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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The cost of compliance

Many in-house types have been worried about the cost of compliance since Sarbanes-Oxley, and recent data on accounting salaries show that there may be cause for continuing concern.

According to the 2008 Salary Guide from Robert Half, public accountants are expected to see a bump in pay anywhere from 5.5 percent to 7.7 percent — several percentage points higher than the projected salary hikes for corporate accountants.

Will this translate into higher bills for those internal control reports? Here’s the numbers:

Audit, tax and management services

Large firms
Senior manager/director: +7.4%
Manager: +7%
Senior: +6.1%
1 to 3 years: +5.7%
Up to 1 year: +5.5%

Midsize firms
Senior manager/director: +7.7%
Manager: +7%
Senior: +6.2%
1 to 3 years: +6.4%
Up to 1 year: +6.3%

Small firms
Senior manager/director: +7%
Manager: +7.6%
Senior: +6%
1 to 3 years: +7.7%
Up to 1 year: +6.4%

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A perspective on Paulose: A tough tenure draws to a close

The news that Rachel Paulose would be leaving as U.S. attorney was hardly shocking. (See "Minnesota's embattled U.S. attorney steps down" in the Star Tribune.) And I am sure that there are many in the U.S. Attorney’s Office rejoicing. The gulf that had grown between our 34-year-old U.S. attorney and her staff was wide, and, in the end, proved insurmountable.

I believe that Paulose made the right choice in opting to end her often stormy tenure and accept a policy job in main Justice in Washington, D.C.

It has always been my belief that it was a management situation causing the disruptions at the office. Paulose has sterling academic credentials and a highly impressive resume for her age. But she had little real management experience.

Intent on impressing her bosses and no doubt deeply believing in her priorities, she plowed ahead and redirected the office without getting buy-in from the troops. She was also reportedly sometimes dictatorial in manner and abrasive toward subordinates. These are rookie mistakes frequently made by inexperienced managers. But when that manager is in charge of 100 talented individuals at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and operating in a fishbowl, there is little room for error.

While I am not adverse to occasionally giving an important role to a highly talented young person and giving them a chance to grow into it, such a person needs guidance and support. As far as I can tell, such support was completely lacking from the problem-riddled Department of Justice.

While I did not agree with all the actions taken by some in Paulose’s office (particularly those leaking information), I believe that their motivations arose out of the difficult employment situation they found themselves in rather than race or gender animus.

And I likewise don't believe the charge bandied around the Web that Paulose somehow has racist tendencies. As a woman from an immigrant family from India, she found that speculation particularly hurtful. I know that she is willing at the drop of a hat to give a long list of past accomplishments showing her interest and commitment to the Civil Rights area, including her recent work in human trafficking, which often involves woman from foreign cultures.

So what are we left to think of Paulose?

I had the pleasure of getting to spend some time speaking with and getting to know Paulose while I was covering the various management-related controversies in her office. The Paulose I got to know was neither the Wicked Witch of the West that some of her detractors made her out to be nor the “St. Rachel” of some conservative blogs (and for that matter, of Katherine Kerstin’s somewhat over-the-top salute in the Star Tribune last May, “The Real Rachel Paulose.”)

I found Paulose to be a highly driven and even at times charming individual who also is a fallible human being. She is definitely conservative, but not very political. (Ironically, had she cared more about politics, she might have been able to rally some political support when she needed it so badly.) She is a brilliant woman with encyclopedic knowledge. Most surprising of all was the fact that Paulose has a keen sense of humor – albeit a wryly dry one.

Unfortunately, most of Paulose’s subordinates apparently never got to see this side of her. Because of her poorly developed management skills, she came across as aloof, condescending and inflexible. She was apparently so busy being defensive after being thrown in at the deep end of the pool that she never let her personality shine through.

Sadly, I think Paulose was starting to improve in recent months. She was no longer micromanaging, but instead was spending a lot of time on the road on outreach projects and delegating the day-to-day operations to her experienced deputies. Had she adopted this approach from the beginning, we would likely not be at this point now.

Then Paulose made her final misstep -- issuing a public comment online about the internal dispute in her office. It is ironic that that was the nail in Paulose’s coffin. She was generally very shy about talking on the record about anything for public consumption, no doubt due in part to her inexperience dealing with the media. I suppose the battering she was taking in the media and on the Internet finally got the best of her. Understandable, but unfortunate.

It is my hope that Paulose will view this as a learning experience rather than accept some of the easy excuses some of her more vocal supporters have been offering her. She was only 32 when she was thrust into a management situation that most 50 year olds couldn’t handle. She was given little or no good support from an incredibly dysfunctional DOJ. She struggled mightily, but was unable to pull it off in the end. No shame in that.

In short, Paulose is a remarkable young woman with a lot to offer. While I think higher-ups in the Administration did her a disservice by moving her along too far, too fast, I am equally sure she has already begun contemplating how she can get the seasoning she needs to make sure she is properly prepared for her next great challenge – be that in public service or the private sector. In the near term, I am glad to hear the people of the United States will continue to benefit from her extensive talents as she moves on to a role that is, for the present, better suited for her.

In closing, I would like to point out that Paulose’s tenure in Minnesota has not been wasted. Despite the internal problems, the office did some great work in investigating and prosecuting child-porn and human trafficking cases. I would not have that forgotten due to the recent turbulence. Minnesotans can truly be grateful to Paulose and the entire staff of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their Herculean efforts in those areas. It’s a legacy worth having.

Growing income gap for women lawyers

More bad news about gender equity in the law from the National Association of Women Lawyers' second national Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms.

Among its findings, the survey shows that there is a growing income gap
between men and women lawyers as they move up the partnership ranks, that
the large majority of women who start as associates in firms are not
promoted to equity positions or law firm leadership roles, and that law
firm governance is overwhelmingly male, with fully 15 percent of the surveyed
firms lacking a female on its top committee.

A news release from NAWL is available here, and ABA coverage of the survey is available here.

NAWL offers an interesting resource for women relative to these issues. It offers the "Connect, Listen and Learn" series, an teleconference book club that includes the author. December's book is "Tripping The Prom Queen: The Truth About Women and Rivalry" with Susan Shapiro Barash.

The site states, "As more women join law firms we need to think about ways to maximize the ways we work together. This book explores the world of women to women competition and how we often undermine each others efforts. ...Barash discusses the “underworld” of female relationships and ends with outlining ways that we can turn this competition into strength.

Also on NAWL's website is a picture of Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar with Holly English, NAWL's president. English visited Minnesota last month for the Minnesota Women Lawyers Rosalie Wahl Leadership Lecture, where she warned attendees this bad news on gender equity was coming, and emphasized the need for women lawyers to support and mentor each other.

Monday, November 19, 2007

By speaking out, has Paulose has stoked a dying fire?

As Minnesota Lawyer editor Mark Cohen mentioned on Friday, after months of keeping a relatively low profile, U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose has stepped back into the spotlight. But after all is said and done, she might wish she hadn’t.

Local conservative blogger Scott Johnson wrote an essay for the National Review’s blog dismantled Johnson’s article in a lengthy essay that went online today. MNPublius maintained that it was a curious strategy for Paulose to counter charges of partisanship by giving an exclusive to a strongly conservative blogger. And Steve Sack’s Star Tribune cartoon Monday made no bones about the lingering talk that Paulose got and has kept her post thanks mostly to loyalty toward the Bush administration (click on cartoon 2 in the ST’s Sack gallery).

In trying to defend herself, Paulose seems to be only leaving herself open for more criticism, all but erasing memories of her positive accomplishments.

UPDATE: The news has just broken that Paulose has resigned her post as U.S. Attorney to go to work for new U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey.