Happy Holidays

JOY

LPR wishes all legal consumers and providers a festive holiday filled with peace and joy.

In celebration of the holiday, LPR will be closed through the New Year.

We hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year!

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The ABA Journal’s 9th Annual Blawg 100 – A Great Resource

The ABA Journal announced this year’s Blawg 100 in a December 1, 2015 post titled The 9th Annual Blawg 100.  In its post, the ABA Journal showcases blogs chosen with the help of its readers and bloggers, with certain of the blogs attaining a spot in the ABA Journal’s 2015 Blawg 100 Hall of Fame.

Illustration by Monica Burciaga and Stephen Webster for ABA Journal

Illustration by Monica Burciaga and Stephen Webster for ABA Journal

The ABA Journal also lists a slew of blogs on its Blawg Directory, which are searchable by topic, author type, region, law school and courts.  Any legal consumer who has an issue should consider this site as a resource.  However, it is important to note that the law on certain subjects can be different in different states, so the region search function can be particularly helpful.

Featured this week on the Blawg Directory, is the JAMS ADR Blog  The ABA Journal describes the blog as follows:

Blog posts educate readers about the positives of and the limitations of alternative dispute resolutions. Authors include advice for both practitioners and for clients, and they explain how arbitration and mediation work in the real world. They also discuss updates to ADR laws and regulations.

LPR applauds the ABA Journal for doing its part to help to educate legal consumers.  It’s 9th Annual Blawg 100 is a great resource.

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If It Can Happen To 50 Cent . . . It Can Happen To You

Rapper 50 Cent’s legal bills are under scrutiny by a Connecticut bankruptcy court.  50 Cent filed for bankruptcy after losing an invasion of privacy case for posting a woman’s sex tape online, in which the jury awarded her $7 million.  Now, according to the New York Daily News, that woman is challenging 50 Cent’s legal bills, because her $7 million judgment and his attorneys’ bills will both be paid out of the limited funds in his bankruptcy.

50 Cent

50 Cent

With her payment now tied up in [50 Cent’s] bankruptcy case, she’s challenging the $123,455.92 that his Dallas-based lawyers are seeking for expenses related to the invasion of privacy case.

*     *     *

She blasts the expenses as “extravagant, excessive and unreasonable,” noting that her own legal team spent less than $3,000 “when they prepared for and engaged in the same trial as the [Dallas] Firm.”

The woman claims that 50 Cent’s attorneys spent too much on hotel rooms, court reporter fees, legal research and travel fees.  If in fact, the woman’s attorneys spent $3,000 in expenses compared to 50 Cent’s attorney’s $123,000, there is a strong argument that the expenses were excessive.

Although 50 Cent supports his attorneys and the fees charged, there is a lesson here for all legal consumers.  Attorney billings often include expenses, which can sometimes get out of hand.  It’s important to fully understand the retention agreement’s provision relating to expenses and to keep an eye on the expenses billed.  Because, if it can happen to 50 Cent . . . it can happen to you.

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Law Firms Give Back – With Turkeys

Abajournal.com 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 abovethelaw.com, 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 abajournal.com 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 abajournal.com 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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