A Lesson in Ethical Attorney Billing

A lawyer stands at the gates of heaven and pleads his case to St. Peter. “I’m much too young to die. I’m only 48.” St. Peter responds, raising an eyebrow: “Forty-eight? Not according to your time sheets.”

Unfortunately, some attorneys give the rest of the profession a bad name for abusing the billable hour system.  Take for example the sole practitioner in Massachusetts, Attorney Derek Beaulieu, who was recently suspended from the bar for four years for having billed more than 3600 hours annually to …

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Attorneys in the Crosshairs: Limits of the Litigation Privilege

A recent decision helps to define the limitations of the absolute litigation/judicial privilege and serves as a reminder that attorneys are not immune from defamation suits.  Notably, attorneys may be on the wrong end of a defamation claim for out-of-court statements concerning ongoing litigation.  The litigation privilege and the judicial privilege provide an absolute defense from defamation suits relating to certain in-court statements.  However, the protections may not apply outside of formal court proceedings according to a recent decision by the Florida Supreme Court.…

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ABA says Attorney-to-In-House Attorney Consultation should be Privileged

In a recently published amicus opinion, the ABA took a stand for its position that the attorney-client privilege should protect from disclosure communications between an attorney and her in-house counsel, even if the two attorneys are colleagues.  In most scenarios, inter-office communications are discoverable.  Privilege may not apply when attorneys consult amongst themselves.  On the other end of the spectrum, consultation between client and outside counsel is usually protected from disclosure.  However, the ABA’s recent amicus opinion focuses on the narrow situation when an …

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Chinese Walls Are No Longer High Enough

The New Mexico Supreme Court recently entered a decision with ramifications regarding conflicts of interest in law firms.  The issue: may a firm cure a clear conflict of interest by erecting a “Chinese wall.”  The lesson: Chinese walls are not as strong as they used to be and some conflicts may only be cured through the disqualification of counsel, and maybe the entire law firm.

The underlying dispute in Mercer v. Reynolds, concerned the interpretation of an easement.  The plaintiff alleged that it was entitled

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When Your Client Lies: What we can learn from Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong’s legal team played a part in each of the racing metals, the Livestrong brand, the endorsements, the accusations, the denials and of course the many lawsuits he filed to defend his reputation. Frankly, in light of the recent confession on Oprah, Armstrong’s attorneys may be feeling a bit uncomfortable. 

We now know that for years Armstrong was living a lie.  Those lies filled court documents that were signed by various attorneys attesting to the truthfulness of Armstrong’s assertions. Those lies fueled settlements …

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Lawyers Found Liable For Fabricating Asbestos Claims

A jury in West Virginia just awarded nearly $500,000 in favor of a transportation company for claims arising from an alleged conspiracy between two plaintiffs attorneys and a radiologist who fabricated asbestos claims. The issue: may an attorney be held liable for unfounded claims? The lesson: completely research the applicable law and facts before accepting an engagement to provide legal services.

CSX is a Pittsburgh rail-based transportation company that had been targeted for at least 10 asbestos claims by the same group of attorneys. Upon …

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Continuing Fallout – The Penn State Scandal Spawns a Legal Malpractice Lawsuit

At least one of Penn State’s former attorneys is now under fire for her role in the investigation into the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The issue: did the attorney represent the University or its administrators? The lesson: document the scope of your representation.

Gary Schultz is the retired VP for business and finance at Penn State who has been accused of failing to report Sandusky’s acts and perjuring himself during grand jury testimony. But now it is Schultz who is on the offensive and the target …

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