Strategist: September 2010 Archives
Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

September 2010 Archives

Orrick, Akin Gump Talking Merger

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld are engaged in discussion to merge and form an 1,800 attorney firm. A spokeswoman for Akin Gump confirmed the talks, saying that the firms are "in exploratory discussions regarding the possibility of a merger." Orrick confirmed the talks as well, saying though a spokesman that the firm "have held preliminary discussions about the possibility of a merger ... "[but] it is premature and inappropriate to speak publicly in any detail about the process."

Orrick has sought for a number of years to merge with another large firm, but many such deals have never materialized. Orrick did complete a merger with Hölters & Elsing in 2008. According to reports, Orrick has engaged in merger talks with Coudert Brothers, Cooley Godward, Venture Law Group, Donovan Leisure Newton & Irvine, Swidler Berlin Shereff & Friedman and Dewey & LeBoeuf (then Dewey Ballantine).  

Study Shows Extensive Misconduct by Federal Prosecutors

If you have your own criminal defense firm, there is an article out in USA Today that you will definitely want to take a look at. According to an extensive investigation, federal prosecutors repeatedly withheld exculpatory evidence from the jury and the defendant. The article detailed several ways in which prosecutors covered up evidence.

The misconduct included lying about or failing to disclose deals that they had made with convicts, whom they promised reduced sentences in exchange for their cooperation. Prosecutors also broke plea bargain deals with defendants.

WA State AG: 'DIY Legal Forms Aren't a Substitute for an Attorney'

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna has a message for LegalZoom: do it yourself legal forms are not a substitute for an attorney. McKenna is concerned that consumers are mistakenly receiving the impression that they are receiving the services of a law firm. The company advertises that you can use LegalZoom to start a business, patent an invention and create wills. However, in the end, LegalZoom simply supplies forms or online do it yourself guides which can help customers create and file the documents themselves.

Under a settlement with the Attorney General's Office, LegalZoom cannot compare its costs with the costs of attorneys fees, unless the company clearly states that LegalZoom is not a substitute for a law firm. Further, LegalZoom is prohibited from engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, misrepresenting the benefits of estate distributions or selling personal information obtained from Washington consumers. In addition, LegalZoom must ensure that the forms that it sells comply with Washington laws.

Temporary Insanity by Reason of Caffeine?

Some defense attorneys dream of winning an acquittal for their clients just by the sheer force of brilliant lawyering. Perhaps attorney Shannon Sexton is one such attorney, because his planned defense in the murder trial of his client, Woody Will Smith, appears to be not guilty by reason of caffeine insanity.

Of course the 'Platonic Ideal' of a provocative and creative defense tactic has got to be the famous "Twinkie defense" used by the defense team at the trial of Dan White for the murder of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, in 1979. The attempt at the caffeine-based insanity defense, reports the Associated Press, while novel, is not completely untried. It was used in a 2009, in the case of man charged with running two people down with his car in Washington state.

Dodgers Divorce Case May Lead to 9-Figure Legal Malpractice Claim

An alleged mixup made by an attorney could lead to a massive legal malpractice claim by whichever party ends up losing the case. The matter at issue is known as the "Dodgers Divorce" of Jamie and Frank McCourt, who owned the Dodgers. The case made headlines with an alleged affair, divorce, allegations of forged documents and provided plenty of material to keep journalists busy.

Attorneys for former Dodger CEO Jamie McCourt each argue that their client is entitled to a portion of the Los Angeles Dodgers. However Frank McCourt says the Dodgers are his alone.

5 Ways to Get Clients to Value Your Advice

Guest post by Jennifer K. Wendell, Esq.

The internet has been around long enough that attorneys have had time to adapt to how it can make their business more efficient and profitable, how they can use it to market to those they may not have reached before, and how they can even use it as a creative and informative outlet to compliment their legal services.

Yet, with the development of legal websites and blogs, a potential client now has the ability to find legal information on just about any issue within seconds, not to mention a plethora of fill-in-the-blank legal documents he or she can purchase online for a lesser fee than most attorneys charge. The result, especially in this economy, is that many attorneys still struggle with how they can convince potential and even existing clients to value their legal services.

So then, when a client knows that legal information can be obtained for free on the internet and that he or she can buy a fill-in-the-blank document online for a fraction of your hourly rate, how do you convince your client that your expertise is needed?

103 Year Old Judge Wesley E. Brown: 'No Lengthy Trials'

You know how judges can be with all their crazy demands. No badgering witnesses. Dress appropriately. No unnecessary histrionics. Stand up when you object. Refer to me as "Your Honor." But 103 year-old Judge Wesley E. Brown has a unique demand: no more lengthy trials.

The United States District Court Judge can barely be seen at the bench. The years have caused his body to slowly shrink in size. But his mind remains quite lucid and he has no plans of retiring. Nevertheless, he warns attorneys appearing before him that there is always a chance that he won't see their case to completion if it goes on too long, saying "At this age, I'm not even buying green bananas."

U.S. News Releases 'Best Law Firms' Rankings

The rankings are in. Those U. S. News and World Report numeric lists we love, hate and love to hate have now extended their reach to ranking the "Nation's Best Law Firms." In partnership with Best Lawyers, U.S. News is now not only going to enumerate for law students which schools are the "best," but which firms they should thinking about signing onto after graduating. In the top 10% of their class, of course.

As pointed out by the New York Times Deal Book, however, the law firm rankings are not as stark as the pure top 100 law school list. Since the firms are given both practice area rankings and metropolitan rankings, the "winners" are a bit less clear cut. Based on survey responses from thousands of clients; firm managers; partners; associates; marketing officers and recruiting officers; the firms in the practice area rankings are divided into first and second tier rankings. As the Deal Book notes, these rankings, while not as "sexy" as the law school version, could be of assistance to in-house counsel doubtful of paying for second tier litigation counsel at first tier prices.

FindLaw Webcast: The Keys to Effective Online Legal Marketing

If you are interested in learning more about marketing your law firm online, or are seeking better results from the web marketing program you already have, you will want to make time to view a free upcoming webcast.

On September 23, 2010, FindLaw will present a one hour webcast: The Keys to Effective Online Legal Marketing. Co-hosted by Florida criminal law attorney Peter Aiken and FindLaw Senior Client Development Consultant Erica Butcher, this webcast will present the basics of online marketing and give you the key insights and strategies for connecting with new clients on the internet.

ABA Offers 'Google for Lawyers' Productivity Guide

The American Bar Association has released a new guide for lawyers designed to help increase their productivity through the use of Google. The ABA issued a press release about the guide, entitled Google for Lawyers: Essential Search Tips and Productivity Tools. Google has become far and away the number one search engine, as well as offering a number of apps which can be sued to boost productivity and organization.

The guide is designed to help attorneys take advantage of Google's advanced search capabilities and tools for productivity. The guide looks to be an excellent tool for small firm and solo attorneys as it offers information on a number of free and inexpensive tools that will help level the playing field between big firms and the massive software, research, productivity and technology teams at their disposal.

Texas Judge Fights Discipline Case over 'We Close at 5' Execution

"We close at 5."

Those four words have taken Texas Judge Sharon Keller for quite a ride. Keller uttered the words on September 25, 2007, to Ed Marty, general counsel for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Marty had called the Texas judge regarding a last minute appeal for Michael Richard, who was on death row and whose execution was to occur later that evening. Marty claims that the attorneys were having computer problems in their attempt to file a last-minute appeal. The appeal was based on a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that had been issued the same day.

Keller was allegedly at home overseeing work from a repairman when she got the call from Marty and stated her now infamous words, "we close at 5." After Richard's attorneys missed the deadline, Richards was executed by lethal injection at 8:23 p.m. that evening. A public outcry followed, with Keller portrayed as cold, callous and indifferent to the imminent execution of Richards. Keller contends that she was merely stating a fact: the clerks office, as a government building, closed at 5 p.m. She is said to have thought nothing of the comment at the time, Time reports.

iPhones as Evidence in Criminal Cases: What You Should Know

If your criminal clients are using iPhones, you should warn them that they are leaving a gold mine of information for the police to access if (when) they get arrested.

Former hacker Jonathan Zdziarski now works with the police, teaching them how to access data from iPhones as evidence. He wrote a 144 page book on the matter called iPhone Forensics. Zdziarski wants to educate police about how much information is stored on iPhones and how they can acquire the data for criminal cases.

Especially when it comes to cases involving high profile crimes and defendants, forensic scientists can retrieve far more off of phones than you might expect. "Very, very few people have any idea how to actually remove data from their phone," said Sam Brothers in the USA Today. Brothers works as a cell-phone forensic researcher with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "It may look like everything's gone," he said. "But for anybody who's got a clue, retrieving that information is easy."

Filings Support ABA Effort in Red Flags Rule Case

As many attorneys are aware, a suit over the enforcement of the FTC's "red flags" rule is still making its way through the courts. This final decision on whether or not to include lawyers in the list of those who must develop programs to help identify the warning signs (the "red flags") of identity theft has not yet been made.

According to the ABA Governmental Affairs Office, the FTC first developed the red flags rule to be included in the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003. The rule requires "creditors" to develop programs identifying, detecting, and responding to the red flags of identity theft. Among those described as creditors were professionals, including lawyers. The enforcement of the rule including lawyers was delayed twice.

Report: 75% of Attorneys Increased Fees During Bad Economy

Times are tough. With the economic struggle that was the American economy for the past couple of years, professionals were getting creative in their attempts to recoup the losses. Well, maybe creative is the wrong word, but a recent study conducted by Real Rate Report that analyzed over $4.1 billion in invoices from 3,500 law firms found an interesting conclusion: 75% of attorneys increased their fees during the bad economy.

According to Marketwatch, lawyer location, firm size, experience level, partner status, and practice area were the main factors affecting the lawyer billing rates. Associates, and not partners, were the attorneys that showed the largest increase in billing rates -- with a 16.6% overall increase. Associate attorneys working less that three years had the highest increase across the board with a 17.9% raise in hourly rates.