Dorothy Secol, CLA
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For all those real estate attorneys out there the following counties have implemented the Homelessness Trust Fund Act which will require an additional fee (surcharge) of $3.00 per document in addition to the current recording fees:

County/Effective Date

Middlesex - January 1, 2010
Passaic - January 1, 2010
Bergen - February 1, 2010
Hudson - March 1, 2010
Union - May 1, 2010
Somerset - June 1, 2010
Mercer - July 1, 2010

It appears that all deeds and mortgages will be subject to the additional $3.00 surcharge, however, you should check with the individual county as to whether or not documents such as Assignments of Mortgage are subject to this additional $3.00 fee.

I will try to update you with additional counties as they implement the Act.


Computers, the World Wide Web, software, all helped transform our world into one vast marketplace. Many firms have had to strategically scale their businesses to achieve a global reach. Other firms have tried to maintain their focus on a particular area of specialization. Others have simply failed to react, thereby enduring a loss to their bottom line.

In 2010 the most successful law firms will be those who understand the changing legal landscape and adapt to new trends and demands. For large law firms, competition for sophisticated transactional work – such as securities, mergers and acquisitions, tax and environmental work, is becoming increasingly fierce. Small firms are also preparing their practices for globalization via international law associations such as Lawyers Associated Worldwide (LAW) and Lex Mundi, associations of independent law firms located in major commercial centers across the globe. Membership in these associations allow firms to service the legal needs of clients that are expanding their operations and relationships into new domestic and foreign markets.

The need for attorneys and paralegals with local expertise in each state or region will remain. Skills that will be in particular demand will be in the following:

1. Alternative Billing – As the recession continues, many companies as well as individuals are pushing back against law firm standing policies to bill by the hour. A study conducted by the Wall Street Journal found that there was a 50% increase in corporate spending on alternative billing arrangements. Legal costs have risen 6, 7, 8% a year but the services remain pretty much the same. While no one knows for sure what new billing schemes may be introduced, three common alternatives are presently being used: 1) percentage discounts, 2) reduced hourly rates with discounts for third party referrals, and 3) blended hourly rates, this means the same hourly rate is charged whether the work is performed by a partner or an associate. Alternative billing structures are continually evolving – think outside the box!

2. Virtual Assistants – or Freelance Paralegals are another growing trend in the legal industry. Outsourcing to companies or individuals who are not on-site eliminate the need for employer-employee expenses, such as vacations, health insurance, extra computers, equipment, etc. Virtual Assistants or Freelance Paralegals work only when you need them.

3. Electronic Discovery – The discovery process today is less of an exchange of documents and more of an exchange of data. The world sends over 60 billion e-mails daily and 90% of all documents generated in business today are electronic.

4. Knowledge Management – This involves a number of practices implemented by an organization to identify, catalogue and understand the insights and experiences of the organization’s personnel. This knowledge enhances the effectiveness and efficiency of the law firm experience. This involves a collection of best practice documents, document templates and processes so that the firm can capture the processes or chronological steps to follow to complete a particular activity.

5. Web 2.0 – This is the popular term for advanced Internet technology and applications including blogs, wikis, RSS and social bookmarking. Do you tweet? Blogs and wikis enable firms to publish and share their expertise. It’s all about marketing!

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