firm’s work flow and facilitates collaboration which means that the firm gets more done for less time and money.
  • Sustainable Practice:  As the energy industry greens, why shouldn’t the law firms that serve it? The firm maintains two offices – a metro-accessible, part-time, virtual space in Washington D.C. and a workspace in downtown Bethesda Maryland in walking distance to Ms. Elefant’s residence. Through use of these facilities, the firm cuts down on commuting costs and resulting carbon emissions. LOCE uses a carbon-free server to host various firm websites and blogs, operates an almost entirely paperless practice and where possible, purchases recycled or green products. For LOCE, being green is environmentally responsible, but it also makes good business sense.