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Litigation Boutiques Continue Spinning Out of BigLaw

When a piece of an iceberg breaks off, it's doesn't mean sea levels will rise around the world. But if a polar cap starts to fracture, scientists will certainly take measurements.

Sedgwick LLP, which has lost 40 lawyers in the past two weeks, is somewhere in between. It started with two groups of partners splitting off and then another 25 attorneys breaking away.

It marks the most recent -- and maybe the biggest -- fracture at the firm, which lost more than 10 percent of its lawyers each year in recent years. With 343 attorneys in 2014, the firm now says it has 250 lawyers worldwide. Many of the departing lawyers are following an established trend for former BigLaw lawyers: starting litigation boutique firms.

Lawyer Seeks Immunity for Lying Clients. It Fails Badly

Pancy Lin, a partner at Lynberg & Watkins, stepped into harm's way when she arrived to defend Orange County social workers who had lied in a custody case to wrest custody from the plaintiff's mother. Based on their perjured testimony, the trial judge took custody of her children away from her.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, having read the social workers' argument that they were immune from liability in the civil rights action, was ready.

There's plenty of talk about law firm cyber security on legal blogs. Tales of hacked emails, ransomed documents, even hacked household devices.

But don't forget, not all threats are cyberthreats. Some thieves still prefer to practice their craft the old-fashioned way, by kicking in the door or crawling through the window, as a recent string of law firm robberies in West Virginia reminds us.

2 Big Firms Stiffed $800,000 by Same Client

Maybe lighting does strike twice.

Using excuses that included his house was struck by lightning, a client struck two big law firms with more than $800,000 in unpaid attorney's fees. What really shocked the lawyers, however, was that one firm unwittingly vouched for the client to the other firm.

A prosecutor's use of 'racially coded references' means that a South Carolina man's death sentence must be reversed, the Fourth Circuit ruled yesterday. Johnny Bennett, who is African American, had been convicted of murder, kidnapping, and armed robbery and sentenced to death by an all-white jury.

But Bennett's sentencing was so full of winking racism that it made a fair proceeding impossible, the Fourth ruled.

Twitter users tend to run in groups. There's political Twitter, black Twitter, legal Twitter, and even #appellatetwitter. And over the past few days, the legal twittersphere has had its feathers ruffled a little bit.

As you would expect, the controversy is over an (allegedly stolen) joke involving a parrot.

Talk about a niche practice: A Chicago lawyer has filed almost a thousand qui tam cases in Cook County, Illinois courts over the past 15 years, bringing in millions of dollars in settlements. Stephen Diamond and his firm, Bloomberg's Michael Bologna reports, obtained almost $30 million across 911 qui tam actions, $11.6 million of which he's kept for himself.

Diamond became the "king of qui tam" by suing internet retailers for failing to pay proper taxes. But now that his secret's out, Bloomberg writes, Diamond "could be coming to the end of his false claims gravy train."

The Supreme Court's ban on victim impact testimony that recommends specific sentencing outcomes (like the death penalty) is still in effect despite the opinion being partially overruled, the Court announced in a per curiam decision last week.

The brief ruling involves the interplay of Booth v. Maryland, the 1987 case in which the Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment prohibits victim's family members' opinions about the crime, and Payne v. Tennessee, decided just four years later, which allowed testimony about the emotional impact of crimes. Consider the opinion a bit of a revival for Booth, or at least a reminder that the Court's earlier limitations on victim impact statements haven't been fully abandoned.

'Go ahead and move for sanctions against opposing counsel,' they said. 'What's the worst that could happen?' they said.

Well, an attorney at the Minnesota law firm Messerli & Kramer, "the worst" was having their sanction motion turned against them -- not by the opposing party, but by the judge.

Last week, Gretchen Carlson dropped a bomb of a lawsuit on Roger Ailes, the chairman and CEO of Fox News. Carlson, a longtime Fox personality until she was let go three weeks ago, accused Ailes of propositioning her, creating a hostile work environment, and terminating her when she rebuffed his advances and complained about the behavior.

But, like many professionals, Carlson's contract included a clause that requires her to bring any disputes to secret arbitration. Could her lawyer's clever pleading allow her to get around this obstacle?