Strategist: December 2011 Archives
Strategist - The FindLaw Law Firm Business Blog

December 2011 Archives

Attention immigration lawyers: Judges are watching you, and in about half of all cases, they don't like what they see.

A newly released survey of immigration judges in and around New York City finds immigration lawyers are often good at helping their clients avoid deportation. But about half of immigration attorneys are "inadequate" and often irresponsible, the judges say.

Immigrants facing deportation "are easy prey for ambulance-chasing-style lawyers who do not adhere to the highest standards of responsibility," federal appellate Judge Robert A. Katzmann, who spearheaded the study, told The New York Times.

An Illinois lawyer is pursuing an interesting strategy to cut down on the time he spends waiting for court. He's filed a federal lawsuit claiming unconstitutional discrimination against out-of-county lawyers.

Attorney Gary Peterlin of LaSalle County, Ill., claims courthouse procedures in Will County -- about 50 miles east -- violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, Courthouse News Service reports.

Peterlin alleges that attorneys who are not members of the Will County Bar Association are forced to wait in long security lines and subjected to search just like members of the public.

Members of the Will County bar, however, are treated differently -- allowed to skip security screenings and enter the courthouse through a separate entrance, Peterlin's out-of-county lawyer lawsuit claims.

It's almost time to ring in the New Year with family, friends -- and a few New Year's resolutions for lawyers and law firms.

We're not talking about going to the gym or cutting back on greasy burgers -- we'll leave those personal resolutions to you.

Here are three New Year's resolutions for lawyers that we hope will resonate for your firm's bottom line in 2012:

Bloated Federal Criminal Code Ensnares Everyday Citizens, Panel Says

Is the federal criminal code out of control? Experts told a House panel on Tuesday that it includes over 4,500 statutes -- that's in addition to another 300,000 agency regulations that impose other criminal sanctions.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R., Wis.) believes this is a problem, as the lesser known prohibitions often ensnare well-meaning citizens. He's thus proposed a bill that will reduce the federal criminal code by 1/3.

It's still over 1,200 pages in length.

When is a BigLaw partner not considered an "employee" under anti-discrimination laws? When he can't prove he was a "partner" in name only, a New York justice held in a recent ruling.

New York Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman dismissed an age-discrimination case brought by a former partner at Holland & Knight, a BigLaw firm in Manhattan with more than 1,000 employees.

Former partner John Weir sued H&K in 2007, accusing the firm of age discrimination, The Wall Street Journal reports. Weir, a "Class B partner" at H&K, was let go from the firm at age 55.

Judge Sues Lawyer, Client Over Sexual Harassment Claim

Ohio Judge Harland Hale has sued the woman who accused him of sexual harassment, Brenda Williams.

Also named in the suit is her attorney, Michael G. Moore, and another woman, Lynn Hamilton. Hamilton has also made accusations of harassment against the judge.

Williams accused Judge Hale of harassing her. She used to work as a Spanish-language interpreter at the courthouse.

Attorney Subpoenas 3 Great Danes, Pit Bull to Jury Trial

Victims don't often testify for their abusers, but such was the case in a Multnomah County courtroom earlier this week. Prosecutors had accused Wayne Martin and Layne Woods of neglecting their three Great Danes, blue pit bull and now-deceased Shar Pei.

In a bit of creative lawyering, defense attorney Chris O'Connor subpoenaed the dogs to prove that they are in great shape.

It didn't work.

Failed 'Meet and Confer' Can Lead to Sanctions, Bar Discipline

A "Meet and Confer" under Rule 26(f) can set the tone for an entire trial.

It can also lead to millions of dollars in sanctions and fees, and a trip before the state bar disciplinary committee.

Judges have become increasingly fed up with bickering attorneys and unproductive meetings. Whether or not attorneys deliberately withhold information, or engage in willful conduct, judges are striking back. And it's not pretty.

Does Attorney-Client Sex Lead to Better Representation?

"My advice to a woman going through a divorce is, find a competent trial lawyer and make him your boyfriend."

Would you say this to a disciplinary panel? Probably not. But Zenas Zelotes reportedly did while being investigated by the Connecticut Statewide Grievance Committee. He believes that attorneys who are romantically involved with clients provide better representation.

The more an attorney cares about the client, the more aggressive he'll be.

Do You Have CLE Credits Due Soon?

It's nearly that time of year again: continuing legal education (CLE) credits are due soon. The deadline to submit your CLE compliance may be coming up depending on your jurisdiction. This leaves many attorneys wondering where to find CLE courses.

First off, make a decision. Do you want to do online CLE courses or traditional in-person events? The former is probably easier to fit into your schedule. The latter will likely draw out more of your undivided attention.

Below are some simple tips you can use to find CLE courses to fit your needs:

Can Congress Require Cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court?

Last week's Senate judiciary hearing is raising some interesting questions about cameras in the Supreme Court. Just a day before the hearing, Senators Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley introduced the Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2011. That bill instructs the Court to televise oral arguments.

The Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts brought in a high-profile panel to discuss the issue, including former Senator Arlen Specter and SCOTUSblog founder Tom Goldstein. The only thing attendees could agree upon is that such a mandate would raise significant constitutional issues.

Forum shopping has taken on a whole new meaning for a team of Florida attorneys. They've hung up their shingles at a local mall, lawyering to throngs of holiday bargain-hunters.

"People just kind of walk by and ask if we're real attorneys," mall lawyer Melva Rozier told The Palm Beach Post -- as she met with a prospective client who'd just paid a visit to Victoria's Secret.

Rozier's office is a kiosk at the Boynton Beach Mall, just steps from the food court. Dubbed "The Law Booth," the kiosk offers private space for attorney-client consultations, framed by wooden panels and frosted glass.

An Attorney's Guide to Giving a Holiday Bonus

Let's face it. Attorneys have trouble remembering some of the simplest things. You might forget when your anniversary is, or when your daughter's school play is scheduled to begin.

And now, the holiday season is almost upon us. For some employees, this means one thing: holiday bonuses. 

Millions of Americans will soon be stretching their wallet to purchase gifts and food for the holiday season. If you're thinking about doling out some extra dough to your employees, take pause and consider:

NY Lawyer Earns $1.50 for Winning Civil Rights Case

If New York attorney Harrison Williams was representing a typical client, his recent win should have netted him thousands of dollars in attorney's fees. Some even estimate that he should have gotten around $75,000 for the successful civil rights case.

Williams will only be seeing a minuscule fraction of that amount. An appeals court has ruled that he will be paid $1.50.

The reason? Williams was handling a prisoner's case. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, passed in 1997, attorney fees in these types of lawsuits are limited to 150% of a jury's award.

Law Firms Going Green, Flocking to LEED-Certified Offices

The green law firm is apparently all the rage. Well, at least for those located in Washington, D.C., where a number of firms have recently gone small in an attempt to go green.

Large firms like Squire Sanders & Dempsey and McDermott Will & Emery are moving into newly built LEED-certified construction. They're turning to natural lighting, bamboo cabinets and recycled flooring. And they're saving a lot of money doing it.

And so can you.

Justice O'Connor Keeps Hearing Cases Despite Her Political Causes

When former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor retired, court-watchers expected her to fade into the background. After all, she had left to take care of her ailing husband.

It's nearly six years later and Justice O'Connor is more active than ever. She's served on a commission that studied the Iraq war, and launched a website on civics education. She's also heard about 140 appellate cases.

But to some, O'Connor's full calendar is cause for concern.

A Tennessee appeals court has affirmed a defense lawyer's contempt conviction, rejecting his claim that he was exempt from the state's ethics rules.

Paul Whetstone, whose in-court temper tantrum was reprinted verbatim in the appeals court's ruling, will probably now face a disciplinary hearing.

The drama unfolded in February 2010, when Whetstone got into a spat with a judge and a prosecutor. The exchange included threats and a remark about panties.