Law Firms Give Back – With Turkeys reported this week about law firms that gave back to their communities by donating turkeys to those in need so that they could enjoy Thanksgiving.

  • imagesPandas Law Firm in Orlando, Florida has been giving away turkeys for seven years.  This year they gave away more than 3,000 turkeys.
  • Tully Rinckey of Albany, New York gave 200 turkeys to active and retired service members.  They have given for seven years.
  • Carrazzo Law of Tustin, California, a firm that handles anti-police brutality civil and criminal cases, donated turkeys and other groceries for the third year to families of victims killed by law enforcement officers.
  • TorHoerman Law of Edwardsville, Illinois gave away hundreds of turkeys for the second year in a row.

LPR applauds these and other law firms that give back to their communities.  We hope everyone had a festive and thanks-filled holiday.

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What’s “An Agreement To Agree”?

Well, for starters, it’s not enforceable in Texas.  And it can form the basis of a hefty legal malpractice suit as a client of Texas law firm Andrews Kurth discovered when the jury awarded him about $200 million against the firm.

large_LegalMalpracticeAccording to a November 17, 2015 article on, titled Which Biglaw Firm Just Got Hit With A $200 Million Malpractice Verdict?, Scott D. Martin sued Andrews Kurth for malpractice and won the huge jury verdict.  Mr. Martin was reportedly in a dispute with his brother regarding the family business, and after attending mediation with his mother, a proposed settlement agreement was drafted and signed by his mother and brother. According to the lawsuit, Andrews Kurth reviewed the proposed agreement and advised Mr. Martin that the agreement protected his interests.  However, when his brother breached the agreement and Mr. Martin sued, he learned that the agreement was an “unenforceable agreement to agree.”  In other words, despite the law firm’s $6 million bill to Mr. Martin, he alleged their advice amounted to malpractice.  During litigation, he also discovered the firm’s internal emails mocking him and his “precarious financial condition.”

The firm issued a statement disagreeing with the verdict and vowing to seek post-verdict and possibly appellate relief, which could take years.  Mr. Martin’s Motion for Entry of Judgment and supporting documents, including the verdict sheets, are available here from Above the Law.

This case should be a cautionary tale for legal consumers and attorneys alike.  Any law firm (big or small) can give bad advice, attorneys can (but shouldn’t) be crass, and malpractice suits can (and usually do) take years – especially if the appellate courts are involved.

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More Technology for Legal Consumers in Massachusetts

Attorney William Palin is at it again, this time with his PaperWork app for iOS, which enables family law legal consumers in Massachusetts to fill out, edit and save documents in Family Court.  The app allows the user to share the documents with others and to sync between iOS devices.  The Massachusetts Child Support and Alimony Calculators are included in the app, and users can set reminders and local notifications.

paperWorkMr. Palin is a 2012 law school graduate, an adjunct professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, and a legal technology developer.  He developed the PaperHealth app that we blogged about in February, which enables legal consumers to “quickly and efficiently assign a HealthCare Proxy or create a ‘Living Will’ in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

By recognizing that technology can automate rote legal tasks, like filling out court forms, Mr. Palin is on the cutting edge of legal reform.  He is quoted in Suffolk Law Alumni Magazine as understanding that his apps will result in the loss of cash flow for law firms that are otherwise “billing multiple hours on a simple document that, with technology, can be generated in minutes.”

The creation of a simple document shouldn’t be the critical and time-consuming element of the [attorney-client] interaction. Instead it should be the attorney’s analysis and counsel.

LPR applauds Mr. Palin and his contribution to reforming legal practices in Massachusetts.  We hope that Mr. Palin’s technologies are expanded so that they become available to legal consumers in every jurisdiction.


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It’s National Love Your Lawyer Day!

The American Lawyers Public Image Association (ALPIA) announced in a press release that November 6, 2015 is National Love Your Lawyer Day and to commemorate the occasion, ALPIA is asking the public to cease lawyer jokes and bashing for the day.  Rather than bad-mouthing your attorney or the judge presiding over your case, ALPIA asks you to celebrate them.

269206Call your attorney and say Happy Lawyer’s Day! or thanks for doing a great job, or even send a gift, flowers or a card . . . Lawyers are always painted as the bad guy, even if they pull off some crazy Houdini-esque maneuvers to help their clients. We’re hoping this day will spark public interest in commending lawyers rather than condemning them.

This annual event that occurs on the first Friday of November was established in 2001. According to ALPIA, dissing lawyers on National Love Your Lawyer Day is “a big no-no and considered in poor taste,” and anyone who engages in lawyer bashing on this day is asked to donate $20 per bash to charity.  ALPIA is also asking lawyers to provide at least one hour of pro bono work or donate one billable hour to Childreach International or Make-A-Wish Foundation in celebration of the day.

Beginning this year, ALPIA has expanded the celebration globally.

National (and now International) Love Your Lawyer Day (formerly “I Love My Lawyer Day”) is the single greatest pro-lawyer event in the world. It is celebrated on every first Friday of November. Established by ALPIA in 2001, Love Your Lawyer Day is a day of lawyer and judge appreciation in which the public, lawyers, judges, bar associations and other legal organizations are asked to participate.

On this National Love Your Lawyer Day, LPR commends all of the lawyers and judges who work tirelessly for the legal consumer and who treat them with respect.

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Attorney Fear And The Effect On You

We have written before about the attorney/client relationship and the benefits of understanding your attorney’s perspective.  Shedding more light on the subject, University of Missouri emeritus professor of law John Lande has researched and compiled a list of common attorney fears.  Professor Lande’s list is enumerated in the November 1, 2015 article titled 32 of lawyers’ most common fears

fear-198932_640The article details fears attorneys tend to face in litigation and in negotiation – all of which can be classified as performance anxiety.

According to Professor Lande, litigation fears include:

  • Lacking skill and confidence due to limited trial experience
  • Harming their clients’ interests
  • Being attacked or outsmarted by counterparts

And, negotiation fears include:

  • Insecurity about their negotiation skills or preparation
  • Being dominated or exploited by their counterparts
  • Making tactical errors

Attorneys are human and can at times suffer from self-doubt like anyone else.  Sometimes attorney fear manifests as bravado, anger or annoyance with a client, and/or client avoidance.  Regardless of the display, it is important to understand that if an attorney treats you improperly, it may not be anything you’ve done.  Sometimes it’s his or her fear talking.

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From “Grand Bargain” to “New Deal”?

Historically, certain professions, including attorneys, have enjoyed the benefits of a “Grand Bargain” with society – prestige, income and self-regulation – in exchange for their expertise, integrity and client-side manner.  But according to Richard and Daniel Susskind, father and son authors of the new book, The Future of the Professions, the “Grand Bargain” has deteriorated over the years.

The publisher, Oxford University Press, describes the book as follows:

9780198713395_140In an Internet society, according to Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind, we will neither need nor want doctors, teachers, accountants, architects, the clergy, consultants, lawyers, and many others, to work as they did in the 20th century.

*     *     *

The authors challenge the ‘grand bargain’ – the arrangement that grants various monopolies to today’s professionals. They argue that our current professions are antiquated, opaque and no longer affordable, and that the expertise of the best is enjoyed only by a few. In their place, they propose six new models for producing and distributing expertise in society.

In his October 21, 2015 post, Will there be a “New Deal” for the legal profession?, Paul Lippe, CEO of Legal OnRamp, praises the book and its authors.

The Future of The Professions is an especially useful book for lawyers, because it encourages us to think outside ourselves—both to see the parallels in other fields and to imagine a different future.

*     *     *

Or, as the Susskinds put it: ‘The professions should survive and prosper because they bring values and benefits that no system or tool can.’ To do that, we have to both understand and take the best from the New Normal, and refresh the Grand Bargain through our commitment to being the best profession we can be.

We wholeheartedly agree.

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Court Square Law Project To Serve Moderate-Income New Yorkers

The New York City Bar Association (NYCBA), The City University of New York Law School (CUNYLS), and a number of BigLaw firms have banned together to serve moderate-income legal consumers in New York who don’t qualify for legal aid – employing new law graduates to provide this service who would otherwise have to enter the over saturated legal market.  The NYCBA issued a press release on October 15, 2015 announcing the Court Square Law Project (Project) as an “innovative solution” to the current legal climate in New York.

courtsqAccording to the press release, the Project was borne out of the NYCBA’s Fall 2013 report titled Developing Legal Careers and Delivering Justice in the 21stCentury. The press release states that new law school graduates face a market plagued by an “oversupply” of lawyers.  It also addresses the access to justice crisis facing legal consumers with moderate means.

Nationwide, fewer than four in ten moderate-income individuals faced with a serious legal issue relating to personal finance, housing, employment, or similar matters seek professional assistance, and almost one quarter do nothing. It is difficult to find legal counsel at an affordable price and there are competing priorities for limited resources. In New York City, 99 percent of tenants are unrepresented in eviction cases; 99 percent of consumers are unrepresented in hundreds of thousands of consumer credit cases filed each year; and 97 percent of parents are unrepresented in child support matters.

The Project will draw aid from CUNYLS, BigLaw firms (its “Founding Sponsors”), and the NYCBA.  CUNYLS will supply the offices, research resources, information technology, and other support, as well as a “special graduate law program” for those chosen to participate. Each of the 19 “Founding Sponsor” BigLaw firms will contribute $100,000 in startup funding.  For it’s part, the NYCBA will provide seasoned bar members as mentors to the Project fellows and instructors.

The Project has been established as a five-year pilot program with no more than ten attorney fellows in each of the first four years.  Each fellow will be hired for a two-year “fellowship residency,” and will be paid a stipend.  The training, mentoring, supervision and experience the fellows receive are intended to enable them to transition into a “self-sustaining law practice.”

LPR hopes that this pilot program proves to be successful, and that more jurisdictions recognize and address the access to justice issues facing moderate-income legal consumers.

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Judicial Transparency

We have posted on a number of occasions about the benefits of cameras in the courtroom, and recently another controversy sparking video has surfaced.  In an August 8, 2015 post titled, Tearful woman gets judicial scolding, 3 days in jail for failing to show at domestic violence trial, the reported on a judge who finds a domestic violence victim in contempt of court for ignoring a summons and failing to appear to testify against her husband.  The video shows the victim trying to explain through tears why she did not appear.

At the end of the video, Seminole County, Florida Judge Jerri Collins sentences the woman to three days in the county jail.  Here’s a link to the approximately six-minute video:


The comments that follow the post reflect the differing views regarding judicial (and prosecutorial) conduct in domestic violence cases, specifically how the victims are relied upon and treated in the courtroom.  But regardless of the viewpoint, it is clear that without videos such as these, the discussion would be less informed.

We at LPR believe that cameras in the courtroom and judicial transparency are a net positive.  Legal consumers can get a glimpse of what to expect, judges can be praised or held accountable for their demeanor and rulings, and the judicial system as a whole can be improved.

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ABA and Rocket Lawyer Announce New Service For Small Business

On October 1, 2015, the American Bar Association (ABA) and Rocket Lawyer announced the launch of “ABA Law Connect,” which matches small businesses with lawyers.  $4.95 buys the small business one online question, answered by an ABA-member lawyer in the relevant jurisdiction, and a follow-up question.  Illinois, Pennsylvania and California are the initial test markets.

Document2According to the ABA press release, the program seeks to provide affordable avenues to legal services for small businesses and provide exposure to potential new clients for ABA members:

“ABA Law Connect is an exciting opportunity for the ABA and Rocket Lawyer to assist small businesses, connecting them with ABA members, and represents one of many efforts by the ABA to improve access to legal services,” ABA President Paulette Brown said. “By providing a low cost, highly accessible, online avenue for small business owners to get answers to basic legal questions, we hope to improve access to legal services while simultaneously offering our members potential new opportunities.”

As for Rocket Lawyer, its founder and CEO Charley Moore touts its cloud-based program:

It’s always been Rocket Lawyer’s mission to leverage technology in order to bring quality and affordable legal services to small businesses. . . . ABA Law Connect will open up new channels for small businesses to get the professional counsel they need.

But according to its website, Rocket Lawyer provides services for legal consumers as well:

Founded in 2008, Rocket Lawyer strives to make the law affordable and simple for everyone. With financial backing and technical support from Google Ventures and its other partners, Rocket Lawyer has developed a cloud-based platform connecting millions of people with the legal help they need, at a fraction of the traditional cost. Using simple Q&A interviews, as well as live consultations with attorneys on their mobile phones, tablets and desktop computers, small business owners, self-employed individuals and consumers can now manage a wide variety of legal situations with relative ease.

Hopefully, this will be a win-win for small businesses and legal consumers alike.  Only time will tell.

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Want To Be Persuasive? Try Storytelling

Whether you’re writing or arguing a brief, or arguing your case to a judge or jury, how successful you will be depends, in large part, on how persuasive you are.  And how persuasive you are can depend on how well you tell stories.

UnknownPhilip N. Meyer, professor at Vermont Law School and author of Storytelling for Lawyers, recently published an article on titled Going beyond the evidence to spin a story for your jury.  In his article, Professor Meyer makes the case that effective storytelling can persuade a jury to interpret the evidence in a manner favorable to the storyteller.  Consider Professor Meyer’s example from his book of Connecticut defense attorney Jeremiah Donovan’s artful closing argument in a complex murder case:

Louie Failla—one of eight co-defendants, reputed members of the Connecticut faction of the Patriarca crime family—was charged with multiple counts of racketeering in federal court in a 13-week trial. The most serious charge against Failla, a low-level soldier and driver for the leadership of the family, was for conspiracy to murder Tito Morales, his daughter’s former boyfriend and the father of Failla’s grandson.

Two mob informants had testified against Failla. But the most damaging testimony against Failla came from his own mouth. His Cadillac had been bugged by the FBI, and Failla was a man condemned by his own words. In surveillance tapes played at trial, Failla’s gravelly voice is heard plotting Morales’ execution under orders of the cruel mob boss Billy “the Wild Guy” Grasso, along with the two mob henchmen who also testified against Failla.  

*     *     *

In his closing argument, . . . Donovan depicts Failla as a “verbal chameleon,” a narrative trickster, torn between the demands of his adopted mob family on one side and his love of his real family, including Morales, on the other.

*     *     *

In Donovan’s counterstory, Failla merely pretends to go along with the murder conspiracy in order to stall the other mobsters, but he does nothing to carry out the execution.

Although having solid evidence to contradict the opposing facts is best, when presented with one set of facts, as in the example above, it is important to remember that most facts can be interpreted more than one way.  And, interpreting those facts in the context of a plausible story can go a long way to persuade the fact-finder to rule in your favor.

Related article:

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