Author Archives: Michael P. Luongo

Responding to Legal Audit Letters = Risk Management Headache

As many of you probably know, auditing standards require that an auditor confer with the attorneys for the audited entity about certain types of loss contingencies, such as pending litigation and unasserted claims. During this process, the audited entity/client asks that its attorneys respond to the “legal audit letter.” Some attorneys may view this procedure as cumbersome and perhaps even annoying, but it is a required element of the auditing process and must be taken seriously. This is especially so because the attorney’s response to the legal audit letter presents risk management problems particularly with respect to the potential waiver of the attorney-client privilege.

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When a Settlement Unhinges: Failure to Document a Mediated Agreement

Mediation is intended to facilitate the expeditious resolution of disputes. Often, mediation offers the ideal setting to promote productive conversation and settlement discussions. Skilled mediators know the right buttons to press, highlight strengths and weaknesses, and allow the parties an opportunity to “be heard,” all of which can go a long way toward settling a dispute. But, mediation does not always go as intended particularly when the terms of a proposed agreement are not documented.

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Does Malpractice Insurance Cover Fee Disputes?

You may be surprised to learn that some professional malpractice policies do not cover fee disputes. Professional liability insurance is an essential component of every professional’s practice, helping to mitigate risk in malpractice actions.  But many professional liability policies may leave professionals to fend for themselves in one of the most fundamental aspects of the practice: collecting fees for services rendered.  This limitation was recently highlighted by Louisiana’s Western District Court in Pias v. Cont’l Cas. Co., No. 2:13-cv-00182 (W.D. La. Aug. 6, 2013).…

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Unringing the Bell: Clawback Provisions and Inadvertent Document Production

Technological advancements have prompted an explosion in electronically stored information (ESI). A single laptop computer is capable of holding more than 2,000 banker’s boxes of paper, and a smart phone with 16 GB of memory can hold roughly the equivalent of 1,000,000 printed pages. Given the potential value of this data, litigants are routinely requesting ESI during discovery. At the same time, lawyers responding to these requests are faced with the Herculean task of sorting through mountains of evidence to remove privileged or confidential documents. This presents a risk management nightmare.

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JK Rowling’s Secret Revealed by her Attorney

A prominent British law firm recently admitted that it was responsible for leaking JK Rowling’s pen name in her new mystery novel. The venerable author of the Harry Potter series intended to wear an invisibility cloak of her own, releasing her latest work - the Cuckoo’s Calling - under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. Rowling reportedly hoped to “publish without hype or expectation” that would accompany her true identity. But the anonymity did not last long thanks to her attorney’s blunder at a cocktail party.

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NY Attorney’s Attempt to Recover Legal Fees Backfires

Letit be said: we don’t work for free. The business of law, like any profession, is based on a simple formula: quality work + results = payment. Sometimes obtaining payment can be the most difficult piece of the equation. When a fee dispute does arise, an attorney may be required to strike a balance between demanding full compensation and maintaining a productive and ongoing relationship with the client.

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Secret Video Exposes Expert Witness to Criminal Proceedings

A New York state judge recently provided a compelling reminder of the serious ramifications for failing to provide truthful testimony on the stand. The focus of Queens Supreme Court Justice Duane Hart’s admonition was an orthopedist routinely hired to assist in the defense of personal injury cases. When the court discovered through a hidden camera recording that the expert's testimony was exaggerated at best – or an outright lie at worst – the court ordered a mistrial and directed his attention to potential criminal proceedings against the expert.

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Is Three a Crowd? The Intersection between Attorney-Client and Spousal Privileges

The attorney-client privilege is among the oldest and most established evidentiary privileges in law. Although it is perhaps the most frequently cited privilege, it certainly is not the only grounds to object to the disclosure of a client’s communications. Spouses also enjoy a special relationship that justifies withholding certain communications. Under the so-called “spousal communications privilege,” a/k/a “marital privilege,” confidential communications between spouses may be protected from disclosure in civil and criminal cases. But what happens when the attorney-client and spousal privileges collide?

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Professionals Beware: Unpaid Internships May Prove Costly for Employers

With summer break in effect, many students are utilizing the time off from school to participate in internships. Internships provide students with an opportunity to gain work experience in a particular field and, arguably, make them more marketable upon graduation. However, these intangible benefits may not excuse an employer from failing to pay interns under state and federal labor laws.

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Breach of Contract or Negligence: Does it Really Matter?

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is set to entertain argument on an important appellate issue regarding the types of damages available to a plaintiff in a legal malpractice dispute. The decision may also highlight the fundamental differences, if any, between a malpractice suit grounded in tort or contract. In 2006, a national law firm agreed to represent the plaintiffs in the sale of a company that had incurred over $2 million in unpaid taxes. According to the plaintiffs, the law firm advised them that the sale would terminate their personal liability for the unpaid taxes. When the company’s assets withered after the transaction, however, the individuals that sold the company were held personally liable for all unpaid taxes and they turned to their former lawyers to recover.

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