Wednesday, September 15, 2010

LAW.COM Newswire Highlights September 15, 2010

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European Court Limits Attorney-Client Privilege for In-House Counsel
The National Law Journal

In a blow to multinational businesses and their in-house counsel, the European Court of Justice on Tuesday held that communications between company management and in-house lawyers are not protected from disclosure or discovery in competition law cases or investigations by the European Commission. The court rejected arguments that the laws of other nations have increasingly granted legal privilege protection in the field of competition law.

New System of Ranking Law Firms Draws Mixed Reviews
The National Law Journal

U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers have released their inaugural ranking of law firms, but don't expect firms to brag about securing the overall top spot. Unlike U.S. News' law school rankings, which numerically list the top 100 schools, the new project divides law firms into three tiers based on individual practice areas both nationally and in individual cities. The publications determined the rankings through surveys of more than 9,000 clients and nearly as many lawyers.

In-House Salary Survey: 2010 Not the Year of the Little Guy
Corporate Counsel

A sneak peek at ALM's "Law Department Compensation Benchmarking Survey, 2010 Edition" revealed that the middlemen (division GCs) really cleaned up in 2010. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for their lower-ranking compatriots. All five non-management in-house positions in the survey saw wages drop this year, with the "attorney" position taking the biggest hit. The median salary for that position dropped from $117,500 in 2009 to $111,200 this year, for an adjusted trend of minus 7.5 percent.

Judge's Ridicule of Attorney Prompts Panel to Order New Trial
New York Law Journal

A New York judge ridiculed a defense attorney and criticized his arguments in front of a jury by using loaded words such as "clown," "silly," "outrageous" and "comedy," prompting a unanimous appeals panel Tuesday to overturn a robbery conviction and to direct that on remand the case be tried before a different judge. The panel found that Acting Supreme Court Justice Robert A. Neary's "pervasive denigration of defendant's counsel, in front of the jury, deprived the defendant of a fair trial."

Judicial Conference Sets New Experiment With TV Access
The National Law Journal

Under pressure from Congress, and responding to technological change, the Judicial Conference agreed Tuesday by an "overwhelming" vote to experiment with camera access to civil proceedings at the federal district court level. The plan is essentially a reprise of a similar test authorized nearly 20 years ago. Though the experiment was generally viewed as a success, the conference pulled the plug in the wake of the raucous 1995 O.J. Simpson trial, which still haunts the debate over cameras in the courts.

Arbitrators Confirm Quinn Emanuel's Fee in Facebook Settlement
New York Law Journal

Quinn Emanuel has claimed success in an arbitration against its former clients, the founders of website ConnectU, which the firm represented in a suit against former Harvard classmate and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for allegedly stealing the idea for the networking site. While the settlement was confidential, Quinn Emanuel at one point inadvertently disclosed that the value was $65 million. In the arbitration, the firm sought a 20 percent contingency fee it valued at $13 million.

Scalia Gives Big Tobacco $270 Million Reprieve
The Associated Press

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has temporarily blocked a state court order requiring tobacco companies to pay $270 million for a smoking cessation program in Louisiana. Scalia granted a request from the companies on Tuesday, but said he would reconsider his order later this month after hearing from plaintiffs who won a class action lawsuit against the cigarette makers.

Departures From Billing Standards Lead to Loss of $424,000 in Fees
New Jersey Law Journal

Law firms are free to use block billing and measure their time in quarter-hour increments, but those practices can come back to bite them when they apply for fees in federal court. Citing 3rd Circuit precedent that a party block-bills "at his own peril," a New Jersey federal judge has slashed $424,332 from a $2.9 million fee request because the methods could have led to or obscured overbilling. The judge said she saw nothing amiss about the firm's bills but said its methods made it hard to pin down the time spent per task.

$35 Million More in Interim Fees Awarded in Madoff Case
New York Law Journal

Trustee Irving Picard and the team of lawyers liquidating Bernard Madoff's investment firm have been awarded another $34.6 million in interim counsel fees. On Tuesday, Southern District of New York Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland approved some $601,000 in fees to Picard and $34 million in fees to Baker & Hostetler for Feb. 1 through May 31. To date, the judge has awarded Picard and his attorneys nearly $97 million in fees.

Disbarred Attorney Gets Nearly 11 Years for Role in Ponzi Scheme
The Associated Press

A judge has sentenced a disbarred attorney to nearly 11 years in prison for money laundering conspiracy in the $3.7 billion Ponzi scheme allegedly run by Minnesota businessman Tom Petters. Larry Reynolds had faced up to 20 years, but U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle sentenced him Tuesday to 10 years and 10 months. Kyle showed him some leniency for pleading guilty and testifying against Petters.

Citigroup: No 'Villain' in $75 Million SEC Subprime Settlement
The American Lawyer

There's a reason why the Securities and Exchange Commission didn't name any Citigroup executives in its settled complaint over disclosures the company made about its subprime exposure: Nobody intentionally misled shareholders. That's the heart of the argument that Citigroup made in a brief filed Monday supporting a $75 million settlement with the SEC. Last month, a D.C. federal judge postponed approval of the deal, citing her concern that no Citi executive was named in the settled complaint.

TB Patient Tries to Revive Privacy Lawsuit Against Centers for Disease Control
Fulton County Daily Report

A lawyer for Andrew H. Speaker, who made headlines in 2007 when he took a trans-Atlantic commercial flight while infected with a rare strain of tuberculosis, appeared Tuesday before an 11th Circuit panel in a bid to revive his lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At issue is whether the complaint in the lawsuit contained sufficiently specific allegations in light of a pair of U.S. Supreme Court cases that toughened standards for what must be alleged in order for a case to go forward.

Blagojevich Asks Judge to Nullify Conviction
The Associated Press

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has asked a judge to nullify the lone conviction in his mostly deadlocked corruption trial, saying the jury's decision was underpinned by errors at trial and prosecutor misconduct. Defense attorneys filed a motion saying the trial judge should override the verdict and acquit Blagojevich of lying to the FBI or set it aside and try him again on that charge. If the judge refuses to toss the conviction, multiple arguments in the filing could lay the groundwork for appeal to a higher court.

Is a Website's Look and Feel Protected?
New York Law Journal

Trade dress protection guards a product image and the impression it creates among consumers to distinguish competing products. Does this protection extend to websites? Attorneys Richard Raysman and Peter Brown discuss recent decisions that deal with infringing a website's "look and feel."
Visit Legal Technology

Law Schools Flamed in Growing Number of Graduates' 'Scam Blogs'
The Connecticut Law Tribune

At a time when hundreds of associates have been laid off and scores of graduates remain jobless, there's a growing movement online to diss the law school experience. Several dozen blogs have gained notoriety for revealing what is often characterized as the "law school scam."
Visit News & Views

The Careerist: Maybe a Girl's Got To Be Manipulative
The Careerist

Check out some of the latest posts on the blog, The Careerist. Maybe a Girl's Got To Be Manipulative: What Joan and Peggy of "Mad Men" Can Teach Us Plus Are Flex/Part-Time Options Holding Women Back? Also The Secret of Success: Be Cool, Be Popular -- Not!
Visit The Careerist

A Year Later, Law Firm Startups Find Solid Ground
The Recorder

For several attorneys who left large firms a year ago to start small firms, setting out in the worst recession since the 1930s hasn't made for an easy voyage, but the worst seems to be behind them. Along the way they've learned that marketing is never optional, that their practice can take them in unplanned directions and that worry about the next piece of work is a constant companion and motivator. In fact, being busy can be a double-edged sword because of the pressure to make time for client development.®
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