Malpractice

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara

* U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara wants to know more about why Governor Andrew Cuomo shut down an anticorruption commission. [New York Times]

* The ABA weighs in on the “unfinished business” controversy affecting bankrupt law firms, their lawyers, and their clients. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Better late than never: students and professors at UC Davis Law are pushing for the posthumous admission to the California bar of Hong Yeng Chang, who was denied a law license in 1890 solely because of his Chinese heritage. [Associated Press; South China Morning Post]

* Speaking of late, a robber sent to prison 13 years late because of a clerical error just got released. [ABA Journal]

* Drones could claim another victim: the First Circuit nomination of Harvard law professor David Barron. [How Appealing]

* Who still wants a landline phone? The jury foreman in the latest Apple-Samsung battle, who is sick and tired of cellphones after the month-long trial. [The Recorder (sub. req.)]

* Not such a Great Adventure: “Cadwalader To Pay $17M In Six Flags Malpractice Fight.” [Law360 (sub. req.)]

Most days, I’m proud of owning my own small law firm. And while technically, I’m not a solo — I’ve had an assistant for over eight years now as well as a revolving crew of of counsel, part-time associates and independent contractors — many of my colleagues lump me and most very small law firms into that category nonetheless. So when other solos act foolishly or unprofessionally, it reflects poorly on the rest of us.

Understand, I’m not picking on solos.  Let’s face it — large law firms are hardly paragons of upstanding conduct; one needn’t look further than the recent Dewey & LeBoeuf scandal as proof. But for whatever reason, when Biglaw behaves badly, that conduct doesn’t diminish the reputation of Biglaw in the eyes of judges and other lawyers as it does for solos.  

So that’s why it bugs me when solos do stupid — and often avoidable — things. Here are my top three peeves:

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When I started my law firm twenty years ago, there were just five things that I knew.

I knew I didn’t have any clients. I knew that my husband and I could scarcely afford the loss of my paycheck, let alone come up capital for me to invest in my practice. I knew that I was way too mortified at having been laid off from my former firm to share the real reason for starting my own firm.  I knew that when I finally opened for business, in truth, I was just putting on a game face every day, biding my time until something else came along or until I got pregnant and could, like some of my other law school classmates, gracefully exit the law.  But I also knew, somewhere deep down, that I had it in me to be a good lawyer.

Those five things are all that I knew for sure when I started my law firm. Clearly I had a lot to learn.  And while there was plenty of information on the black-letter, nuts-and-bolts aspects of starting a firm, the kind of advice that I really wanted to know to jump-start my practice — specifically, whether the solo option was actually feasible — was in short supply.  Moreover, as an attorney with a traditionally big-firm practice (energy regulatory law and litigation), I was even worse off because attorneys familiar with my field and doing what I hoped to were particularly rare.

So to spare those of you starting out from what I went through, here are five things that I wish someone would have told me when I started out:

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Are partners just puppets of their law firms’ clients?

Mr. Armstrong sat at the controls of Morgan Stanley, which employed and paid Blank Rome millions of dollars in fees, thus allowing Blank Rome to be the ultimate ‘puppet master,’ as Blank Rome could control Ms. Armstrong’s divorce litigation in a manner designed to protect Morgan Stanley.

Jonathan Sack, counsel to Kristina Armstrong, in a malpractice lawsuit that Armstrong just filed against her former divorce lawyers at Blank Rome.

(More about Armstrong’s allegations, after the jump.)

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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….

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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….

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Be forewarned: I’m citing case law here, so if that scares you, stop reading now.

There are two things lawyers are doing wrong when it comes to scope of representation, as in, “What is your obligation to this client?”

The failure to comprehend this critical concept begins when you are retained, and rears its head again when the representation is over.

So let’s talk about the dumbass things you are doing to complicate your life, and how to fix them.

First, understand that there are few things more important than a “scope of representation” clause in your retainer agreement….

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* The TSA must be stopped. They’re now leaving creepy notes when they spy personal items in your luggage. [Not So Private Parts / Forbes]

* Law students, trust me, there’s nothing on your Facebook page that three more points on the LSAT won’t fix. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Berkeley Law 1Ls are playing an awesome game of assassin. Man, I miss college. I mean law school. [Nuts & Boalts]

* Would there even be medical malpractice if libertarians ruled the world? [Overlawyered]

* The Casey Anthony jurors are probably dying for a closeup. [Huffington Post]

* The future of Law and Economics. [Truth on the Market]

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….

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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!

But this Nicol guy? Yeah, sounds like he’s screwed. Law Shucks picks up the story….

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