Author Archives: Seth L. Laver

Liability for Lax Data Security

Clients entrust professionals with personal information. As such, professionals have an ethical duty not to disclose confidential information in a manner not permitted by the client. However, in today’s electronic age, professionals are also expected to take proactive steps to ensure that third-parties do not access confidential client information without authorization. Professionals who fail to prioritize client data security could expose themselves to civil liability.

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No Privity? No Problem

In New York, privity is required in order to maintain a legal malpractice claim. In other words, the claim must be client v. former attorney “absent special circumstances.” But under what special circumstances would a court be inclined to find legal malpractice in a non-privity situation? A case this past week shed some light on what one of those situations may look like.

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Is the Unfinished Business Doctrine Finished?

Many professionals do not end their careers where they started. Professionals are on the move. The vast majority of professionals are impacted by the transition of a colleague from one firm to another. In fact, with the increase in online media covering the legal industry in particular, news of partner transitions is readily available. In a recent California case, a trustee of a bankrupt law firm has taken the position that the dissolved firm should retain all ongoing legal fees from cases started at the firm. This could have significant impact on how professionals transition their practice.

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Objecting to Objections

Attorneys strive to be zealous advocates for their clients. Not surprisingly, when defending depositions, attorneys are often tempted to object to questions that they perceive to be damaging to their client’s case, even if the question itself is not improper. Attorneys should be cautious, however, to avoid making excessive objections that are not likely to be sustained.

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“Trust me, I’m a lawyer”

Attorneys are people too. In the midst of negotiating/litigating on behalf of clients, attorneys also manage their own day-to-day lives. Attorneys sign leases, enter into contracts, negotiate with vendors and otherwise engage in discussions that are personal in nature. It may be tempting for attorneys to seek leverage by boasting their title as "esquire" or to disclose the attorney's affiliation with a particular law firm. But, to do so may trigger legal and ethical implications.

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Does the A-C Privilege Survive a Company’s Death?

When it comes to interesting ethical quandaries, the case of U.S. v. Martin Shkreli is the gift that keeps on giving. As we discussed in a previous post, Martin Shkreli has asserted the “advice-of-counsel” defense in the securities fraud case he is facing in the Eastern District of New York. Since our last post, Shkreli has served a document subpoena on one of the law firms that represented several of his companies, as well as him personally. What complicates this matter, however, is the fact that many of these companies are now defunct and therefore lack any active individuals who can waive the attorney-client privilege on their behalf.

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Breach of Contract or Tort? Does it Matter?

The professional-client relationship often begins with a retainer agreement/engagement letter: a contract that defines the terms and scope of professional services. Accordingly, when a client files suit alleging professional malpractice, the claims will generally sound in both contract and tort. Whether a claim is asserted as a breach of contract or tort can have important implications with regard to the statute of limitations and other potential defenses. For instance, depending on the state, a tort claim may be time-barred where a breach of contract claim is not.

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When Does the Clock Start?

Determining the length of the statute of limitations is easy but the trick often comes in figuring out when the statutory period begins running. In the legal malpractice context, this may often present the difference between dismissal or protracted litigation. A recent New York Supreme Court decision has shed some further light on why it remains important for all parties to know the applicable statute and accrual date, and highlights yet another situation in which a Court will employ a jurisdictional accrual rule to bar a claim.

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Frivolous Lawsuit Leads to Serious Damages

At one point or another, many attorneys will encounter a lawsuit they believe to be potentially frivolous. These claims often lead to frustration for the defending attorney and client who may face two difficult alternatives: (a) settle the case in order to avoid defense costs or (b) expend time and money in defending a meritless claim. A recent case out of Pennsylvania may give some hope to those forced to defend weak claims and might give pause to anyone considering such a suit in the future.

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Don’t Forget to Read Your Pleadings

World Wrestling Entertainment is punching back in a class action lawsuit filed by several of its former wrestlers. However, the WWE’s recent court filings take aim at the plaintiffs’ attorneys as much as the plaintiffs’ legal claims. The case provides us with a timely example of the ramifications of failing to carefully read pleadings before filing.

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