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October 2010 Archives

ABA Celebrates Pro Bono Week With Recognition, Events

Perhaps more important than ever in harsh economic times is the pro bono work legal professionals are committed to performing. Beginning October 21, the ABA will help law firms, bar associations and legal groups everywhere recognize Celebrate Pro Bono Week. From October 24 to October 30, the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service will sponsor recognition of the work done to benefit the poor and underserved in our communities.

Pro bono work of course refers to legal services performed free of charge to benefit those in need. Pro bono work can be done on behalf of indigent clients needing representation, or even the cash- strapped family breadwinner out of work and facing foreclosure. According to ABA President Stephen N. Zack, pro bono work is a fundamental part of the practice of law. The ABA has set an "aspirational goal" for each of its practicing members to perform 50 hours of pro bono work a year.

ABA Releases 'How-To' on Virtual Law Offices

It wasn't that long ago that the concept of a "virtual law office" was discussed in terms of an interesting trend for the future. But those days have passed. Virtual law offices have now become common throughout the United States. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's answer the question: What is a virtual law office?

According to Joe Kashi, who covered the topic for the ABA law practice management session, a virtual law office has four elements:

  1. A stable core group of attorneys;
  2. An established collaborative relationships with other, specialized law firms that possess expertise that's occasionally needed;
  3. Appropriate computer and telecommunications technology; and,
  4. The ability to expand and reduce personnel as needed.

Blogging Jurors: NY Judge Says Juror Blog OK

When it comes to a jury trial, it's not like there is a shortage of concerns. Recently we've heard of Tweeting and Facebooking jurors. Now one Mr. Bruce Slutsky of New York brings us a new consideration: blogging jurors.

The case is especially noteworthy because, despite the fact that Slutsky admittedly blogged about his experience as a juror, the judge found that Slutsky had done nothing wrong. Professor John Clark of the University of Texas strongly disagreed. Clark originally discovered Slutsky's blog and was stunned. Jurors are prohibited from discussing the case with their friends and family, "much less go on the World Wide Web and discuss it with everybody," he said.

The judge was not troubled by the blog posts. Neither were the attorneys, nor parties to the case. They found that Slutsky's comments were vague enough not to have an impact on the case.

October 28 FindLaw Webinar: Online Legal Marketing

Did you know recent statistics show that three out of four Americans use the internet regularly? This number includes individuals who often turn to the web first when looking for legal representation and may be looking for someone with your type of legal expertise. On Thursday, October 28, will present a free webinar on the best ways to market your firm to these potential clients.

Two expert speakers will take participants through the one-hour webcast, covering the basics of effective online legal marketing. Participants will learn proven techniques and strategies for creating a compelling web presence, finding prospective clients that fit their specialties and how get the most from a legal marketing budget.

Florida Foreclosures Law Firm Investigated

The "king" of Florida foreclosures is under investigation. The firm of millionaire foreclosure attorney David J. Stern is under scrutiny after an affidavit was given by a former paralegal to the office of the Florida Attorney General. Included in the statements by former Stern employee Tammie Lou Kapusta were allegations that the firm often signed court paperwork without reading it, misdated records, forged signatures and passed around notary stamps to those who were not notaries, in their hurry to foreclose on homes.

It is not just the practices of David Stern and his employees who are under increasing scrutiny, but the whole mortgage-servicing industry. ABC reports that 40 state attorneys general are expected to announce an investigation into the industry. In Florida, one of the states hit hardest by the real estate crisis, the investigation of Stern's firm is emblematic of the issues throughout the industry.

New Lawsuits Question Who Has the Right to Foreclose

You may want to keep an eye on a new wave of lawsuits arising out of the foreclosure crisis that is rocking the industry. When mortgages are bought and sold, the purchaser is supposed to register the purchase. A company by the name of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, or MERS, was created by the industry and specialized in electronic registration. The company was designed to save the time and inconvenience of making a trip to the courthouse and paying filing fees.

It's no small company. MERS keeps track of more than 64 million titles, and handles over 60% of the new mortgages created. However the USA TODAY highlighted a recurring problem involving foreclosures in a piece Monday profiling people like Randy Persten. Persten's morgage was forclosed in 2008, but according to the paperwork he received, the foreclosure action was being brought by MERS. Problem is, he had never heard of them and couldn't figure out why he would owe MERS money. His attorney successfully fought the foreclosure, only to see a second action brought by another company claiming to be the true owner of his mortgage.

'Block' Billing Dispute: Duane Morris Sued for $100M

Duane Morris LLP is being sued for at least $100 million by U.S. Precious Metals Inc. The firm and partner Keli Isaacson Whitlock allegedly committed legal malpractice and breached fiduciary duties. Whitlock was named one of the top "40 Under 40" outstanding business leaders by the Baltimore Business Journal.

However, according to an SEC filing and complaint filed in the Supreme Court of New York, the law firm and partner used "block billing." U.S. Precious Metals alleges that the firm ran up $2.6 million in charges using block billing without detailing the nature or reason for the work.