$44 Million Contingency Fee In Estate Litigation Thrown Out As “Unconscionable”

The incomparable ability of estate litigation to drag on is literally a joke, a joke so old and so well-known that more than 150 years ago Charles Dickens opened the novel Bleak House with reference to the fictional Jarndyce and Jarndyce estate proceeding that had been going on for generations.   Sylvan Lawrence was one of the largest owners of real estate in downtown Manhattan when he died in December 1981. Last week, a mere 31 years, 5 months, and 2 weeks later, an appellate court in New York decided the fee dispute between his estate and Graubard Miller, the ... Continue Reading

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Five Case Selection Tips For New Plaintiff’s Lawyers

[Update, March 21, 2013: Eric Turkewitz chimes in with his 10 Signs The New Matter is a Dog (Before you even consider the merits). I am more tolerant of #1, #3, and #4, depending on circumstances, but #2 and #5-#10 all pretty much guarantee I will not investigate further and will reject the case. One other big point that #2, #8, and #9 can reveal: do not take on hostile clients. It doesn't matter how good their case looks, they are not worth it. If a potential client is rude to my secretary or paralegals, they are gone, no questions ... Continue Reading

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How Judges Can Settle Mass Torts Cases (A Lesson From The 9/11 Responders Litigation)

Last week, I wrote about a commonplace problem in product liability lawsuits: when courts forbid plaintiffs’ lawyers from sharing relevant discovery evidence amongst themselves, they inadvertently enable the defendants to engage in discovery fraud by cherry-picking which evidence they produce in each case. A new article by the federal judge (and the special masters he appointed) who oversaw the 9/11 Responders litigation reveals another critical component of a successful and fair resolution of high-stakes litigation: the cases need to move.   The article, Managerial Judging: The 9/11 Responders' Tort Litigation (via TortsProf), is one-part guidance for future courts in similar ... Continue Reading

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On The Legality of Referral Fees: The NJ Civil Rights Attorney’s Fee Fight

“Referral fee” can mean a lot of different things in the law. The plainly unethical version involves lawyers paying non-lawyers (like doctors or tow truck drivers or union bosses) to send them potential cases, but, when plaintiff’s lawyers use the term “referral fee,” they usually mean: the part of a damages award or settlement that one lawyer takes from the overall contingent attorney’s fees for sending a potential client to another lawyer. Perhaps the most common is the “third of a third,” in which the client is represented on a one-third contingent fee (i.e., the lawyer takes one-third of any ... Continue Reading

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How Much Is Too Much To Pay For A Workers’ Compensation Attorney?

Earlier this week, The Legal Intelligencer published an article on attorney’s fees* in workers’ compensation** cases that’s currently pending before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. (* For anyone curious about the answer to the age-old question of whether to use attorney fees, attorneys fees, attorney's fees, or attorneys' fees, consider this court opinion. ** For anyone curious about the other age-old question of whether to use worker’s compensation, workers’ compensation, or workers compensation, consider this blog post. Pennsylvania’s laws call them attorney’s fees and workers’ compensation, so I will, too.)   I've written a lot about contingent fee representation on this ... Continue Reading

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The Product Liability Expert Who Wasn’t There

Product liability claims are doubly challenging for plaintiffs' lawyers. First, product liability law is in a state of flux (with the trend going against injured consumers). Second, product liability cases are notoriously time-consuming and expensive to pursue: in addition to all the ordinary expenses and burdens of personal injury litigation, product cases usually require hiring a bevy of experts who then have to spend hundreds of hours examining the products and preparing their reports. It's not unusual for lawyers to spend over one hundred thousand dollars on a product liability case in out-of-pocket expenses alone (not including lost attorneys fees), ... Continue Reading

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The Black Swan Solo Practice Business Model That Will Bankrupt You

There is no shortage of information on the Internet about how to start a solo or very small law practice, perhaps because there are too many recent law graduates unable to find firm jobs and so become “suddenly solo” young lawyers, and I don't mean to add more general advice to that big pile. I’ve never been a solo practitioner; I am, however, responsible for my own cases and accountable for my own revenues and expenses, and I have also seen my fair share of other lawyers who struck out to be solos and then, well, struck out.   In ... Continue Reading

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Tort Reform “Policy”: Injury Plaintiffs Should Always Lose

Over on Twitter, where all the major debates of our time are reduced to the length of text messages, I got into a discussion with Ted Frank. For those of you who don’t know Ted Frank, he’s a prominent “tort reform” advocate. Ted and Walter Olson are among the only “tort reform” advocates who offer substantive commentary and aren’t just whining hypocrites, which is why you’ll see them (as Point of Law and Overlawyered) in my blogroll over to the right. One thing led to another — like text messages among adolescents, Twitter discussions rapidly devolve either into mutual admiration ... Continue Reading

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The Lawyer As Ambulance Chaser

Few insults draw the ire of personal injury lawyers like “ambulance chaser.” Unlike “trial lawyer,” which business interests have been trying to turn into a slur for years — despite the fact that the term means little to non-lawyers and, among lawyers, can be a compliment for both plaintiff’s and defendant’s counsel — “ambulance chaser” is unambiguously derogatory, implying a mixture of greed, desperation, and exploitation. The term is doubly insulting because it strikes at the part of our work that is the most emotionally challenging and is the source of our greatest pride: the fact that we are trying ... Continue Reading

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New Hampshire’s Insidious Early Offer Medical Malpractice Law

Over the Governor’s veto, the New Hampshire legislature passed an “early offers” law for medical malpractice claims. Tort reformer Walter Olson rounds up some commentary, most notably Torts Professor Christopher J. Robinette’s support, but intentionally excluding (dismissing it as “error-filled screed in a Litigation Lobby outlet”) The Pop Tort’s critical piece. In short, the new law sets up a process under which patients can request an “early offer” of a settlement prior to full-blown litigation that is supposed to cover their "economic loss" and then provide a modest sum for pain and suffering. That sounds like a reasonable idea in ... Continue Reading

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