Litigation

As part of our continuing coverage of Maximus, err, Kim Dotcom, the charismatic, renegade technology leader of Megaupload who appears to be in the process of defying an entertainment empire, let’s take a quick look at the most recent filings in his copyright fight with United States government.

Plus, more importantly, we have a look at Dotcom’s awesome new Twitter feed. Spoiler alert: the account includes photographic evidence of money “laundering,” “racketeering,” and a guest appearance by the Woz…

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We have covered the lawsuit filed — and tenaciously fought — by Paul Ceglia against Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg for quite some time now. The embattled entrepreneur/businessman/whatever claims he owns 50 percent of Facebook, according to a contract allegedly signed between him and Zuckerberg back in 2003.

To be frank, Ceglia is not the most popular litigant. He has been fined by the court, dropped as a client by several respected firms, and roundly criticized by Facebook’s counsel and by the media (including some writers for this particular publication).

Today, we have some updates in the case. Facebook’s attorneys at Gibson Dunn are not impressed, but Ceglia claims the new developments could be game changers. Oh yeah, and we also have an interview with Paul Ceglia, where he dishes on the Facebook case, his other inventions, and his general opinion of the legal profession…

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I’ve recently heard two seemingly related thoughts: (1) lawyers’ legal skills deteriorate when they go in-house and (2) this makes it harder to move back to a law firm.

I doubt that the difficulty in moving from an in-house job to a law firm (if that difficulty exists at all) has anything to do with one’s skills having deteriorated. Although one headhunter recently told me that it’s hard to go back to a firm after you cross the in-house Rubicon, he insisted that was because most in-house lawyers won’t naturally bring a book of business to the firm that hires them. (I stuck the qualifier “most” in there intentionally. Some in-house lawyers move to a firm, bring the corporation’s legal work with them, and do quite well. But that’s not the typical situation.) It’s no surprise that lawyers who bring clients with them find jobs more easily than lawyers who do not. In-house lawyers often can’t guarantee that business will travel with them, so it’s possible that in-house lawyers are less attractive candidates for firms.

But that’s not my main point today. I also don’t agree that moving in-house automatically causes a lawyer’s skills to deteriorate. How going in-house will affect your skills depends on the nature of your in-house position, how your corporation works, and what skills you’re thinking about . . .

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How would you like to be pursued by the Angel of Death? It doesn’t sound like much fun, right?

But it’s the latest plague to be visited upon certain former leaders of the now-bankrupt law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf. Former D&L partner Henry C. Bunsow — nicknamed the Angel of Death by Alison Frankel of Thomson Reuters, due to his status as an ex-partner of three failed firms (Brobeck, Howrey, and Dewey) — has sued former leaders of Dewey, alleging that they misrepresented the firm’s finances.

Let’s learn about his allegations, as well as catch up on the latest wranglings in the Dewey bankruptcy case….

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Last week, I headed downtown to meet with Stephen A. Weiss and Eric Jaso, partners at the Seeger Weiss litigation boutique. Weiss co-founded the firm with Christopher Seeger in 1999. Jaso, who just joined the firm from Stone & Magnanini, is a friend and former colleague of mine from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They kindly agreed to be interviewed about what it’s like to work at an elite, plaintiff-side litigation firm.

Here at Above the Law, we’ve always had strong coverage of the large, defense-oriented firms that collectively constitute Biglaw. In the past few years, however, we have dramatically expanded our offerings related to smaller law firms. We currently have three columnists — Brian Tannebaum, Tom Wallerstein, and Valerie Katz — writing in this space, in addition to the small-firm coverage generated by our other writers.

Consistent with this editorial expansion, I was eager to meet with Weiss and Jaso and hear about Seeger Weiss (which is relatively large for a plaintiffs’ firm, but small compared to a Biglaw firm). I’ve always wondered why more law school graduates don’t go into plaintiffs’ work and why we don’t hear about this side of practice as much. It can represent a chance to do well while also doing good, by vindicating victims’ rights or blowing the whistle on misconduct — especially in the qui tam practice area, a focus of Seeger Weiss.

Here’s what Weiss and Jaso had to say….

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For a litigator, DLA Piper partner Laura L. Flippin didn’t do herself any favors on the stand.

As we mentioned in Non-Sequiturs last night, Judge Colleen K. Killilea of Virginia’s 9th Judicial District accused Flippin — an ATL fan favorite, and former lawyer of the month — of lying under oath. Judge Killilea then found Flippin guilty of public intoxication.

We first wrote about Laura Flippin back in October, when she was arrested for public intoxication after an event for her undergraduate alma mater, William and Mary. Police reports claimed that Flippin blew a .253 BAC and needed help standing up.

But when she was on the stand, here’s what she told the judge about how much she had to drink….

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We have been covering the Justice Department’s case against Megaupload, the formerly massive file hosting site, ever since the government shut it down in January.

We have seen the government’s piracy case devolve from a slamdunk into a slopfest with what appears to be less and less of a chance of successful prosecution. Although charismatic CEO Kim Dotcom is still under house arrest in New Zealand, judicial officials there are getting frustrated with the United States. And the company’s attorneys at Quinn Emanuel are still continuing their assault against the Feds. The firm filed two important briefs yesterday, which could significantly impact the future of the case…

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It is no secret that electronic discovery is not exactly fun or glamorous work. Entry-level associates who have to do document review almost universally hate it. But how important is it, really? Can one deny that e-discovery has become a crucial part of the litigation system?

Has it become important enough to merit its own class in law school? At least one Midwestern law professor thinks so. Read about his plan to integrate it into his law school, and let us know your opinion in our reader poll

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The supremely successful Quinn Emanuel, one of the nation’s leading litigation firms, is known for many things within Biglaw. It secures amazing results for its clients, which help generate sky-high profits per partner. It pays its associates well; it’s one of the few firms providing spring bonuses this year (along with Sullivan & Cromwell). And it enjoys a reputation for innovation, a willingness to experiment with new things (e.g., a revamped recruiting model, a founding partner on Twitter).

Interestingly enough, despite the firm’s flashiness, Quinn also has an academic bent. The QE partnership includes such scholars as Kathleen Sullivan, former dean of Stanford Law School (and the first female name partner in the Am Law 100), and Susan Estrich, who still teaches at USC Law.

Joining these leading litigatrices is another prominent professor, with an international orientation….

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Tom Wallerstein

As readers of this site’s “Lawyer of the Day” posts everyone knows, lawyers and their clients can be guilty of all kinds of outrageous behavior. Litigation especially, with its inherently adversarial nature, seems to bring out the worst in people.

Bad behavior by lawyers comes in many forms. To non-lawyers, most if not all lawyers are jerks or worse. All bad behavior by lawyers is lumped together. But there are important differences.

A lot of bad behavior should be avoided simply because it is counter-productive. For example, an attorney may refuse to offer voluntary extensions of time to respond to discovery, or to a complaint. Aside from violating a principle of professional courtesy, that behavior also is ultimately self-destructive. In litigation, what comes around goes around, and granting extensions of time that will not prejudice your client is a prudent way to ensure later modest courtesies for yourself when needed.

Declining modest extensions to respond to discovery requests is especially unwise, as the responding party can always just serve objections, with the intention of serving substantive responses before a motion to compel can be filed. Because there is no instantaneous remedy for a failure to serve substantive responses, you often have little to gain by refusing a request for a modest extension of time.

Continue reading to find out when bad behavior crosses the line….

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