Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One Law Firm Gives It A Go On Contingency-Fee Work

The leaders of the nation’s largest law firms didn’t get to where they are by happy accident. Not only have many of them spent years as successful lawyers and developed the work-the-room shmooziness of politicians and university presidents. They also spend every waking hour thinking about one thing: making their firms more profitable.

So our question to them is this: If profitability is your thing, why haven’t you taken a page from the books of Wiley Rein, Dickstein Shapiro and McKool Smith and at least dabbled in handling work for plaintiffs, work that can pay off big if you’re successful?

Sure, there are risks. Still, you’ve seen how it can go. In the early part of the aughts, Dickstein Shapiro brought home a bundle handling contingency fee work for plaintiffs in antitrust litigation. In 2006, Wiley Rein made silly money representing a company called NTP in patent litigation with RIM, the maker of the BlackBerry.

And that brings us to McKool Smith. In the last year, the law firm has brought home nearly $400 million for plaintiffs in two patent suits against one company — Microsoft. And it just filed the third. Click here for the story, from the Dallas Morning News.

In fact, in the last four years, McKool Smith’s contingency fees have exceeded $100 million, according to the story.

Name partner Mike McKool (pictured) admits that his firm follows a tricky business model — supplementing bill-by-the-hour defense work with risky plaintiff-side contingency fee work.

“It’s scary, but we’ve managed so far to meld a traditional hourly fee practice with blue chip clients like American Airlines, Medtronic, Exxon Mobil and still do a contingent-fee business,” said McKool to the Morning News.

In order to make it work, McKool’s got to pony up some of its own money. McKool says the firm “routinely” ponies up $10 million in unbillable work before it sees a dime back. Still, the strategy has paid off handsomely for McKool and Phil Smith, who launched the firm in 1991.

Sooooo, any takers on the strategy? We think it might work for a mid-sized litigation shop looking to boost their technology/IP work significantly. For one thing, those firms might be less likely to have clients that would make too much of a fuss if the firm started dabbling in plaintiff-side work. Bring over some hot-shot lateral-hires, lodge some complaints. Whaddya think?

Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2010/03/29/a-dallas-firm-thats-very-mckool-on-contingency-fee-work/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wsj%2Flaw%2Ffeed+%28WSJ.com%3A+Law+Blog%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

Monday, March 29, 2010

Private NYC Criminal Defense Attorneys Get Defensive About Pay

Who you callin' a fat cat?

Threatened by proposed city cost cutting, 1,100 private attorneys who handle criminal cases involving indigent defendants insist they're a bargain compared with the nonprofits they fear are trying to move in on their turf.

The nonprofit Legal Aid Society had three lawyers making more than $170,000 a year; New York County Defenders has three making $150,000; and the top two at Brooklyn Defender Services made $162,000 and $137,000, 2008 tax records show.

The private lawyers, who get $75 an hour for felony cases through the city-funded 18-B program, can make up to $200,000 but have to shell out for overhead expenses.

"We handle the most complicated, labor-intensive cases, which the not-for-profits are less equipped to handle," said 18-B lawyer Bryan Konoski, who earns $190,000.

The nonprofits say it's nonsense to compare 18-B earners to execs like Legal Aid's Steven Banks, who oversees 1,450 staffers for about $200,000 a year.

Banks, "who typically works an 85-hour week and takes hardly any vacation, actually makes substantially less per hour," said Legal Aid spokeswoman Pat Bath.

Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/private_att_ys_play_defen_jQab42c8YdunV4o5stCjTK#ixzz0ja3HEXZS Legal

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Toyota Faces The Lawyers

In San Diego, 150 attorneys gather to plot strategy for what could be a deluge of lawsuits to come against the automaker.
By Tony Perry

March 25, 2010

Reporting from San Diego

First came the reports of sudden acceleration, then the recalls. And now, inevitably, the lawyers. Lots of them.

With Toyota Motor Corp. already facing scores of lawsuits stemming from alleged sudden acceleration incidents, about 150 lawyers gathered Wednesday for an all-day event to discuss litigation strategy over claims of deaths and injuries in accidents as well as the loss of resale value of used Toyota vehicles.

Those attending, including veterans of class-action litigation, didn't shy away from portraying the situation as an opportunity of historic proportions.

"We've got a wonderful opportunity to fight a multifront war," said W. Mark Lanier of the Lanier law firm of Houston, flashing on a screen a map suggesting the Allies' assault on Nazi Germany during World War II.

How much money is involved?

"A hell of a lot," said San Diego lawyer Kerry Steigerwalt, whose firm already has Toyota clients.

Indeed several lawyers at the event, hosted by HarrisMartin Publishing, a Pennsylvania-based publisher and website operator specializing in the legal and insurance industries, have clients suing Toyota. Others there were hoping to attract such clients.

A seven-judge panel known as the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is currently weighing whether to combine the disparate class-action suits and, if so, where to send the mega-case. But other suits will fall outside that category, raising a raft of issues.

Toyota declined to comment on the lawyer event.

"It regards pending litigation," spokesman Mike Michels said.

One of the themes of the event, held at the Westin Hotel in downtown San Diego, was that Toyota has erred repeatedly in dealing with the situation. Among the claimed missteps: stalling on fixing problems, stonewalling customers seeking help, and issuing a late and unsatisfying apology.

Toyota's strategy, said Jimmy Faircloth of the Faircloth law group in Alexandria, La., was classic old-school: hope the bad news goes away. When it didn't, a carefully parsed apology followed.

"I don't care if it's Tiger Woods, Bernie Madoff, or Toyota, if an apology comes late it's going to be seen as phony," Faircloth said.

Toyota's approach, said Ken Seeger of the Seeger, Salvas law firm in San Francisco, has been "purely market-driven, cold-hearted, insincere."

"They tried to declare they had the problem solved when they really didn't know what the problem was," he said.

If the engineering issues involved in the Toyota cases are complex, so too are the legal ones. Lawsuits have been filed in at least 19 legal jurisdictions.

The lawyers weighed whether or not the cases should be lumped together and if so, where and with what judge?

Different states have different takes on damage limits, statutes of limitations, and warranties.

"That's going to be a hot issue," said Elizabeth J. Cabraser of Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann and Bernstein of San Francisco, a veteran of numerous major cases, including litigation over breast implants.

Not every judge has the time or the skills to deal with a case of such complexity that involves multiple jurisdictions and mountains of technical and legal documents, the lawyers agreed.

"This needs a smart, creative judge to do this, preferably one who has done it before," said Shawn G. Foster of Davis, Bethune and Jones of Kansas City, Mo.

Lanier, who recently won $54-million jury verdict for a paralyzed heavy-equipment operator, said he already has a former Toyota employee ready to testify that the corporation lies as a matter of strategy "and he's got documents to back it up."

He charged that Toyota didn't put enough back-up systems in its vehicles.

"The commode in my home has more redundancy than their cars," he said.

With the possibility looming of hundreds of lawsuits, one tactic might be what is called a bellwether approach -- several cases bundled together. The verdict can goad litigants to settle other cases without trial.

"I'm a major fan of bellwether cases because I think it leads to global settlements," said Dawn Barrios of Barrios, Kingsdorf, and Casteix of New Orleans.

The session was held just a few miles from where two of the most highly publicized incidents involving Toyota vehicles occurred: the deaths of an off-duty CHP officer and his family in the crash of a speeding Lexus, and the case of a driver who said he had to struggle to stop his runaway Prius on Interstate 8.

Toyota has issued more than 10 million recall notices recently because of supposed accelerator pedal and floor mat problems and other safety issues. The conference "will help us all be on the same page," said Steigerwalt. "What we don't want is all of us fighting different battles with Toyota."

Although the session was open to all, no Toyota lawyers were known to have attended. Some of the lawyers who were there felt that Toyota, after an initial case or so, would settle other cases. But other lawyers predicted years of litigation, with Toyota concerned about how losing or settling cases will affect its stock price.

"It's not going to be just resolved," Lanier said. "It's going to be tried, tried and tried."

Source: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-lawyers25-2010mar25,0,4938430,print.story

Digital, Radio & TV Advertising Continue To Decline While Web Spending Grows

Second article in a week on this subject. Interesting how they make mention of TV and Radio which are also losing ground to the internet...

We've been talking about the migration of advertising revenue from print to the web for years now. A landmark tipping point where advertisers actually start spending more on

electronic platforms than print will finally arrive this year according to a new study from consulting and research group Outsell. Erik Sass at MediaDailyNews summarized the Outsell report in a column Monday, noting that the data came from a survey of over 1,000 U.S. advertisers and marketers that was conducted in December.

The study revealed that 32.5% of the $368 billion that American advertisers and marketers plan to spend in 2010 will got to digital with print dropping to a 30.3% share of the pie (digital expenditures include display ads, search, direct email marketing and development of company websites).

The biggest losers in the continuing decline of print media will be newspapers and printed directories (like yellow pages) according to Outsell. The firm says newspapers can expect to see their already decimated revenue stream fall another 8% in 2010. Directories are also expected to fall 8% but Outsell predicts magazines will defy the trend and actually see a 2% increase.

Traditional electronic media also continues to lose ground to digital media which surpassed radio spending in 2008. TV is now seeing its market share steadily erode as well and Outsell said TV ad revenues would drop 6.5% this year as eyeballs continue to gravitate to the web.

Source: http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2010/dailyposts/20100309.htm

Newspaper Ad Revenues Plummet to 1986 Level

Very interesting news - this along with yellow pages decline and online ad spending continues to grow...

NEW YORK — U.S. newspaper advertising revenue last year plunged 27 percent to its lowest level since 1986. The figures released Wednesday reflect the devastating toll of the recession and a media shift that's driving more marketing dollars to the Internet.

Newspaper publishers' ad revenue totaled $27.6 billion in 2009, down from $37.8 billion in 2008, according to the Newspaper Association of America. It's the industry's lowest ad volume since 1986, when sales totaled $27 billion, unadjusted for inflation.

Ad revenue in the final three months of 2009 fell 24 percent to $7.7 billion. However, that was the lowest quarterly percentage decline of 2009, raising hopes that the worst of the slump is over.

Newspapers' annual ad revenue has now fallen by nearly $22 billion, or 44 percent, since 2006.

Source: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jST82Ofm0irwAxT-0T0-83DmhsgwD9EL6ISG1

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Recent Law Grad Charges $174 Per Tweet On Twitter

Forget about billing $174 per hour. If recent law grad Rex Gradeless strikes it lucky, he could be making far more than that by charging advertisers $174 to post a 140-character tweet on Twitter promoting their product or service to his 76,000 followers via Sponsored Tweets.

While he apparently has yet to get such an advertising dynasty up and running, Gradeless posted last week what may be a first-of-its-kind sponsored-content tweet by a lawyer, reports Legal Blog Watch. It promotes Tony's Crispy Crust Pizzas.

Rex Gradeless has a unique ability to pinpoint useful information for a variety of audiences. That probably explains why the recent St. Louis University School of Law grad has more than 76,000 followers on Twitter, where he’s known as @Rex7.

“He understands that there are a lot of lawyers who aren’t his age who need to be brought along,” says John J. Ammann, who directs the legal clinics at Gradeless’ alma mater.
Online social media like Twitter, Ammann adds, aren’t one-size-fits-all “because guys who are 60 years old aren’t going to pick up Twitter so fast. But they can, and he’s going to show them the way.” Gradeless, 25, also blogs as the Social Media Law Student.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Ammann and other lawyers who’ve seen Gradeless in litigation settings say his way of determining what interests various groups is extremely effective there, too. He is careful in how he expresses himself, and he shows an awareness of how the legal profession works that is beyond that of many recent law grads.

For Gradeless the question now has become what to do next, and the economy is influencing his decision-making. While he’d like to do civil litigation, the jobs are scarce. In August, shortly after taking the Missouri bar exam, Gradeless had a soft offer with a top-20 law firm he wouldn’t name. The position wouldn’t start until January 2010, Gradeless says, and he’d hopefully be doing legal and Web 2.0 work.

“You have a juggernaut of marketing types in law firms who want to control the message, and it’s hard for them to see it’s not going to be possible forever,” Gradeless says. “Hopefully I can educate them and we can start doing some of this other social-networking-type stuff.”

Like building an internal Twitter-type program for better efficiency in critical situations, as when law clerks are focused on writing a motion, Gradeless says, and haven’t been told the case settled a few hours ago.

“If you settle a case and the attorney has to draft paperwork, the last thing they’re thinking about is their clerk,” says Gradeless.

“You get the sense he’s learning it and he’s sharing what he’s learning,” says Dennis Kennedy, the St. Louis-based computer lawyer, blogger and ABA Journal tech columnist. Unlike many others in the online legal arena, Kennedy adds, Gradeless doesn’t try to act like an expert. And that could be part of his appeal.

In fact, Gradeless says, Twitter was the most fun when he first started in November 2008 and none of it made sense. He didn’t have a job lined up, spring on-campus interviewing was canceled and Gradeless thought Twitter might be a good way to market himself. Back then about 80 Twitter users identified themselves as lawyers, but only about 45 of them actually tweeted on a regular basis, says Gradeless.

For the anti-Twitter folks, Gradeless says, many don’t understand all it can do. He can post a question and potentially get back 63,000 points of view almost instantly.

“You might see a lot of things on my Twitter feed, but there’s direct messages too that nobody sees,” he says. The direct messages have led to some interesting discussions, including one with someone who had what seemed like a viable legal claim for $5 million and was looking for a lawyer. “I’ve been asked to do stuff like that, and I have to say, ‘I’m not even a lawyer yet.’ ”
Gradeless mentions recently meeting in person someone who follows him on Twitter. That person told Gradeless he didn’t know much about him, but thought of him as the guy who’s “really into law.”

“That’s a good thing,” Gradeless says. For the most part, he avoids posting personal information.
In terms of his appeal, he notes Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters, so having a four-letter handle helps.

“It can get re-tweeted a lot,” Gradeless says, referring to a Twitter process where users repost others’ links. “I would always be linking, and I often follow everyone who follows me. It sort of snowballed from there.”

If you want to be a law firm using twitter, please contact us today to learn how we can help...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lawyers From 3 New York Law Firms Could Collect $200M From 9/11 Settlement

A select group of lawyers will be the biggest earners if the giant settlement for 9/11 workers goes through.

The lawyers, who come from three different firms, represent the 10,000 plaintiffs seeking compensation for illnesses caused by working at Ground Zero.

Paul Napoli and Marc Bern of the firm Napoli, Bern, Ripka have the vast majority of cases - some 9,000.

Both men made it big suing the makers of diet drug fen-phen in the late 1990s, when they represented tens of thousands in a class-action suit. Bern boasts on his Web site that he's earned clients more than $1 billion in settlements over his 30-year career.

About 5,000 clients took Napoli to court and accused him of mishandling the fen-phen settlement, saying he paied more money to some members of the class action than others. That case is still pending.

The other lawyers in the Ground Zero cases are William Groner of Worby, Groner, Edelman, and Nicholas Papain and Andrew Carboy of Sullivan, Papain, Block, McGrath, and Cannavo.
Together, the firms stand to walk away with some $200 million in legal fees plus millions more in expenses if the proposed settlement is approved.

"We believe personal injury lawyers should be held to the same standard as medical malpractice lawyers, which gives more money to the victims and less money to the trial lawyers," Kriss said.
Unlike personal injury cases, which have no limit to the amount a lawyer can take from the winnings, medical malpractice lawyers can earn only up to 23%.

Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/03/13/2010-03-13_theyll_reap_the_lions_share_of_settlement_for_911_sick.html#ixzz0iH9vXX1l

Friday, March 12, 2010

NYC has 11,000 bedbug complaints & 4,084 infestations in '09

Inspections are routine before a new home purchase, but there’s a new insect in the ointment: bedbugs.

Enter Cruiser, a bedbug-sniffing dog who can detect the little critters in just minutes. Real estate lawyers are increasingly recommending buyers inspect properties for bedbugs before they close, the New York Times reports. Dogs like Cruiser “are the new and furry front line in an escalating and confounding domestic war,” the story says.

Cruiser inspected a property for a client of Manhattan real estate lawyer Lori Braverman. Luckily, no bedbugs were found. Braverman told the Times that, in just the last three months, she advised buyers in three deals to inspect for bedbugs.

The newspaper includes some statistics. Six years ago, New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development had 537 complaints about bedbugs in apartment buildings and 82 verified infestations. Last year the numbers had jumped to 11,000, bedbug complaints and 4,084 infestations.

Braverman is herself on the alert, checking out the minutes of co-op boards for any references to bedbugs. “It’s the deep, dark secret of co-ops and condos,” she told the Times.

Source: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/bedbug-sniffing_dogs_may_be_a_real_estate_lawyers_best_friend/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=ABA+Journal+Daily+News&utm_content=Google+Reader

Immigration Courts Can't Keep Up With Backlogs

Very interesting article from the ABA Jounal...

U.S. immigration courts nationally have a backlog of 228,400 cases, and an immigrant's average wait to have his or her case heard is 439 days.

According to a study by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a high number of judicial vacancies is to blame. Around 17 percent of its 230-plus judge positions remain vacant.

"The failure to fill positions that Congress has provided money for is baffling," TRAC co-director David Burnham told the Washington Post.

The Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review told the Houston Chronicle http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6909471.html said the study doesn't reflect the hiring of more than 60 immigration judges since 2006. It said it is "currently in the midst of a hiring initiative" and is trying to boost the number of judge positions to 280.

A recent ABA Commission on Immigration report thinks that the number of immigration judges should be increased by at least 100, among other recommendations. See an executive summary (PDF) of the report.

Coverage does not directly speculate on why the judge positions are so difficult to feel, but immigration judges cite a high stress level.

Dana Leigh Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges told the Harvard Law Record that immigration judges are often trying “the equivalent of death penalty cases … in a traffic court setting.”

The Harvard Law Record says that the Department of Homeland Security has increased funding and by extension enforcement of Immigration and Customs Enforcement programs, resulting in a 36 percent increase in removal proceedings from two years ago.

Brittney Nystrom, director of policy and legal affairs for the National Immigration Forum told the Chronicle that immigration court staffing has not kept pace with this enforcement surge.

“You have this ballooning practice of apprehension, detection and deportation while you have an immigration court system that is not experiencing similar growth,” Nystrom said. “This backlog took a long time to get to where it is now, and it's going to take a long time to get around this.”

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Online-Ad Spending Will Increase 9.6 percent in 2010, Surpassing Print Spending For The First Time

Very interesting study and certainly speaks to the trends in online advertising...

Is 2010 the Year Digital Will Eclipse Print Ad Spending?

Spending on digital advertising is poised to surpass print for the first time in 2010, according to a new study prepared even before the announcement of Apple’s iPad, with all of its media game-changing potential. But another view is — So what? It’s bound to happen, sometime soon if not this year.

Out of their collective $368 billion budget for 2010, Outsell expects advertisers to spend 32.5 percent on digital advertisements, and only 30.3 percent on print — the first time digital would outsell print, and likely the last time the two sectors would cross paths unless some sort of cataclysmic event intervenes.

The $1,295 Outsell study (press release via Forbes) examined spending habits of 1,008 advertisers in December 2009, finding that online-ad spending will increase 9.6 percent in 2010. while overall marketing and advertising will increase too — but only by 1.2 percent. The news is also somewhat good for print magazines, which the study says will see ad spending increase 1.9 percent.

But Ad Age digital lead editor Michael Learmonth told Wired.com that while Outsell is creditable, the tipping point is inevitable — when digital overtakes print, he says, is less important than the fact that it is happening or will happen soon.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s 2010, 2011 — it’s going to happen. It’s just like online surpassed radio two years ago — it’s on that trajectory,” said Learmonth. “[Outsell is] predicting something that’s obvious, it’s inevitable, it’s on the horizon, it’s just that they’re calling the timing.”
The digital-advertising category includes not only online publications but video, search engine keywords and e-mail. It’s seeming inexorability is based on the migration of people from print to digital services — from the New York Times to nytimes.com, by way of illustration — and it appears this could be the year when it takes place.

Outsell gathered its data in December 2009 — the month before Steve Jobs announced the Apple iPad, a device that could impact both print and digital advertising, because one of its main points is to offer advertisers a format that combines the scale and intimacy of a magazine or newspaper with dynamic, interactive elements of digital publications.
So, which is the iPad — print or digital?

The study’s lead author, Chuck Richard, told Wired.com that the next time Outsell gathers this data, it will classify the iPad as “digital.” If advertisers had factored iPad spending into account, the scale almost certainly would have tipped even further in the direction of digital advertising.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Martindale-Hubbell Layes Off 3 Rating Specialists

Very interesting news out of Martindale. Funny how this happens around the same time that many of the clients are asking whether or not my other clients are paying to maintain their ratings and if they should do the same...