Thursday, April 24, 2008



Survey Ranks West Virginia Courts Worst

Congratulations to West Virginia. It's spot stands secure as the worst state in which to be sued. So says Lawsuit Climate 2008, the annual ranking of state liability systems published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform. West Virginia ranked 50 out of 50 for the third straight year, according to this announcement, and "has languished near the bottom of the rankings" since they began seven years ago. At the top of the list, as it is every year, is Delaware, described as "first among all fifty states in the fairness of its litigation environment."

The survey is conducted for ILR by the market research firm Harris Interactive. Harris asked nearly 1,000 in-house counsel and senior corporate litigators to evaluate up to five states in which they were familiar with the litigation environment. Based on their responses, Harris added up the scores and assigned each state a ranking. The five states with the most favorable litigation environments for business, the survey concluded, are:

  • Delaware
  • Nebraska
  • Maine
  • Indiana
  • Utah

The five worst (starting with number 50) are:

  • West Virginia
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama
  • Illinois

A state's ranking, the survey notes, may not reflect the "nuances" of its various courts. "For example, several studies have documented very high litigation activity in certain county courts such as Madison County, Illinois and Jefferson County, Texas, revealing that these counties have 'magnet courts' that are extremely hospitable to plaintiffs."

Over at opposing counsel's table, the American Association for Justice called the report "phony" and "propaganda." "U.S. Chamber's goal is to make sure people can't get justice in the courtroom, especially against the corporations that finance this front group," said AAJ CEO Jon Haber. AAJ has put together a response to the ILR report, The Truth About the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Further reading: Chamber survey on state 'legal climates' draws flak from plaintiffs' attorneys.

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on April 23, 2008 at 10:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jet Maker Subpoenas Blog Critics

In the latest case of corporation-versus-blog, the manufacturer of a line of "affordable" jets is seeking to uncover the identity of persons who posted critical comments on an aviation industry blog. Eclipse Aviation has served a subpoena on Google Inc. seeking to out the identities of more than two dozen people who have posted anonymous comments to the blog Eclipse Aviation Critic NG, which is hosted on Google's Blogger service.

According to the aviation-industry news site AINonline, the president and CEO of the Albuquerque, N.M., company, Vern Raburn, claims that lies posted by the anonymous commentators have irreparably damaged his company. But AINonline adds that "the blog hasn't been far off the mark on several occasions," indicating that some of the anonymous posters could be Eclipse employees.

Meanwhile, the operator of the blog, Shane Price of Dublin, Ireland, tells another industry news site, AVwebBiz,  that he is "feeling left out" because he was not personally named in the subpoena. He says that Google told him it would give Eclipse the requested information unless it is notified by May 9 that the anonymous posters intend to fight the action. According to news reports and comments on the blog, the posters do, indeed, intend to fight the subpoena and will file a motion to quash in the Santa Clara, Calif., Superior Court where it was filed.

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on April 23, 2008 at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is This Law Firm Ad Unethical?

The Nixon Peabody quarter-page ad that appeared recently in the Wall Street Journal showed a thoughtful-looking man above the headline, "I need lawyers who are more concerned about managing my risks than their own." Below that, the body of the ad said, "If your lawyers seem more concerned about enumerating your options than helping you choose among them, you might wonder whose interests are really being served."

The ad "really disturbed me," writes legal-marketing professional (and self-described contrarian) Bruce W. Marcus at his blog The Marcus Perspective. Why? Because he sees it as an example of the kind of dirty-tricks advertising that characterizes political campaigns seeping into the legal profession. Most law-firm advertising is bad and appears to be written by agencies that are clueless about the legal profession, Marcus contends.

But this one looks like it was written by someone trained in political dirty tricks advertising. Does the advertising law firm really thinks it has to insult the profession to make its point? Does it really need to put down other lawyers, as if they were opposing candidates in an election campaign?

The ad may raise ethical questions, Marcus believes, "but even before that is a question of professionalism and taste. I would be surprised if half the profession doesn't feel sullied by this ad."

The very tag line that concerns Marcus appears prominently on the Nixon Peabody home page and the firm's series of print ads is displayed elsewhere on the site. Marcus's comments point to a quandary firms face in their advertising. They are ethically prohibited from directly comparing themselves to other firms unless the comparison can be substantiated factually. At the same time, as competition among firms grows more intense, they must somehow distinguish themselves from the lawyers across the street. Of the four ads shown on the firm's Web site, only the one Marcus describes strikes me as getting too close to crossing the line. With a little rewriting, the ad could have made the same point with a bit more subtlety.

What do you think? Do these ads read like a dirty-tricks campaign? Or do they make legitimate points that fall short of comparisons?

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on April 23, 2008 at 09:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Like a Grunge Concert, Only With Lawyers

Lawyerpalooza Lollapalooza made its debut in 1990 as a farewell concert for Jane's Addiction and gathered steam over the following years as a touring festival of grunge and alternative rock music. Given that grunge had its roots in Seattle, home to Nirvana and Pearl Jam, it is only fitting that Seattle should host the not-so-alternative lawyer version of Lollapalooza, a/k/a Lawyerpalooza.

That's right. Tomorrow at 5:30 p.m., various lawyers will shed their suits and briefcases, pick up their guitars and drumsticks, and demonstrate to Seattle that the legal profession rocks. Rock bands drawn from Seattle law firms will perform at The Showbox, all to raise money for elementary school music programs in the city. Performing will be bands No Rules from Karr Tuttle Campbell, HalfTimes from Robert Half Legal, Perkins Coie from (how'd you guess?) Perkins Coie LLP, Morris Can Fly from Lane Powell PC and McNaul Ebel Nawrot & Helgren PLLC, Ruby's Basement from Groff Murphy PLLC, Dave  DeCordoba from Ryan Swanson & Cleveland PLLC, Garth Olson from Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt, and Eric Laschever Group from Stoel Rives LLP.

This will be the sixth Lawyerpalooza. It was founded by "a group of friends in the Seattle legal  community who just wanted to stretch themselves creatively and have some fun." Among them were the lawyer members of the band The Big Lubersky, who are not performing this year but promise to be on hand to "poke good natured-fun at their fellow law-oriented musicians." Tickets to the event are $20 and anyone outside the Seattle area can contribute a donation through the Web site. Several businesses are also providing support: Robert Half Legal, Iron Mountain, Avvo and Dorsey & Whitney. As grunge icon Kurt Cobain might have said, "Come as you are" -- but lose the tie.

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on April 23, 2008 at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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