Bankruptcy Law Preempts State Claim for Wrongful Use of Civil Proceedings

The Automatic Stay under U.S. Bankruptcy law is a powerful tool in the judicial system. By filing for bankruptcy, a person or entity immediately creates a cocoon of safety that is generally impenetrable without subjecting the offending party to punitive repercussions. In fact, even parties without knowledge of the bankruptcy filing may nevertheless face consequences from the presiding bankruptcy court for violating the Automatic Stay. Of course, this does not mean that parties can use a bankruptcy petition solely to protect themselves from outside pressures. The bankruptcy rules also allow a court to impose sanctions upon a party or its attorney if it the petition is found to have been filed frivolously. However, a Pennsylvania trial court recently reaffirmed that it remains within the bankruptcy court’s sole discretion to do so, and that any similar state court claim is preempted by federal law.
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IRS Warns CPAs: Beware of Phishing

Businesses are increasingly becoming the targets of sophisticated cyber-attacks, and professionals are no exception. When cyber-criminals breach a professional service firm, they not only may gain access to the firm’s corporate data, but also confidential information from the firm’s clients. Therefore, it is incumbent on all professionals to make data security a priority.
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CPA Takes Advantage of Procedural Quirk

The idiosyncratic nature of the Louisiana legal system is one that is noted, if not explored, in many law schools around the country. Even as early as high school, many teachers will explain that Louisiana is unique insofar as its legal system is based primarily on Spanish and French civil law, rather than the British tradition used in the other 49 states. The differences between Louisiana and the rest of the country do not end there, however, and a large accounting firm was recently successful in obtaining dismissal of an action based on a Louisiana-specific accounting malpractice statute.
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Family Feud leads to Privity Lesson

A somewhat bizarre family feud presents an interesting evaluation of the general requirement of privity in order to maintain a legal malpractice claim. Consider the circumstances of when an attorney is appointed by the court to administer an estate. Who is the client? A Kansas appellate court examined this situation in Schroeder v. Brewer, 2017 Kan. App. Unpub. LEXIS 101 (Kan. Ct. App. Feb. 17, 2017) which addresses whether an attorney may be held liable for legal malpractice while representing an Estate “against” the beneficiaries of the estate.
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Sign, Sign, Everywhere Assign

Professionals owe a duty to their clients to satisfy the standard of care commonly exhibited by others within their profession. Consequently, privity is often required to maintain a malpractice claim; i.e. it is often the client with the exclusive right to sue her professional. This narrow application of standing assumes, however, that clients have retained their exclusive right to sue. In fact, as with many torts, clients may freely assign their right to file malpractice actions to third parties, even those that are adverse to the client in the underlying litigation.
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Attorney + CEO = Coverage Denied

Attorney? Check. CEO? Check. Coverage? Unlikely. Some attorneys wear multiple hats. We have other interests, other business ventures, other opportunities to make a buck. Attorneys are often exposed to other areas of business depending on the nature of their practice. Through their role as counsel, or through other opportunities, some attorneys become more directly involved in non-legal businesses. The more traditional route is to switch to in-house counsel, but sometimes attorneys will go so far as to start a new company. While both are commonplace and not inherently problematic, issues begin to arise when an attorney is both practicing law and working for a company. The blurring of the line between lawyer and business executive not only creates potential conflicts of interest, but may have coverage consequences.
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Lawyers are Stressed Out

Running a professional practice can be stressful. To be successful, professionals often must work long hours, under tight time constraints, and respond to the needs of demanding clients, while simultaneously working to manage their business and market themselves to new clients. For many professionals, the challenge of working in a professional practice is part of the reward. However, for others, the work can at times be overwhelming. Statistically, an alarming percentage of the legal profession is stressed and, unfortunately, many are depressed.
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Blown Deadline = $850,000

Ugh…deadlines. Many classes of professionals are bound by deadlines. Attorneys are no different. Pleading requirements, discovery responses, motions, hearings and other proceedings must all be calendared to ensure that an attorney meets all deadlines. In fact, an easy path to malpractice is to miss a deadline. A recent New Jersey verdict highlights the importance of complying with deadlines and maintaining clear and open communication.
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Title Insurer off the Hook for Closing Agent Misconduct

The closing of a home loan often involves multiple parties, and even a sophisticated buyer can be confused as to who represents whom. The individuals present can include representatives from the bank, real estate agents, title insurance agents, etc. However, each person in the room has a specifically defined role, and it is important for all parties to be aware of what these roles are.
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No Office? No Right to Practice

Many attorneys are licensed to practice in multiple states. By extending one’s practice across several jurisdictions, lawyers can expand the scope of services offered to their clients and increase their appeal. However, in order to provide this service, lawyers must comply with certain laws requiring that the attorney maintain a physical office within the state in order to practice there.
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