Do you remember those Viagra commercials where they tell you to seek medical attention if you’ve had an erection for more than four hours? That seems like a logical course of action — after all, it’s sometimes possible to have too much of a good thing. But what happens when you’re not taking an erectile dysfunction medication, and you’ve been standing at attention for an entire day or more? What should you do then?
Well, most men would take to WebMD in a heartbeat if they knew that their junk was at stake. Most men would immediately seek medical attention, regardless of a potentially long wait time at the hospital, because most men are fairly attached to their penises.
But not this man — he waited politely and patiently to find out that his penis was ruined….
It’s easy and popular to criticize America’s tendency towards over-litigiousness. You can talk and argue all day over abstract ideas, but have you seen the numbers all laid out in a handy-dandy infographic? No? Well, we have a special treat for you….
A wise man once said: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
I think of this whenever there are claims of attorneys royally screwing up e-discovery. It’s easy to indulge in some schadenfreude and say, “What suckers!” But truthfully, many firms — even the big, prestigious ones — are more vulnerable than they’d like to admit.
This month, McDermott Will & Emery ended up in the bright, unpleasant spotlight, because a former client sued the firm for malpractice.
Why, you might ask? The firm allegedly botched a client’s e-discovery.
Keep reading to see how the Am Law 100 firm became the e-discovery dunce du jour….
Well, this is pretty much my worst nightmare. Legal Profession Blog reports on the horrible story of Olufemi Nicol:
The Illinois Administrator has filed a complaint alleging that an attorney failed in bad faith to repay his student loans for a graduate business degree obtained after he graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1994. From 2006-2006, the attorney held several positions in business including a stint as president of Gear 7 in Los Angeles. The complaint alleges that the attorney received over $78,000 in loans in 2006 and signed two promissory notes. He allegedly has not made any payments on either note.
Okay, phew. I never took out additional loans for further education while I still owed money on my J.D. And I restarted payments — minimum payments — after I got a new job outside of Biglaw. I’m golden. AVOIDING DEBTOR’S PRISON SECURE!
Should Judge Richard Posner leave the Seventh Circuit and run for president? He certainly has the beginnings of a platform.
And, despite some possible leftward drift, Judge Posner’s tendencies still seem to point in a libertarian direction. From The Atlantic:
1. Remove all limits on the immigration of highly skilled workers, or persons of wealth. (This should be done gradually, so as not to increase unemployment while the unemployment rate remains very high.)
2. Decriminalize most drug offenses in order to reduce the prison population, perhaps by as much as a half, which will both economize on government expenditures and increase the number of workers. (Again and for the same reason, phase in gradually.)
3. Curtail medical malpractice liability, which increases medical costs gratuitously (because the courts are very poor at identifying actual malpractice) and, more important, engenders a great deal of very costly, and largely worthless, “defensive medicine.”
Is suing a former client for unpaid bills a wise idea? Maybe not. As John Marquess, president of Legal Cost Control, told the New York Law Journal, “If I were advising any law firm, I would tell them suing a client over fees is a no-win situation. It’s going to get you adverse publicity you may or may not recover from. And if it went before a jury, juries hate lawyers.”
And what if your ex-client is, say, a green company devoted to the cause of sustainable forestry? Going after that client seems like an even worse idea from a PR perspective. Al Gore would not approve.
But Debevoise & Plimpton decided to move forward anyway with its $6 million lawsuit for unpaid fees (see last item). Now the firm is on the receiving end of some unpleasant counterclaims. From Am Law Litigation Daily:
On Wednesday morning, Debevoise’s erstwhile client, Candlewood Timber Group, filed an answer and counterclaims against Debevoise, seeking damages of $55 million. And some of Candlewood’s allegations about its former law firm aren’t very flattering….
Candlewood now asserts that Debevoise made critical errors, missed major points, and billed excessively for the work of inexperienced lawyers. The firm’s deficiencies, according to Candlewood, forced the company to accept less in a settlement than it should have. The company’s counterclaim contrasts Debevoise with Candlewood’s Delaware counsel–Bouchard, Margules & Friedlander—which successfully represented the company for two-and-half years at a total cost of $450,000. “Over a 10-month pretrial and trial period–during which time D&P had the assistance of BM&F and later Susman–D&P managed to bill for more than 15,000 hours, the equivalent of 10 lawyers working full-time for the ten-month period,” Candlewood’s counterclaim alleges.
Fifteen thousand hours? Not bad. It may not be a Siemens, but this is still the kind of matter that should throw off millions in fees (too bad for Debevoise that they weren’t paid, at least not in full).
More about Candlewood’s claims — plus highlights from the retainer letter, including D&P billing rates — after the jump.
A financing unit of Cerberus Capital Management L.P. has sued Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, claiming the law firm gave it bad advice in connection with a loan the private equity firm made last year to a company looking to bring retailer Steve & Barry’s out of bankruptcy.
Ableco Finance LLC, a unit of Cerberus with more than $6 billion under management, filed an amended complaint Friday in Manhattan Supreme Court against its former lawyers seeking more than $55 million it said it lost because of the $125 million loan. Ableco claims it would never have made the loan last year if the Paul Hastings team had advised it that the buyer would not have rights to all of Steve & Barry’s inventory, which Ableco understood would back the loan.
“No competent, diligent finance lawyer would have put his client in such a vulnerable position,” Ableco’s complaint reads in part.
Ouch. We agree with Ashby Jones of the WSJ Law Blog: “It’s never good for a law firm to get sued by one of its clients. But when the client is a deep-pocketed heavyweight like private-equity giant Cerberus, the news is probably especially unwelcome.”
But Paul Hastings is fighting back, with the help of high-powered counsel.
Getting sued for malpractice, even if the claims lack merit, is never fun. Earlier this week, we wrote about Seyfarth Shaw, which is being sued by Tae Bo star Billy Blanks for malpractice (and being sued by a current partner for breach of fiduciary duty, among other claims).
Let’s declare this week “West Coast Malpractice Week” here at Above the Law. Yesterday a California appellate court reinstated a malpractice lawsuit against the super-prestigious firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and two of its partners, George Newcombe and Alexis Coll-Very, based in STB’s Palo Alto office.
The underlying lawsuit is somewhat complex; here’s the gist of it. Simpson Thacher represented PrediWave Corporation, a (now-bankrupt) California technology company, and its former CEO and president, Jianping “Tony” Qu. Prediwave alleges that Tony Qu was essentially looting the company, siphoning away its assets, and that Simpson Thacher — which represented both the company and Qu, a claimed conflict of interest — didn’t adequately protect the company’s interests against Qu (and even made it more difficult for the company to investigate Qu and his alleged self-dealing).
In the trial court, Simpson Thacher — represented by another powerhouse firm, Munger, Tolles & Olson (aka West Coast magnet for SCOTUS clerks) — won dismissal of the lawsuit, pursuant to California’s “anti-SLAPP” statute. If you’re not familiar with anti-SLAPP statutes, one of a blogger’s best friends (along with Section 230), here’s a brief description:
SLAPPs are Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. SLAPPs are lawsuits filed against people or organizations because they have exercised their right to petition the government or speak out on public issues. SLAPPs frequently contain claims for libel, slander, defamation, malicious prosecution, and/or abuse of process.
Can an anti-SLAPP law be used to secure swift dismissal of a malpractice action brought by a client against its former counsel? PrediWave, represented by Squire Sanders and California appellate boutique Horvitz & Levy (previously discussed here), argued that this is not a proper application of the statute. In its opinion (PDF), the California Court of Appeal (Sixth Appellate District) agreed, reinstating the suit against Simpson. (The court did not address the underlying merits of the case, leaving those to the trial court on remand.)
More discussion — including a statement from Simpson Thacher, which calls Prediwave’s claims “baseless” and declares that STB will “defend this claim vigorously” — after the jump.
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
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The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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