Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Law Firms Fighting Over Contingency Spoils

To the victor go the spoils in contingency cases, to paraphrase a famous quote. But real life isn't always as simple and as the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, lawyers sometimes find themselves fighting over division of the spoils rather than enjoying them.

The article focuses on an intra-firm fee dispute involving the Minneapolis law firm Heins, Mills & Olson. The Heins law firm received a $103 million fee for its work as lead counsel in a nationwide class action suit against AOL Time Warner over false and misleading financial statements by AOL. After the win, several partners left the firm and filed suit for a larger cut of the fee, arguing that Heins and other lawyers on the firm letterhead had retained a disproportionate cut of the winnings. Eventually, the two departing lawyers each received $4 million, while Heins received $48 million and his wife Stacey Mills, an equity partner, took $32 million. However, Heins and Mills didn't keep the entire award as profit, but used a portion to cover taxes and pay down a line of credit that had been used to keep the firm going while the case was in suit.

Presumably, the departing lawyers had done the bulk of the work on the case, but the name partners had fronted the costs and perhaps, helped lure the clients. In this situation, what do you consider a fair split?

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Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 20, 2008 at 02:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

D.C. Circuit Rules That Paper Money Discriminates Against the Blind

The Blog of the Legal Times reports that the D.C. Circuit, by a 2-1 decision, affirmed the ruling of the lower court that paper money discriminates against the blind in violation of Section 504 of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The court found that the plaintiff, the American Council of the Blind had shown that the current design of paper money denies the blind "meaningful access" to use and the defendant Treasury Department failed to adequately support its claims that changing existing currency design -- for example, creating differentiated bill sizes -- would create an undue burden on the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  Judge Randolph dissented, stating that the appeal was interlocutory and should never have been permitted.  However, Randolph also disagreed with the majority's assessment of the merits, finding that measures such as differentiating bill sizes would cost both the government and the private sector billions of dollars to alter ATM and vending machines and (horrors!) would render most current purses and wallets obsolete.

There are two interesting trivia points worth noting. According to Jurist, the United States is the only nation of some 180 using paper currency that produces same-size, undifferentiated bills in all denominations. And D.C. Circuit Judge David Tatel (who was not on the panel) is blind.

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Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 20, 2008 at 02:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Message to Gen Y: It's Your Problem, Not Mine

Let's just say that Dan Hull of What About Clients? doesn't mince words. In response to a marketing e-mail touting a 1-day seminar designed to help companies "attract and retain a generation of workers whose commitment seems more temporary than permanent," Hull replied thanks but no thanks. Hull writes:

It's your problem, Gen-X and Gen-Y. Not ours. Work, figure it out, ask questions, and we'll help you--but it's your job to adjust to "us" and the often hard adventure of learning to solve problems for your employee.

Should law firms bend over backwards to keep lawyers who can't or won't adjust? Or as Hull argues, do lawyers bear the burden of figuring out how to make the job work for them (and leave if they can't)?

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Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 20, 2008 at 01:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Blawg Review #160

Blawg Review #160 takes the form of a diary entry by hostess Ruthie's Law, who shares a behind-the-scenes look at preparing a blawg review. Ruthie writes that at the outset, she begged the pseudonymous Ed. to allow her to call issue #160 a "legal blog review." But ever the "uncooperative soul," (Ruthie's words, not mine!), Ed. refused, insisting that Ruthie use the proper term, Blawg Review. Second, if you've ever wondered which posts are submitted to Blawg Review versus selected, Ruthie reveals all, at least for this edition.

Whether you call it legal blog review or Blawg Review, don't miss this week's engaging issue.

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Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 20, 2008 at 01:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Trickle-Down Effect of Wall Street Job Losses on Law Firms

When Wall Street goes, so goes New York City law firms.   At least that's what a recent report by New York City's Independent Budget Office suggests, reports Reuters. According to the IBO, an imminent local recession is expected to cause a loss of 33,300 jobs on Wall Street -- or about 7.1 percent of the sector's employment. So how does that impact law firms? Well, each job on Wall Street creates two to three jobs in other industries, from law firms to restaurants. Thus, job losses on Wall Street will inevitably impact the legal sector. 

For those of you who work in New York, are you seeing more signs that the economy is tanking? And if you work at a firm, do you feel secure at your job?  Send your comments below.

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Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 20, 2008 at 12:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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