Screw-Ups

I used to have nightmares about the red pen, until I started drinking before bed.

As regular readers of this website will note, my grammar and spelling is not too well. As regular readers of this website will also note, this is a blog, not a legal document or a court filing. When I wrote legal documents for a living, I also had legal secretaries who would fix some of the liberties I’d take with the English language. Even without that help, no document leaves a Biglaw office until it has been looked at by a bunch of people. A typo emanating from my desk would have had to escape the notice of at least three other people before making it out of the building.

I could not have survived in the small-firm or solo practitioner environment. Without people who dot an “i,” and cross a “t,” and say, “I have no earthly idea of what you are trying to say, because your sentence has three subjects and no predicates,” I’m in a bit of trouble.

I’d probably end up looking a lot like Howard Roy Schechter — a California lawyer who seemingly sent out a cease-and-desist letter that could have been written in crayon for its childlike attention to detail….

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Federal judges don’t take kindly to misstatements by counsel appearing before them. And when the judge is unhappy, the client is unhappy. And when the client is unhappy, outside counsel gets cashiered. It’s not a pretty process.

Let’s travel down to south Florida, where an allegedly incorrect statement by a partner at Greenberg Traurig has incurred the wrath of a federal judge — apparently resulting in the client replacing the firm, and the firm parting ways with the partner.

It’s a cautionary tale for litigators….

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Matthew Powers: 'pimp hands' don't knot neckties.

The renowned IP litigator Matthew Powers, founding partner of Tensegrity Law Group, has a nickname here at Above the Law. We like to call him Matt “Pimp Hand” Powers. Back in 2008, a paralegal at Weil Gotshal alleged in a lawsuit that Powers, former cochair of litigation at Weil, ruled over his domain by alternating between use of the “pimp hand” and the “mojo hand.” The “pimp hand” was used to intimidate and coerce, while the “mojo hand” was used to stroke and cajole.

Over the years, numerous litigants have felt the sting of Powers’s pimp hand. He has been described, quite accurately, as “one of the most feared, respected, and successful patent litigators in the country.” As noted on his website bio, Matt Powers “is known for taking tough cases to trial and winning them,” on behalf of leading technology companies like Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, and Intel.

But now the tables have turned. Powers recently found himself on the receiving end of a benchslap — from a lowly administrative law judge, ick….

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Judge Bruce Markell

Were there ever a time to use “fail,” as the contemporary vernacular permits, it is now, and in reference to this deplorable display of legal representation: it was an epic fail.

– Judge Bruce Markell, in a recent opinion in a Las Vegas Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding, which concluded that the debtors’ attorneys, Barry Levinson and Jeremy Mondejar, should be sanctioned for their ineffective representation.

(What did these Cooley Law graduates allegedly do to irk Judge Markell in this way? Take a look, after the jump.)

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King & Spalding has had fun times navigating the world of LGBT political correctness. The firm took some heat when one of its partners at the time, former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, signed on to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. Then K&S took even more heat when it nixed Clement’s DOMA representation, causing Clement to resign.

You know that King & Spalding just wants to stay as far away as possible from any LGBT issue. The only thing they want to have sex with is fees.

But sometimes, attempts to be PC lead directly to hilarity…

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Last Wednesday, we reported on Baylor Law School’s inadvertent release of personal academic information for its entire admitted class — names, addresses, GPAs, LSAT scores, and scholarship offers. Last Friday, my colleague Elie Mystal used this data to argue in defense of affirmative action.

We believe in offering a wide range of perspectives here at Above the Law. That’s one thing that’s nice about having four full-time writer/editors — myself, Elie, Staci Zaretsky, Chris Danzig — and about a dozen outside columnists.

Today we bring you a different viewpoint on the Baylor law admissions data. Prominent lawyer and blogger Ted Frank, previously profiled in these pages for his work in the class-action area, uses the same data to argue against affirmative action.

Let’s hear what he has to say, shall we?

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On Wednesday, we reported on Baylor Law School accidentally releasing personal academic information for its entire admitted class. It was a massive screw-up, and on Wednesday, we showed you the GPA and LSAT scores for Baylor’s admitted students (with the students’ names redacted, of course).

But there were other fields available in the accidentally released spreadsheet, including racial categorizations for each student and scholarship information. I didn’t include the race field earlier this week because, frankly, I didn’t want the entire news story (of the screw-up) to be overrun by a discussion about race and affirmative action.

But, look, I ain’t afraid of you people. Getting a complete racial breakdown of the class to go along with their grades and LSAT scores is a look inside the law school admissions process that we don’t often get to see.

So, let’s play our game. Looking at the Baylor numbers, you can see the affirmative action “bump” in LSAT scores, and to my eyes, it really shows how foolish the opponents of affirmative action really are….

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There are data breaches, and then there are data dummies. The people at Baylor Law seem to be in the latter category.

Nobody was trying to steal the personal information of the admitted students at Baylor Law. But a screw-up by someone at the school resulted in all of the personal information of the admitted class getting transmitted to everybody else in the admitted class.

All of it. Names, addresses, grades, and LSAT scores. Pretty much everything besides social security numbers.

And, we have it….

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Susan Cole isn't crazy, but her hair kind of is.

Almost everyone likes to fantasize and talk big game to their friends about outlandish strategies to get out of jury duty. But when it comes down to it, most normal people don’t have the balls to show up in court and act full-out crazy to avoid being seated.

For the courageous unpatriotic few who do play the nutso card, the most significant consequence would probably be a good cocktail party story. Nobody ever actually gets in trouble for creatively trying to avoid jury duty. Right?

Well, when you call in to the radio to tell your story of jury duty tomfoolery, you never know who is listening….

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When I was litigating, I was assigned an arbitration. At the behest of a partner, I was asked to represent a “friend of the firm.” Those of you who understand why those words are in quotes already know where this is going.

The “arbitration,” which was supposed to allow relaxed rules of evidence, and take place in an informal setting, was held instead in a beautifully wood-paneled courtroom, with a gallery full of spectators. The very cranky arbitrator, who turned out to be a bitter ex-judge, ruled against me on each and every evidentiary objection the other side raised. In other words, I was prepared to arbitrate a relatively minor dispute, but I found myself knee deep in a full-blown trial, and there was nothing I could do about it. I took it on the chin, and got my clock cleaned. The result for the client wasn’t terrible, but neither did it support my fee.

I still get the shivers when I recall how terrible that experience felt. I could go on about how the assigned judge in the case pressured me to accept arbitration, assuring me that the arbitrator was a fair-minded individual who’d likely cut the mustard in the case. Or about my adversary, who was chummy with the arbitrator (I found out later). Or, about the client himself, who refused to settle, no matter what strategy I tried.

But, ultimately, I blame myself. The fault for any shortcomings in the presentation were my own. I made almost every rookie mistake in the book. Reading that transcript makes me turn red with shame. But, I took it on the chin. And so it should be with your in-house practice…

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