Friday, July 25, 2008

More On New Jersey Reprimands

As a follow up to yesterday's post, here is an article on the multiple reprimands imposed by the New Jersey Supreme Court that appeared in the South Jersey Courier Post:

Reprimands issued to 9 lawyers


Courier-Post Staff

The New Jersey Supreme Court has reprimanded nine lawyers who worked at the Tomar law firm, bringing an end to years-old misconduct claims against the now-defunct group.

Judges put three other one-time Tomar lawyers on probation.

As early as the 1960s, the Cherry Hill firm known as Tomar O'Brien Kaplan Jacoby and Graziano allowed its non-attorney employees -- such as secretaries and paralegal assistants -- to receive bonuses for referring cases to the business, attorneys with the firm said.

The state banished that practice by the late 1990s, allowing only trained, educated lawyers to receive financial incentives for identifying potential clients and referring them to their respective firms.

But whether Tomar continued to allow referral-based bonuses for other workers remained a question, according to court documents and attorneys with ties to the firm. The state Disciplinary Review Board started looking into the matter roughly eight years ago, after the firm, in a separate matter, voluntarily reported account problems, Chatham attorney Kevin Marino said.

Marino represents Ronald A. Graziano, who was managing partner at Tomar before it disbanded in 2003. The group specialized in labor law.

"At the time the firm engaged (in the bonus policy), it was not abundantly clear that it was an improper practice by any means," Marino said. "Now the court has cleared up" any ambiguity.

The reprimanded attorneys are Cynthia Ann Brassington, David T. Jacoby, Robert F. O'Brien, Alan H. Sklarsky, Robert M. Capuano, Howard S. Simonoff, Edward N. Adourian Jr., Alfred P. Vitarelli and Charles L. Winne, according to an order handed down Wednesday by the state Supreme Court.

The Disciplinary Review Board had suggested to the court that the Tomar firm be censured and that three attorneys -- Michael A. Kaplan, Charles H. Riley and Graziano -- serve short-term suspensions from the practice of law.

In the order, the court agreed that the misconduct of Kaplan, Graziano and Riley warranted suspensions. But because of "the extraordinary delay" in the case, along with their "otherwise-unblemished careers . . . and their exemplary service to the community," the court declined to impose suspensions.

Instead, it put Kaplan and Graziano on a yearlong probation term. Riley will spend six months on probation.

Also, each attorney named in the matter will reimburse the Disciplinary Oversight Committee for administrative costs and disciplinary expenses, according to the order. It notes that the court found no complaints lodged against the Tomar firm.

Capuano, a former Tomar lawyer from Marlton, said the ethics rules for bonuses are valid.

"It's mainly to protect the public," he said.

At the Tomar firm, though, the more liberal approach to bonuses did no harm to the public welfare, he said. Capuano said the firm acted with no ill intentions.

Marino, the attorney representing Graziano, said his client "is very pleased with the resolution."

"This was an extraordinarily long and arduous process," Marino said. "It's regrettable that so much of the past decade has been consumed with fighting these charges."

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner and Justices Virginia Long, Jaynee LaVecchia, John E. Wallace Jr., Roberto A. Rivera-Soto and Helen E. Hoens joined in the order. Justice Barry T. Albin did not participate, according to the order.

Neither the judges nor the Disciplinary Review Board members normally comment to the press on such matters, a court spokeswoman said.

Reach Adam Smeltz at (856) 486-2919 or

Thanks to a reader for sending this along. (Mike Frisch)

July 25, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Music Festival Arrest Leads To Charges

The Illinois ADRC has filed a complaint alleging misconduct in the personal life of an assistant public defender for Cook County. The allegations involve illegal drug use. According to the complaint, the accused was arrested at a music festival in Peoria, Illinois and convicted of a drug possession offense as a result. (Mike Frisch)

July 25, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rose of Aberlone and Other Cows in Plymouth, Michigan

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

About halfway between Detroit and Ann Arbor sits the cute little town of Plymouth, Michigan.  It's now a suburb of Detroit, but it wasn't always, and its claim to fame is that it is the home of the intersection of the east-west and north-south C&O railroad lines in Michigan.  Which means that you can be pretty well guaranteed of not making it out of town in any direction you drive.

As I'm still a member in good standing of the State Bar of Michigan, I get the Michigan Bar Journal (the repository of an article I wrote twenty-five years ago which was of no value whatsoever academically Rose speaking, but that's another story).  Well, it turns out that pretty little Kellogg Park, the Midwest equivalent of the town green, turns out to have all sorts of historic legal implications to it.  The June, 2008 issue of the MBJ highlights the rededication of the Rose of Aberlone plaque in the park.  As we all recall, Rose was the the breeder cow whose fertility or lack thereof was the subject of Sherwood v. Walker (Hiram of whiskey fame), the 1887 contract law chestnut.

But wait, there's even more legal significance to Kellogg Park.  First, if you examine the story, you'll see the reason for the rededication was the prior theft of the original plaque.   Far be it from me to cast aspersions, but I think you will agree that the left side of this page contains a nice list of the usual suspects, particularly toward the top.  So the criminal law clearly, it seems to me, has a place in the history of Kellogg Park.

We're not done.  I know all of this about Plymouth, Michigan, because I lived there for eight years, between 1980 and 1987, in two different houses.  It was a lovely place.  It was, however, at the time, a relatively homogeneous community, and I'm pretty sure my wife and I constituted a significant percentage of the Jewish population within the city limits (I think you can also verify that we were the only two votes in our precinct for Carter in 1980 and Mondale in 1984).   The town had a Yuletide custom.  The day after Thanksgiving, a creche with Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus would appear at the west end of the park, and three full size statuary magi would appear at the east end.  Every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, the magi would move just a little closer (from the east, get it?) toward the creche.  This bugged me no end for six years, and in the seventh, I met with the local community newspaper editor and muckraker, Ed Wendover, suggesting that he get on his First Amendment horse and say something.  Being a "free press" kind of guy, but not really an "establishment of religion" kind of guy, he prevailed on me instead to write a guest editorial, which in some spasm of recklessness or courage I did.

The next week Ed printed the responses to my editorial.  One of my friends from the local University of Michigan alumni club defended me, but the rest were, how shall we say, parochial and unsympathetic.  I won't say I became a pariah in town, but it did make for some interesting conversations with the neighbors at the round of holiday receptions.  I never worried too much about unruly mobs with torches and clubs, but I got a funny phone call one night.  I pick up the phone, and a young woman says, "why don't you turn to Channel 4?"  I do, and there's Ronnie and Nancy lighting the White House Christmas tree.  She says "whaddaya think of that?"  I am speechless, and hang up.

Six months later we moved, and I don't know if they still do the moving magi thing out in Kellogg Park.  But it's good to know they've commemorated some kind of cow.

July 25, 2008 in Law & Society | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Mandatory Malpractice Insurance For Virginia Lawyers?

The Virginia State Bar web page has recently posted a notice of proposed new rules that would require active bar members engaged in representing clients to obtain malpractice insurance:

The proposed rule changes for Paragraphs 18 and 19, providing that all active members of the Virginia State Bar engaged in the private practice of law representing clients (either individuals or entities) drawn from the general public be covered under a professional liability (malpractice) insurance policy, will be debated by the council of the Virginia State Bar at its October 17, 2008 meeting.

(Mike Frisch)

July 25, 2008 in The Practice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

State Residency Sufficient

The Supreme Court of Nevada has held that a candidate for a district judgeship satisfies residency requirements by being a resident of the state, not the district where judge will sit if elected:

We conclude that NRS 293.1755(1) imposes a state residency requirement for district judges, and we reject the opposing view that the statute establishes a district residency requirement.  Nevada law provides that district judges are “state officers”[6] who enjoy statewide jurisdiction. Accordingly, it follows that the office of a district judge is a “state office.”  Because the district judge position is a “state office,” we conclude that Montero has met NRS 293.1755(1)’s residency requirement for his candidacy because (1) Montero resides in the State of Nevada, to which the office of a Sixth Judicial District Judge “pertains”; and (2) if elected, he will have jurisdiction to hear cases in other judicial districts, as well as in the Sixth Judicial District.

(Mike Frisch)

July 24, 2008 in Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mikhail on Moral Intuition and Vining on Scientism versus Narrative

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

For the two or three of you out there who actually read my posts on issues relating to law, ethics, business, and moral theory, or the far greater number who'd like to read something good, let me recommend two very different, but thematically related, pieces.

First, John Mikhail's (Georgetown, left) recent SSRN post, a draft of Moral Grammar and Intuitive Jurisprudence: A Formal Model of Unconscious Moral and Legal Knowledge (THE PSYCHOLOGY OF LEARNING AND MOTIVATION: MORAL COGNITION AND DECISION MAKING, D. Medin, L. Skitka, C. W. 2065 Bauman, D. Bartels, eds., Vol. 50, Academic Press, 2009) (HT, as usual, Larry Solum).  Professor Mikhail does both empirical and theoretical work with what is known as the Trolley Problem:  how people react to variants of a basic hypothetical in which a runaway trolley will kill either six people or one person depending on which track it follows, and the moral agent has to decide whether or how to throw a switch.  The empirical side is that he and his colleagues have interviewed thousands of people all over the world; the theoretical side is the conclusion that there is indeed a hardwired and universal moral sense.  This book chapter proposes a model for how the intuitional process is working.

I've recently pondered (and posted about the pondering) in Law's Illusion:  Scientific Jurisprudence and the Struggle with Judgment. I had already footnoted Professor Mikhail's earlier work as among the most promising of the descriptive enterprises on moral intuition; after looking at this new piece, I added the following:

John Mikhail’s work is on the cutting edge in terms of integrating moral philosopy and cognitive science.  Several observations about it are appropriate here.  First, Mikhail and his colleagues conclude that extensive empirical work bears out the hypothesis “that most individuals would be unaware of the operative principles generating their moral intuitions, and thus largely incapable of correctly describing their own thought processes.”  This is an empirical foundation of my inquiry; Mikhail’s work appears to confirm my intuitions and casual observations over a lifetime of work.  Second, while respectful of the inordinate complexity of the task of setting intuitive moral decision-making into algorithms, Mikhail suggests that “[i]n principle, a computer program could be devised that could execute these rapid, intuitive, and highly automatic operations from start to finish.”  This is consistent with Douglas Hofstadter’s conclusion in his work on the issue of consciousness.  Third, Mikhail’s model still does not answer the questions about recursiveness – the operation of judgment on own’s own judgment – with which Hofstadter wrestles.  Finally, while Mikhail is hopeful of a reductive solution (as noted, as much a matter of faith as anything, in my view), the difference between theoretically solvable but practically unsolvable complexity, on one hand, and irreducibility, on the other, may well be meaningless for my purposes.

Second, Joseph Vining's (Michigan, right) The Resilience of Law, posted with the following abstract:  "The development of "law and economics" over the last half-century has expanded and reinforced a perception among academic lawyers that lawJvining itself is a social science. During the same period social science has moved closer to the discipline of natural science and the presuppositions and methods of its thought and work. This essay explores why law is not and cannot be a social science, and why there are grounds for hope in a future for democracy grounded in the rule of law." 

This is a rumination on another theme that intrigues me, the interplay of the objective and subjective, something I explored in Models and Games and the piece in the Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence that should be out any day now.  Vining draws on the narrative methodology, and observes:

Law will stay resilient because the individual at home in law is the bedrock, prior to any discussion of history or process, or presently existing system, or scientific conclusion, in fact prior to any discussion of "the individual."  Though some individual waves his wand at us again and again, we are not changed from the individuals we are into products or statistical notions.  Beyond that bedrock - our actual presence to one another - I should say there is some assurance in the fact that law, with its presuppositions and more than presupposition, its ontology, is the one thing other than food that we cannot do without.  Social scientists too, even they, cannot do without it.

And more:

Law will be tough enough in the future.  We can speculate why it has not been tougher in the past.  There are tensions within law, as there are in your and my own thought, and there always have been.  Identification of law with social science can have been an effort to escape them.  Social science and science behind it perhaps need not have pressed so.  They might just have offered themselves, for there is a constant pull toward the authoritarian, the meaningless, the automatic, away from responsibility, away from facing grief for what we ourselves do.  Work in law even has an element of the frightening in it, which must be handled in some way.  Just as there is biblical awe, dread, and fear, so too can it be positively frightening to think that what is  necessary to authenticity of any kind at any level - and necessary therefore to authority, and therefore to law - runs straight up to a transcendent dimension of the universe.  This is a problem the social scientist of our time, thinking as a social scientist, does not have.  But the lawyer does.

As Larry Solum says, both are highly recommended.  Download them while they're hot.

July 24, 2008 in Abstracts Highlights - Academic Articles on the Legal Profession | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Brothers Charged

The Illinois ARDC has filed a complaint alleging ethics violations by two brothers in connection with their representation of an estate and the widow of the deceased. One is charged with receiving a $100,000 loan from the widow for a home purchase; both are charged with having their children receice estate bequests of $25,000 each and with incompetent representation of the estate. According to the complaint:

Both Respondents had an attorney-client relationship with Delia Crosoli, the Estate of Louis Crosoli and the Estate of Delia Crosoli. As such, Respondents owed Delia Crosoli, the Estate of Louis Crosoli, the Estate of Delia Crosoli and their beneficiaries, fiduciary duties, including the obligation to act at all times with the highest degree of honesty, fidelity, loyalty and good faith, to avoid self-dealing, to avoid placing themselves in a position where their personal interests would conflict with the interests of their clients and to avoid dealing with the Crosolis’ property for their own unlawful benefit or unjust enrichment or for that of their own friends or family members. Further, Respondents, as trustee and successor trustee of Delia’s Trust, had a duty of loyalty and impartiality to the Trust beneficiaries, a duty to use reasonable care, prudence and skill in the management of Trust assets, a duty not to endanger the Trust property and a duty to pursue an investment strategy that considered both the reasonable production of income and the safety of capital.

(Mike Frisch)

July 24, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

No Discipline Against Defunct Firm, No Suspension For Lawyers

An order entered yesterday by the Supreme Court of New Jersey reviewed a Disciplinary Review Board report that had censured a defunct law firm for violations of supervisory responsibilities, fee sharing, improper compensation for employment recommendations and failure to report professional misconduct of another lawyer. The board also had proposed sanctions ranging from a one-year suspension to reprimand of four lawyers and no discipline of seven other lawyers associated with the firm.

The court had ordered six of the lawyers to show cause why discipline should not be imposed. Six consented to reprimands by the board. The court then determined that three of the lawyers should be placed on probation because of extraordinary delay that they did not cause, "their otherwise unblemished careers as attorneys, and their exemplary service to the community..." The censure of the firm was vacated and the other attorneys were reprimanded.

There is likely a lot more to this story than can be gleaned from the court's decision. If anyone can locate the board's report in electronic format, we would be grateful to receive it and expand on our discussion of this case. (Mike Frisch)

July 24, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Taking Case Violated Duty Of Competence

The Maryland Court of Appeals suspended an attorney for 90 days for ethical violations in two matters. The second matter is the interesting one - the client had filed a pro se suit against Montgomery County Crime Solvers claiming $500,000 as a reward for information that he had provided concerning the Beltway Sniper case. He also claimed to have provided information concerning the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein and sought $12.5 million for that information and another $12.5 million upon arrest. The trial court dismissed the claims.

The client was then referred by legal aid to an experienced lawyer, who declined the case. The sanctioned lawyer thereafter accepted a $3,500 non-refundable retainer plus 1/3 of amounts recovered to take on the case. The lawyer, unsurprisingly, "determined that there was little, if any, likelihood that the trial court's judgment could be overturned." He made a few phone calls and kept the full retainer fee.

Here, the court held that the lawyer violated his duty of competence "by agreeing to undertake a case that patently had no merit..." He also had failed to communicate with the client and collected an unreasonable fee: "he was not at liberty to accept money from [the client] for the representation. Any money he received...was unearned. " (Mike Frisch)

July 24, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Legal Malpractice Not a Compulsory Counterclaim

The New Mexico Supreme Court held that a legal malpractice action need not be brought as a compulsory counterclaim to an action brought by the law firm assserting a charging lien against the former client. The law firm had agreed to a settlement of the underlying litigation, purportedly without the client's consent. The trial court found that the law firm had sufficient authority to settle and ordered the settlement enforced over the client's objection.

The court held:

...Computer One’s [the client] objections to the charging lien reflect the limited nature of such a lien. Because only the value of the fees are at issue, a client’s objections to a charging lien may well differ from a client’s claim of legal malpractice. When objecting to a charging lien, a client may challenge the reasonableness of the value assigned to the attorney’s fees, or the basis for that value. Similarly, a client may attack the validity of the fee agreement itself upon which the charging lien was based. In contrast, a client’s claim of legal malpractice challenges the actual performance of the lawyer’s duties, not the hourly rate the lawyer charged for those duties. See Rancho del Villacito Condos., Inc. v. Weisfeld, 121 N.M. 52, 56, 908 P.2d 745, 749 (1995) (“[A] plaintiff must show, usually through expert testimony, that his or her attorney failed to use the skill, prudence, and diligence of an attorney of ordinary skill and capacity.” (quoted authority omitted)). Because the objections to the charging lien were distinct from the claim asserted in Computer One’s malpractice lawsuit, we reject the Firm’s argument that the issues in Computer One’s malpractice claim were necessarily litigated below.

(Mike Frisch)

July 23, 2008 in Clients | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)

Some Thoughts on the Bi-Modal Distribution from a Former Partner and Retainer of Partners

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

Coming up for air after working on some other stuff, I finally had a chance to digest Bill Henderson's post on bi-modal distribution of starting associate pay.  I have some visceral reactions to the data, as well as some "the sky is not falling" thoughts about how things will play out.  This is all casual empiricism and seat of the pants theorizing, so take it for what it's worth.

1.  Bill's post doesn't talk much about industry consolidation, but there's no doubt that has substantially impacted the law business since I started at a big Detroit firm in 1979.  At that time, there was a big premium to working in a New York law firm - as I recall, as much as $10,000 a year.  This will sound quaint and somehow Great Depression-ish, but my offer letter in the fall of 1978 from Dykema promised a starting salary of $22,000, and I am pretty sure an offer from Cravath at the time would have been in Dykemalogo the low $30,000s.  The gold standard of pay at the time was not as a lawyer, but as a consultant at The Bain Company, which was mainly a place for the JD-MBAs.  (I remember this because the starting pay was $44,000, exactly double my offer, but the word was you worked three times as hard.)  What Detroit (Dykema), Milwaukee (Foley & Lardner), Pittsburgh (Reed Smith), St. Louis (Bryan Cave), as exemplars, offered, even then, was a trade-off of life style for dollars:  billable hour goals in the 1700-1900 range, versus 2200-2800, lower cost of living, accessible suburbs, greater assurance of partnership (ratios then were 1:1 in the smaller cities, with the 4:1 or 5:1 leverage even then in New York.)

What seems clear to me is that the midwestern model indeed did not work, and the continued admission of partners created what one of my late partners used to rail about at partner admission meetings:  the creation of negative leverage by admitting so many people as equity partners.  The solution was growth, but organic growth opportunities are cyclical with the business cycles, and consolidation growth is the alternative.  And that's what we've seen.  DLA Piper may be the best example, as a decent firm out of Baltimore turned itself into a global powerhouse over the course of a few years (my late friend Jeff Liss being a major player in that strategy).  Dykema just swallowed up a medium-sized firm in Chicago.

My theory is there's less to distinguish the Am Law 200 now, and hence, less to distinguish in terms of non-monetary compensation, hence the trend to bi-modal distribution.

2.  I want to suggest the banking consolidation model as a prediction of the way the law industry will go.  Banks, like law firms, are natural consolidators.  It's largely a service business, the services are fairly homogeneous, and consolidation offers huge cost synergy opportunities.  But what happened with all the banks turning into Citis or Chases or Keys or National Citys is that market opportunities sprang up for local service oriented banks.  The "private bank" phenomenon is a response to that.  I used to listen to radio ads for a locally-owned bank in the Detroit area, Franklin Bank, that made this the focal point of its value proposition.  (I'm hearing something similar this summer here in northern Michigan from local pharmacies, particularly those that do compounding, as a reaction to the CVS-Walgreen's-Rite Aid-Walmart consolidation.)

As smart and ambitious lawyers get tired of the bureaucracy of the mega-firms (and more importantly, like David Boies, having fruitful and remunerative new business killed by a conflict!), my prediction is we will see a cycle of boutique firms that return to something like the market distinction of the late 1970s.  I can reveal here a not-very-hidden secret:  GCs of big companies know that much of what they purchase in legal services is fungible, and they can get quality work in Albuquerque or Nashville or Birmingham, Alabama or Jackson, Mississippi.

My faith in the corrective power of markets is not quite as ardent as my friend and about-to-be co-author Larry Ribstein (Ribstein & Lipshaw, Unincorporated Business Associations, 4th ed., to be available for the 2009-10 school year, get it while it's hot!), but I think that's where we are going (see Larry's observations on this business acting more like other capitalist businesses).  Like Larry, however, it's the debt that bothers me, and I second his historical observations on that score.

July 23, 2008 in Economics, Hiring, Hot Topics, Law Firms, Lipshaw | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

"The Seven Deadly Sins of Conflict"

An Arizona attorney provided legal services to a client who did not understand English. The attorney mistook the client's intent to obtain a divorce rather than separation, did not acheive the client's objectives and placed a lien for fees against the client's property. The attorney had a disciplinary record of two prior censures and two prior probations for "offenses not of the same sort..." A hearing officer accepted an agreed discipline proposal for censure number three but cautioned that the attorney "would be well advised not to tempt fate in the future."

The Arizona Disciplinary Commission, on review, recommends censure, one year of probation, and completion of a course entitled "The Seven Deadly Sins of Conflict." The hearing officer's report is appended. (Mike Frisch)

July 23, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fox on Lawyer Duties in Multidisciplinary Teams in Capital Cases

Posted by Alan Childress

Lawrence J. Fox, an attorney with Philly's Drinker Biddle & Reath and the former chair of the ABA's standing committee on ethics and professional responsibility, has posted to SSRN Law & Soc'y: LegalFox_larry_color Prof'n his article "Capital Guidelines and Ethical Duties: Mutually Reinforcing Responsibilities." It is also in Hofstra Law Review, vol. 36 (2008).  Here is the abstract:

This article appears in the Hofstra Law Review symposium issue on the Supplementary Guidelines for the Mitigation Function of Defense Teams in Death Penalty cases. The complete text of the issue, which also contains the Guidelines themselves, is available online at

It is counsel, and not any non-lawyer member of the multidisciplinary defense team which needs to be assembled to provide competent representation in a capital case, who bears ultimate responsibility for the team's performance and for decisions affecting the client and the case. This article describes the many respects in which counsel's specific obligations under both the ABA's Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases reprinted in 31 Hofstra L. Rev. 913 (2003) and the Supplementary Guidelines that are the subject of this issue are either direct implementations of or logical corollaries to deeply-rooted provisions of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct that would bind counsel in any event. Correspondingly, the ABA Guidelines and Supplementary Guidelines illuminate the requirements of the Model Rules in the particular context of capital representation.

July 22, 2008 in Abstracts Highlights - Academic Articles on the Legal Profession | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bengals QB Carson Palmer Joins Feud Between Jeff and Nancy

Quoted in the article Carson Palmer cannot mask his hate for you, Buckeye fans, the Bengals quarterback seems to have joined the rivalry between our Jeff Lipshaw and Nancy Rapoport, without mentioning either one of them by name.  Commenters to the article debate whether the worst fans are really in Columbus or are instead supporting the Florida Gators, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, etc.  [Alan Childress]

July 22, 2008 in Blogging | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Disbarment For 1st Degree Murder

An order was entered by the Presiding Disciplinary Judge in Colorado disbarring an attorney as a result of her conviction in California for 1st degree murder. The deceased was the husband of the attorney. He had been shot 10 times with a shotgun. Although the attorney is presently incarcerated, she was offered the opportunity to participate in the disciplinary hearing by telephone but did not do so. The court considered a letter that she had submitted that contended that the shooting was not intentional. However, the court determined that full faith and credit to the California criminal conviction required that disbarment be imposed. (Mike Frisch)

July 22, 2008 in Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Privilege Upheld

The Utah Supreme Court held that communications with a client representative are protected by the attorney-client privilege, even if the client is an individual rather than a corporation or other business entity. The client representative in the case before the court was the clients' daughter, who had been an attorney but was not counsel in the case. The court concluded that the communications were protected where the client representative has the authority to obtain legal services or is authorized by the client to communicate with the attorney. (Mike Frisch)

July 22, 2008 in Privilege | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Document Design Tips for Lawyers: Which Fonts and Spacings Are Understood Quickly

Based on principles of textual and graphic design, including which fonts and formats catch the eye just right (of judges or other audiences), Wayne Schiess (U. Texas) has posted a how-to of Basic Document Design Principles For Lawyers.  [Alan Childress, with HatTip to new legal writer blog]

July 22, 2008 in The Practice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New Blog From a Hiring Partner Offers Great Tips From the Inside

Posted by Alan Childress

Enter the blogger named Hiring Partner.  The semi-mysterious guy (or is he a guy? -- actually seems like a composite, to me, of a hiring partner and the firm's recruitment coordinator, but I don't mind) started to blog Friday, at Hiring Partner's Office, and it is already interesting.  He sits at the other side of the summer associates' (and later 2L interviewees') worldview.  "I am the hiring partner at an office of an AM LAW 200 law firm.  I oversee on campus recruiting at targeted law schools for our office and local candidates for other firm offices.  I also manage our summer associate program."  He is the decider.

Why blog?  Mainly it's "the millenials (sp?). I keep hearing it is a generational thing.  I thought it would be useful to have a blog where law students and others can learn about things that -- despite their great grades and stellar pedigrees -- can nevertheless disrupt your getting an offer at the firm of your choice. You would be amazed at some of the things that have been occurring." 

On the 'amazed' front, consider his top ten things that annoy your hiring partner, compiled after a poll of hiring partner friends.  (I had no idea they formed a clique.)   For example, advice at a social function held at some partner's house:

Be charming and pleasant.  Be respectful.  DO NOT take off your flip flops (btw, don't wear flip flops!) and put your bare feet on the partner's couch/chair, etc -- YES, I saw this one happen myself.  YOU ARE NOT AT HOME.

And a later post asks summer associates to assess where they are, substantively, not just socially.  Finish strong.

July 22, 2008 in Associates, Blogging, Hiring, Interviewing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sanctions Improperly Imposed On School Principal

In an opinion issued last week, the Supreme Court of Vermont concluded that the State Board of Education had improperly withheld the license of an educator based on unproven allegations. The court described the accusations against a school principal as follows:

J.H. was the principal of St. Johnsbury School during the 2004-2005 school year.  In February 2005, she learned that an eighth grade student had received several anonymous death threats.  J.H. suspected that a seventh grade student, M.T., either knew about the death threats or was responsible for them.  J.H. questioned M.T. about the death threats on numerous occasions, including a two-hour interview in the presence of other adults and uniformed police officers.  During this latter interview, J.H. asked M.T. to link pinkies with her across the table, believing that this would help M.T. focus.  This “pinky promise” lasted for twenty minutes.  The day after the two-hour interview with police, J.H. learned of a “suicide note” that M.T. had written several months earlier, and she decided that M.T. needed a mental health evaluation.  J.H. informed M.T. of the upcoming mental health screening, and she then began questioning M.T. again about the death threats.  She was overheard yelling at M.T. and using profanity.  M.T. apparently confessed during this interview but she later retracted her confession.

Licensing sanctions were deemed improper as the principal had been denied due process. Prior to any suspension, the accused is entitled to notice of the charges and a hearing on the merits. The board had improperly withheld the license of the principal for 14 months and provided no basis for any additional sanctions. (Mike Frisch)

July 22, 2008 in Comparative Professions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tina Stark and Transactional Lawyering

Posted by Bill Henderson

In 2007, one of the most significant law school hires never made to Leiter's Law School Reports.  Emory Law hired Tina Stark as Professor in the Practice of Law and as director of its Center for Transactional Law and Practice.

Stark_2 I first heard Stark speak several years ago at the ABA Section on Business Law mid-year meeting. At the time, she was an adjunct at Fordham Law and co-chair of the ABA Committee on Business Legal Education.  Tina described her remarkable business law course at Fordham, which included a steady stream of guest speaker experts who explained the fundamentals of the stock market, insurance, investment banking, etc.  This structure helped students rapidly ascend the learning curve so they could understand the terminology and substance of sophisticated business transactions. 

I was so impressed by her remarks that I looked up her professional background, which included time as a commercial banker (before law school), a clerkship for the NY Court of Appeals, and becoming a corporate partner at Chadbourne & Parke LLP.  In 1993, Tina formed a company that specialized in in-house training of transactional skills, such a contract drafting, risk analysis, acquisitions, due diligence, and reading and analysis of financial and accounting statements (the company is now called Stark Legal Education).

So when dean David Partlett and a handful of key faculty decided that Emory needed to offer its students first-rate training in transactional skills, they sought out the person with the best transactional training credentials in the country: Tina Stark.  Earlier this year when I was at Emory for a talk, Tina and I had a long conversation about teaching business law.  I also had the opportunity to review some of her teaching materials.  Suffice to say deal lawyering requires a mode of analysis that is very different than litigation. (In terms of business law courses, Corporations is relatively easy to teach; I really had to grapple with transactional pedagogy for my Business Planning class.)  Tina's approach provides students with powerful and accessible theoretical frameworks for tackling a wide range of business transactions.  I was very impressed.

On May 30-31, Emory hosted the Inaugural Conference of the Transactional Law Center.  (But for Law & Society, I would have attended.)  Tina Stark subsequently posted her opening remarks on SSRN.  For those of us who teach business law courses, Tina has set a very high bar.  Her proposed curriculum is a road map for ensuring that students interested in business law get an education that is commensurate with their investment of time and money.   

One reminder to Tina and her colleagues at Emory:  Try to measure the effect of your new curriculum -- will the Atlanta, New York or DC employers privilege students who complete the prescribed courses?  If the answer is yes, you can ride that wave a long way.

July 21, 2008 in Teaching & Curriculum | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)