Law blog roundup

RockwellA happy soggy Monday to you on a week where many of the state’s lawyers will be heading “downy ocean” and we all celebrate Old Glory. Here are some law links to chew on:

– As online privacy dominates the news, Ron Miller of the Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog has details on a new Maryland Rule concerning personal information and court records.

– Why some lawsuits over Obamacare will come from the health care legislation’s supporters.

– “A Cuyahoga County prosecutor was fired this week after he admitted posing as a woman in a Facebook chat with an accused killer’s alibi witnesses in an attempt to persuade them to change their testimony.” (HT: Above the Law)

Steve Martin and his banjo (HT: Lowering the Bar)

Chewbacca and his light-saber cane

Legal news roundup

Hobby LobbyHappy (rainy) Friday everyone! Here’s your pre-Memorial Day weekend legal news round-up:

– The Brooklyn district attorney’s office will face numerous challenges as it begins an unusual examination of 50 homicide convictions originally looked into by one police detective, Louis Scarella. Scarella , who is now retired, has come under fire some of the methods he used while investigating these cases. This includes using the same drug addict as an eyewitness. Mr. Scarcella has denied wrongdoing.

– Hans G. Poppe, a Louisville lawyer whose fainting caused a mistrial in a medical-malpractice trial is being sued by the insurance company providing medical malpractice coverage to the defendant doctor and hospital he filed suit against.

– Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. on Thursday asked a federal appeals court to exclude it from part of the federal health care law that requires it to offer employees health coverage that includes access to the morning-after pill. The chain of arts-and-crafts stores argued that businesses should be able to seek exception from that section of the health law if it violates their religious beliefs.


Law blog roundup

Welcome to Monday, the 98th anniversary of Baltimore native Babe Ruth’s first major league home run. Here are some news items to get your week started.

– The West, Texas, fertilizer plant was woefully under insured.

– Is there “a fundamental right … to engage in intimate contact“?

– A new book on The Roberts Court will hit stores this week.

– Businesses speak well of the aforementioned court.

Surveying the lay of the land at the Consumer Electronics Show

2013 CESFor the third consecutive year, Frank Gorman of Gorman & Williams has graciously offered to write a few blog posts while he is in Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show

The weather is beautiful in Las Vegas as nearly 150,000 registered attendees flock to the 2013 Consumer Electronic Show. Products and services are displayed over 1.8 million square-feet of floor space at three primary venues: the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center; the Las Vegas Hotel next door (formerly the Hilton); and The Venetian about a mile down the Strip. The show runs through Friday.

Smartphones, tablets, and large TVs dominate 2013 CES. The iPhone remains the standard against which all smartphones are compared. Manufacturers exhibiting at CES are showing thinner and larger smartphones. Tablets are incorporated into ultrabooks and hybrid PCs, with some designs using hinges and others with tablets that snap on and fold over a keyboard. There are cinema-quality flat screens TVs that can be controlled by voice commands and gestures. Manufacturers are still promoting 3D TVs and the high-picture-quality OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TVs.

2013 Consumer Electronics ShowSamsung is the most prominent exhibitor this year. As the Apple-fighter, Samsung seems to have extra panache this year setting it apart. The Galaxy Note tablet and Galaxy Note II smartphone are attracting lots of attention.

If anyone at CES is missing Apple and Microsoft as exhibitors, I have not noticed. The iLounge area of the show contains hundreds of accessory products for the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, demonstrating Apple’s huge impact on the industry.

Microsoft, incidentally, is absent from CES for the first time in 14 years. Its software operates many of the products on display here but its own hardware products, such as the Surface tablet, are not a factor at CES.

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The pluses and minuses of partnership

I had the pleasure of meeting many distinguished members of Maryland’s legal community last night at The Daily Record’s 2012 Leadership in Law event. This included a number of partners from firms such as Venable and Zuckerman  Spaeder.

So when I read a column this morning in the National Law Journal on the possible pitfalls of becoming a partner it seemed especially timely.

“Obtaining partnership can be a significant achievement and offer a lawyer substantial rewards, but it may also involve substantial risk,”  writes Michael Downey, a partner at Armstrong Teasdale in St. Louis. “Due care should be exercised to ensure a proffered partnership position is indeed a prize, not a trap.”

Downey says that becoming an equity partner involves assuming several types of increased risk. He says a new partner may be expected to “contribute capital, to pay money into the firm or leave money in the firm for it to use — or lose.” Second, a new partner may “assume greater responsibility for the firm’s debts and liabilities.”

Third, Downey says a new partner may “relinquish predictability in compensation.” He says that partners often receive a “comparatively smaller monthly payment or draw, and may not learn or receive their full annual compensation until profits and losses are determined at the end of the firm’s fiscal year.”

To minimize these risks, Downey said attorneys  contemplating becoming a partner should be mindful of the risks, review the firm’s governance documents, conduct due diligence about the firm, get third-party information about and evaluations of the firm and think about perhaps joining as a non-equity position or as of counsel.

Maryland attorneys: what do you think? What have your experiences been?

In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

In-house legal departments are getting fed up with paying outside counsel for soft costs like food and photocopying fees, The Wall Street Journal reported this week.

In-house counsel are pushing back against law firms charging them for legal research, photocopying and word processing costs according to a study cited in the article.

Companies’ legal departments argue that these costs are included in law firm overhead and therefore should not be charged to them.

So, here’s our question for you:

Should companies be charged for soft costs like catered lunches and photocopying by outside counsel?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

A recent article in Inside Counsel points out that in-house attorneys are increasingly the target of investigations by the federal government. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice seldom charged general counsels in their investigations in the past, but that has changed over the past few years.

Perhaps the best-known example is the indictment of GlaxoSmithKline’s associate counsel in 2010 for obstruction of justice in an investigation into off-label drug marketing. A judge ultimately ruled that the attorney should never have been prosecuted, saying “a lawyer should never fear prosecution because of advice that he or she has given to a client.”

So, here’s our question for you:

Do you agree with the judge’s statement? Should general counsels also be indicted by the government in investigations into company practices?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

  • Northrop Grumman named a new vice president and general counsel.
  • Honda’s general counsel joins Frost Brown Todd’s Cincinnati office.
  • GE named a new  Senior Counsel for Litigation and Legal Policy.
  • The National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Bar Association will honor Tristan Higgins, director of the Law Department of Sony Electronics, Inc., with its Out & Proud Corporate Counsel Award.
  • Wal-Mart named the deputy general counsel at oil field services company Schlumberger Ltd.  as its head of international legal compliance while it investigates bribery allegations.

In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

What do you do when you start a job as an in-house attorney for the first time and there are no other lawyers at your company?
Many lawyers go in-house after practicing law for decades. While they come equipped with knowledge of the law, a general counsel position has its own set of rules and requirements. Often, these attorneys are the only lawyers in the building and have few outlets for advice.

Corporate Counsel asked general counsels how they seek mentorship. Some seek advice in general counsel online forums, others pair up in formal programs with other in-house counsel and some just call other in-house attorneys they are acquainted with on the phone.

So, here’s our question for you:

Where do you seek advice and mentorship in your job as a general counsel?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

  • More drama at the University of Iowa as a judge decided a case brought by an ex-general counsel.
  • A former legal officer who worked for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for four decades passed away.
  • First Potomac Realty Trust’s general counsel ceased his duties.
  • An administrative attorney for the Montana Department of Labor and Industry is running for attorney general in the state.
  • Follow us on Twitter for In-House news and discussion: @TDRInHouse
  • Want the latest on who’s been hired, fired or moving and shaking in between? Head to our Movers and Shakers page to find out.
  • For networking events and other happenings this week in Maryland, check out our calendar of events.
  • Get the very latest updates from our law reporters on Twitter: @TDRKristi, @Steve_Lash
  • Check out The Daily Record on Facebook.

In-House Interrogatory

Asked: Our weekly question to the In-House community

Ever wonder why general counsel fire outside firms?

A U.K-based market research firm put that question to a couple thousand in-house attorneys in 45 different countries. Out of the top five answers, three centered on the cost-to-value ratio and the other two focused on lack of client maintenance — one, particularly, on client maintenance when a key contact leaves the firm. The top reasons were published in American Lawyer:

• “They were doing a bad job: no results and a lot of invoices.”

• “Poor service. Lots of delay. When challenged, they were completely up front and just said [they] don’t have enough resources, which is pretty astonishing for an international law firm.”

• “It has to do with quality and price. We paid thirty or forty thousand euros, more or less for nothing. So, they had to go.”

•”The main client relationship [partner] left the firm. I find that often when partners leave, those firms neglect to contact clients to say we still want your business and we have signed a new relationship manager. They tend not to correspond with you. Yet the partner who leaves always contacts you from the new firm.”

•”There was a severe lack of relationship between what the bills were and what the value delivered was.”

So, here’s our question for you:

What are the main reasons you would fire outside counsel or have fired outside counsel in the past?

Leave a comment below or email me.

Need to Know:

  • Telecom’s group general counsel quit.
  • More shake-ups in News Corp.’s legal department.
  • The University of California, Irvine School of Law will open an in-house counsel certificate program next summer.
  • The former associate general counsel at GlaxoSmithKline talked about being acquitted of criminal charges last year.
  • Everything’s bigger in Texas: general counsel compensation is up 11 percent in the Lone Star State.
  • General counsels are increasingly sought out by CEOs for advice.
  • Follow us on Twitter for In-House news and discussion: @TDRInHouse
  • Want the latest on who’s been hired, fired or moving and shaking in between? Head to our Movers and Shakers page to find out.
  • For networking events and other happenings this week in Maryland, check out our calendar of events.
  • Get the very latest updates from our law reporters on Twitter: @TDRKristi, @Steve_Lash
  • Check out The Daily Record on Facebook.

DLA Piper: Hollywood hot spot

On the set of "Whirlwind" at DLA Piper's Baltimore office. (Photo courtesy of DLA Piper.)

Hollywood is back in Baltimore.

Clayton LeBouef, an actor from “The Wire,” filmed scenes from his new movie, called “Whirlwind,” at DLA Piper’s Baltimore office last week in the main reception area.

On “The Wire,” LeBouef played Orlando, a front man who ran a strip club for the Barksdale drug organization. LeBouef is also known for his role as Col. George Barnfather in “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

DLA Piper’s glass office building has been a Hollywood hot spot in recent years. Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s HBO comedy, “Veep,” shot several scenes for its pilot episode at the building. Several scenes in the 2005 movie “Syriana,” starring George Clooney, also were filmed at The Marbury Building at 6225 Smith Ave.

The recent movie shoot at DLA Piper is just one of a number of Charm City’s recent forays into the film industry. In addition to “Veep,” the HBO movie “Game Change,” about John McCain’s and Sarah Palin’s 2008 bid for the presidency and vice presidency, was filmed in Baltimore. (Both “Game Change” and “Veep” won awards at Sunday’s Emmys.)

The Netflix show “House of Cards,” starring Kevin Spacey has also been around town, filming at a sound stage in Edgewood, as well as in the city in places like the Peabody Institute in Mount Vernon.

All are part of an effort by Maryland to boost the film industry in the state.