Around the Blawgosphere: BigLaw, Small-Firm Symbiosis; Living Wills for the Living Dead?

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On Rejection and BigLaw’s Rejected Cases

Matt Brown, who practices criminal defense at a two-lawyer firm in Tempe, Ariz., put up a post Monday at Tempe Criminal Defense about the experience of having a client leave him “before the real battle started” for another lawyer. While he thinks his now ex-client is in good hands, he wonders: “Will the new lawyer, with his army of associates and staff, be there to fight for bail at 5 a.m. jail court? Will he do the work himself, or will he farm it out and pad the bill to justify partnership? Will it matter? Is that what they want?” He realizes that ultimately, he isn’t going to be who every client wants or needs—even when he has 20 years of experience, someone else will have 50—and he needs to continue to make peace with rejection as it comes along.

While it appears that in Brown’s case, his small firm’s client moved to a larger law firm, Miami small-firm lawyer Brian Tannebaum points out at Above the Law that criminal defense work very often gets punted from large firms to small. And it’s a wise small-firm lawyer who knows he or she can take advantage of this. “Whatever your practice area, meet the BigLaw lawyers that do what you do,” Tannebaum wrote. “Let them know you’re available to take their scraps. Their scraps can buy a lot of Starbucks, and maybe even pay your rent for a couple months. The next time a firmwide email is sent around about a ‘small matter,’ (and every BigLaw lawyer calls anything they are referring out a ‘small matter’), your name may get circulated as ‘the’ lawyer to contact.”

Planning for Your Zombie Afterlife

At Massachusetts Wills, Trusts, and Estates, Hingham, Mass., solo Danielle G. Van Ess, inspired by A&E’s (awesome TV show) The Walking Dead, wonders if she should add a couple of in-the-event-of-a-zombie-apocalypse questions to her estate planning intake worksheet. From her post:

1) In the event your life functions cease and you re-animate as one of the living dead, do you want your surviving loved ones to keep you contained like cattle, or would you prefer a quick execution? Keep in mind, scientists (if they are not all zombies by then) may be trying to formulate a cure.

2) In the event you are bitten, infected, and have become unconscious, and assuming they wouldn’t prefer to keep you contained like cattle, how long should your should loved ones wait before destroying your brain: until you die initially, or until they are sure that you have come back from the dead with an insatiable hunger for human flesh?

Van Ess also wants to know: Are there more questions along these lines that she failed to think of?

Sandusky and Sarbanes-Oxley

At From the Sidebar, Cozen O’Connor lawyers Hayes Hunt and Brian Kint noted how Pennsylvania law and federal law comes into play regarding the Penn State’s handling of an alleged sexual assault by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on a 10-year-old boy in a campus shower.

Pennsylvania law 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6311 outlines who is legally required to report child abuse and when. And that law “applies only to people who come into contact with children in the course of employment, and it applies only to children under the care or supervision of the organization with which that person is affiliated,” From the Sidebar reports. “When staff members at an institution have a legal duty to report under the statute, they fully discharge that duty upon notifying the person in charge of the institution. At that point, the person in charge assumes the legal duty to report the suspected abuse to Child Protective Services.”

Federal law—the Clery Act, specificially—requires that any institution that receives federal financial aid report crimes to the Department Education. “It would seem then, that even if university administrators are not legally obligated to report child abuse under Pennsylvania law, they may be required to disclose incidents of child abuse, regardless of prosecution, to the Department of Education,” From the Sidebar reports.

The bloggers suggest that the Penn State scandal might lead to calls for imposing more legal duties to act in future similar situations. “For example, the high-profile accounting scandals at companies such as Enron and WorldCom spurred the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which mandates that corporate attorneys report suspected securities violations to their superiors.”

SEC Discipline

At TheCorporateCounsel.net, Broc Romanek took note of the discipline of eight Securities and Exchange Commission workers over their failure to uncover Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. An outside law firm recommended termination for one person, but that individual just got a a pay cut and a 30-day unpaid suspension. The other seven received less severe penalties.

While it perhaps seems like everyone got off lightly, Romanek noted that it’s rare for someone to get fired at a federal agency, and that he himself only ever saw a few firings during probationary periods during his two “tours of duty” at the SEC. “And even that was rare—maybe two cases in five years. We would always joke around about how hard it was to be fired in the government, primarily due to the liability risks involved. And I don’t remember any instances of discipline. So as minor as the actions described … seem to outsiders, it’s actually a big deal for those that work at the SEC.”

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