Thursday, October 16, 2014

Is the California Sky Grey? (Raining on Professional Rules Update)


Interesting news and updates coming out of the Golden State: "California Justices Tell State Bar to Redo Proposals for Updating Lawyer Conduct Rules" --
  • "The California Supreme Court has told the state bar to go a different direction in coming up with proposals to update California's lawyer conduct rules. It took the state bar more than a decade to develop suggestions that were sent to the high court four years ago, and which went nowhere."
  • "In August the bar abruptly changed course and quietly stopped trying to gain the justices' approval of the comprehensive rule revisions. Now, the bar is going back to the drawing board to develop a new set of proposals under specific marching orders from the supreme court."
  • "These recent events essentially bag a set of 67 proposed rules the state bar's board of governors approved in 2010. See 26 Law. Man. Prof. Conduct 473, 619."
  • "The 2010 revisions followed the Model Rules' format, although the bar made significant departures in the substance of many of the California versions. The rules were developed by the bar's Commission for the Revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct, which began its work on updating the rules in 2001."
  • "Without the supreme court's approval, the updated rules never took effect. California is the only state that has not remodeled its lawyer conduct rules along the lines of the ABA templates, which were first issued in 1983."
The Legal Ethics Forum, often the water cooler of spirited and intelligent commentary, weighed in with a variety of reader opinion.

See also commentary by the creatively named Kafkaesq blog: "Supreme Court Goes Old School On Revised Rules of Professional Conduct."

(And for those who make their way through all the ins and outs of the above, and have grown accustomed to your editor's occasional insertions of amusement and distraction, comes this video, which mentioned of complex rules always brings to mind... in this case, a fictional account involving an agreement that took 372 legal experts to create.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

IP Conflict Allegation Causes Firm Withdrawal



In September we published an article on IP conflicts (and associated webinar recording): "IP Matters: Navigating a Complex Conflicts Landscape," Now comes an interesting cast of IP conflicts allegation in the news: "Mega Firm Withdraws From Patent Infringement Suit After Former Client Alleges Conflict of Interest" --
  • "On September 29, 2014, K&L Gates voluntarily withdrew as defendant’s counsel in a patent infringement action after the plaintiff asked a California federal district court to disqualify the Am Law 100 firm for a conflict of interest because the firm had previously represented the plaintiff regarding the same patents at issue in the litigation. See Cyber Switching Patents, LLC v. Eaton Corp., No. 4:14-cv-02862 (N.D. Cal.)"
  • "The complaint accused Eaton of infringing three patents relating to power distribution technologies for data centers. On August 18, 2014, Eaton’s counsel, K&L Gates, filed an answer denying infringement and asserting counterclaims of non-infringement and invalidity. Cyber alleged that it engaged K&L Gates in November 2013 about representing Cyber in enforcing the very same patents that were the subject of the lawsuit."
  • "Notwithstanding its denial of wrongdoing, K&L Gates agreed to withdraw as counsel for Eaton. The firm stated the reason for its decision was that, “it would be fundamentally unfair to subject Eaton to a protracted distraction” in litigating the disqualification motion. Substitute counsel will be replacing K&L Gates to represent Eaton."
  • "Consequently, many large firms have adopted the practice of including advance conflict waivers in their engagement agreements. Whether such advance waivers are enforceable is far from certain. The difficulty with most advanced waivers lies in the fact that an effective waiver requires “informed” consent. Informed consent requires sufficient disclosure by the lawyer, who “must explain the risks and advantages, if any, of representation burdened with a conflict of interest, as well as reasonably available alternatives. . . .” Model Rule 1.7, comment [20]. But in many advanced waiver cases, the potentially conflicting representation has not yet arisen, thus “informed” consent may not be possible under such circumstances."
More detail and commentary on the IPethics & INsights blog and Law360. And for those interested in managing these risks with technology, see more about Intapp IP conflicts management software.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Advance Conflict Waivers Causing Conflicts?


Interesting article in the Legal Intelligencer: "Some Conflict Waivers Are Rubbing GCs the Wrong Way" --
  • "General counsel who spoke to The Legal said they are increasingly seeing advance-waiver clauses in engagement letters from large law firms and rarely is it something they find acceptable. Advance waivers typically say in their most basic form that a law firm represents many clients in many industries and some of those clients may be adverse to the new client, but that the new client agrees to waive any future conflict with the understanding that the law firm will appropriately wall off any adverse matters from the new client's matters."
  • "QVC General Counsel Larry Hayes of West Chester, Pa., said almost every large firm in the United States has advance-waiver clauses. Whether he signs them depends on how he intends to use the firm's services. If it is a one-off matter, Hayes said he may agree to the engagement as drafted. But for a firm that QVC uses on a more regular basis, Hayes said he would be reluctant to sign such an agreement. Hayes said the use of such clauses doesn't do much to show a firm is interested in forming a long-term relationship."
  • "He chalked up the trend to growing law firms whose increased merger activity has created more cross-over clients and has made operating under the traditional conflict regiment more difficult. 'It's a different mentality I think with the more global law practice,' Hayes said.
  • "Since law departments have given less work to outside firms through either bringing it in-house or leveraging their outside spend across fewer firms, law firms have been forced to make up that revenue in other areas, increasing the chances for conflicts, Lincoln Financial Group General Counsel Adam G. Ciongoli said. He said his department has been asked for advance conflict waivers, often from larger firms, and simply won't agree to them. He said he questions the ethics of some of them."
  • "For Reading, Pa.-based Penske Truck Leasing General Counsel Michael Duff, granting traditional conflict-waiver requests as they arise is something he is quite willing to do. 'I feel pretty strongly that firms are entitled to earn a living and take on clients they want as long as they are not somebody specifically adverse to us,' Duff said. But advance waivers are a different story. 'That I won't do,' Duff said."
  • "Duff said he understands large firms don't want to be 'tied down' to seeking conflict waivers from him when he is only using the firm for one matter, but said he still wants the opportunity to evaluate the specific situation rather than give a blanket waiver."
  • "And Duff noted that GCs of technology or pharmaceutical companies may have a tougher view on conflicts because of the intellectual property issues at stake in their businesses."
  • "One issue Hayes said he sees more commonly on the international stage is large, global firms seeking waivers to represent more than one bidder in a transaction. The London office would represent one company in a bid while the Vienna office would represent another bidder, Hayes said as an example. That is an issue he said he is not comfortable with."

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rulings on Recent Conflicts Allegations of Note


Disqualification stories in the news. First: "Judge in Russia hacking case boots law firm," which updates a story we covered earlier:
  • "U.S. District Judge Richard Jones said he understands this type of ruling is rare, but he said Fox has a conflict of interest because the firm also represented Zpizza, one of the alleged victims in the hacking scam that Roman Seleznev is charged with orchestrating. Jones said his decision was influenced by a letter he received from the president of Zpizza. In the letter, Sid Fanarof told the judge that he gave a Fox lawyer confidential information that could benefit Seleznev and said he believed the firm has a conflict."
  • "Ray said Fox first became involved in the case because one of its lawyers, Ely Goldin, knows Seleznev's father, Valery Seleznev, who is a member of the Russian Parliament. Ray said the firm got involved in July when Seleznev was arrested in the Maldives and taken to Guam and then to Seattle. His lawyers have called his arrest an 'illegal rendition.'"
  • "'We were not aware of Z's involvement in the case at the time,' Ray said. Zpizza was not listed in the indictment, he said. It only became an issue when one of the prosecutors learned that a Fox lawyer represented Zpizza on another matter and let the law firm know that Zpizza was an alleged victim, could be a witness and if Seleznev is convicted, could be a subject of restitution, Ray said."
  • "'When we learned that, we put a Chinese Wall around the case' and screened off the lawyer involved, Ray said. But Jones did not believe that was enough protection. In his ruling from the bench, he said he had to balance judicial integrity with the interest of justice. 'The court understands this is rare and only used in severe circumstances, but the court finds that severe circumstances are present,' he said. 'The court concludes that Fox should not be allowed to represent the defendant.'"
And: "Pa. ethics panel clears Street on son's legal work" --
  • "In a split decision, the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission has cleared former Philadelphia Mayor John Street of conflict of interest charges related to legal work awarded to his son's law firm."
  • "The Wolf Block law firm billed the Philadelphia Housing Authority for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work done by the former mayor's son, Sharif Street. When the PHA board hired Wolf Block, John Street was its chairman, and he participated in several votes to authorize legal work for the authority."
  • "The state ethics code prohibits public officials from using their authority to benefit a family member. Ethics commission executive director Robert Caruso said Street's votes presented a problem."
  • "The commission's investigative staff saw Street's votes for the legal work as violating the conflict of interest provision of the state ethics law, but a majority of the commission disagreed, because Street's action wasn't specifically targeted to benefit only Wolf Block... A majority of the commission members said while they don't condone Street's conduct, they don't find a violation of law."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Conflicts in the Public Eye



Another story of conflicts allegation making mainstream news: "WTFV apologizes for conflict of interest; forgets they reported on it Sept. 2" --
  • "Consider it yet one more cautionary tale for the modern media age. Or just another dumb move by people who should know better. WTFV/Channel 9 in Orlando seemed to score a coup with the addition of Belvin Perry Jr., former Chief Judge in Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit, as a legal commentator.'
  • "Perry even took the chance to weigh in on-air about one of Florida’s hottest issues, Amendment 2, the constitutional referendum on the ballot in November to legalize medical marijuana. On Monday, he took apart a No on 2 commercial, providing sharp criticism by claiming opponents created a “smoke screen” that only plays on viewer’s fears."
  • "WTFV — Orlando’s ABC affiliate — left out one small detail: Perry, upon his retirement, immediately took a position at behemoth law firm Morgan & Morgan. For those cave dwellers out there who might not be aware, Morgan & Morgan is the eponymous firm led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, known as the face (and checkbook) of the organization spearheading Amendment 2."
  • "One word about preparation — WFTV said nothing about Perry’s association with Morgan – something that anyone with a computer could easily find out. Of course, the station backtracked on Tuesday, acknowledging its error and apologizing for not mentioning the relationship... WFTV’s own website reported on Perry’s retirement and subsequent hiring by Morgan – on Sept. 2. Ooops."
And from BNA comes analysis of a recent Texas (the not-to-be-messed-with home of the "Don't call me officer, chief" title rules) : "Firm Must Leave Case if New Associate Worked on Other Side While in Law School" --
  • "A law firm must stop representing a litigation client if it hires a lawyer who formerly worked on the case as a law clerk at the firm representing the opposing party, the Texas bar's ethics committee advised in August."
  • "Screening the tainted lawyer to prevent the sharing of any confidential information he learned in his prior employment won't enable the firm to continue representing the client, according to the opinion."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

More on Law Firm Insider Trading


Updated and new stories to share on this topic. First: "Napkin-Eating Middleman in Law Firm Insider Trading Case Pleads Guilty" --
  • "A Brooklyn mortgage broker who prosecutors said was the napkin-eating middleman in an insider-trading ring has pleaded guilty to his role in the alleged scheme, which involved stock tips supplied by an employee at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, a prominent New York law firm."
  • "Prosecutors said that Mr. Tamayo was the conduit for insider-trading tips that former Simpson Thacher managing clerk Steven Metro, a friend of his from law school, gleaned from the firm’s computer system."
  • "The case highlighted the internal risks that law firms face when safeguarding their clients’ confidential information. A lawyer for Mr. Tamayo said in an email, 'We cannot comment except to say that on Friday Mr. Tamayo took the first step in the process of accepting full responsibility for his actions.'"
Followed by: "Insider-trading case makes fine plot for a movie" --
  • "In an interesting case that reads like a movie script, the Securities and Exchange Commission last week charged a managing clerk at a major top-of-the-line New York law firm with violating insider-trading laws."
  • "The alleged scheme seemed to have started innocently enough. The law clerk was having drinks with friends in a bar in New York City in early February 2009."
  • "MM was concerned that a stock he owned would decline, and worse, he was afraid the company would go bust. The clerk knew that would not happen. At work, he had access to the law firm's computer system. He had seen documentation of an upcoming deal that would infuse $500 million into the ailing company, officials said."
  • "When MM realized this information would be positive for the stock, instead of selling the stock, he called his broker to buy more, it is alleged."
  • "'Law firms are sanctuaries for the confidential treatment of client information, and this scheme victimized not only a law firm but also its corporate clients and ultimately the investors in those companies,' said Daniel M. Hawke, chief of the SEC Enforcement Division's Market Abuse Unit. 'We are continuing to combat serial insider-trading schemes, particularly by law-firm employees and other professionals who are entrusted with extremely sensitive market-moving information.'"
And finally, news from Canada: "Insider Trading Case Considers Materiality Of Confidentiality Agreement And Expired Unsolicited Offer" --
  • "The British Columbia Securities Commission (BCSC) recently considered whether a consultant for a law firm had committed insider trading and breached the public interest when she traded a client's shares with knowledge of undisclosed facts."
  • "In Weiqing Jane Jin, 2014 BCSECCOM 194, there was no question that the consultant was in a special relationship with the issuer client and had traded while in possession of facts that had not been disclosed.  The materiality of these facts was contested."

Monday, October 6, 2014

Risk News: Strengthening Ethical Screens, Information Security


Two interesting stories to note today. First: "Additional safeguards against leaks ordered in San Bernardino County’s Colonies corruption case"--
  • "A Superior Court judge presiding over San Bernardino County’s Colonies corruption case issued a written ruling Thursday barring a former federal prosecutor - now working for the law firm representing one of the defendants - from having any access to all information in the case.
  • "Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Behnke was hired by the Los Angeles law firm Arent Fox, which is representing defendant Jeff Burum, in May. Behnke is the former supervisor of the U.S. Attorney’s Riverside office that oversaw the federal investigation of the Colonies case, which was shuttered in 2012 without a reason given."
  • "In his ruling, Judge Michael A. Smith determined that Arent Fox had in fact created an effective ethical wall when it hired Behnke, but included additional measures including prohibiting Behnke, his secretary and paralegal from having access to any electronic files pertaining to Burum and from sending or receiving any electronic communications related to the case, among other things."
  • "Smith also ordered that all files related to Burum’s case be kept in a locked room, and the files have written on them, 'SUBJECT TO ETHICAL WALL - DO NOT DISCLOSE TO JERRY BEHNKE OR HIS SECRETARY, PARALEGAL, ETC.' He also ordered that a memo be circulated, with Smith’s written ruling attached, to all Arent Fox staff advising them to report any suspected breaches of the 'ethical wall.'"
  • "A member of Arent Fox’s Professional Conduct Committee, Gerald Mitchell, will be tasked with monitoring the firm’s compliance with Smith’s order on a monthly basis, with any suspected violations being immediately reported to the court."
And another firm promotes their achievements in information security: "Shook Hardy gains certification for data security" --
  • "The firm recognized that security was being publicized frequently and that with some of the data breaches that have been in the news, it would be important to show that our firm has a strong commitment to security," said John Anderson, chief information officer for Shook. "Achieving this certification would help us show that commitment."
  • "All of our clients have sensitive confidential information and they expect us to have the appropriate security systems in place," Anderson said. "They're coming on site and doing security assessments, so having this shows them at the very beginning that we have good policies and procedures in place."

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Session Recordings: The A-to-Z of IG



Here are two more recordings from the annual ILTA conference worth a listen. These updates focus on information governance and feature several speakers we've featured at past Risk Roundtable events and webinars:

Build Enterprise Information Governance from the Ground Up
  • Enterprise information governance programs are often as complex as the problems they intend to solve, incorporating governance needs, requirements from various internal and external stakeholders, and tight budgets.
  • Here we’ll walk through best practices any organization can use to kick-start an IG program and make quick progress. We’ll discuss topics like assessing the current situation and capabilities, prioritizing risks and opportunities, gaining support from all stakeholders for an IG framework, and simple ways to start.

  • Learn to develop an information governance strategy that incorporates the four dimensions of information risk management (records management, privacy, cybersecurity and e-discovery.) Our panel will share examples of how they integrated setting controls, reduced costs and improved compliance at their firms.

 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Session Recordings: Open vs. Closed DMS, Data Security Regulations



Here are more recordings from the annual ILTA conference worth a listen:

  • Do you require all documents be stored in the firm's DMS, or do you let the user decide? How do you manage security? We'll hear from firms in both camps as they discuss the challenges and successes that influenced their decisions.
Privacy Laws and Enterprise Content: Can Your ECM Systems Facilitate Compliance?
  • Your ECM is bursting with private content awaiting prying eyes, both inside and outside your firm, and privacy concerns should be at the forefront of planning how your ECM evolves.
  • We'll discuss the challenges you face and provide practical tips to let you face them head on. Learn about the software, processes and policies your ECM offers to support your firm's and clients' privacy requirements.

Monday, September 29, 2014

HIPAA is Here – Is Your Law Firm in Compliance?


With the government starting to make noise about upcoming audits, and the September 22 deadline for all organizations to update grandfathered business associate agreements that have not yet been brought into compliance with the new Omnibus Rule having passed, the McLane Law Firm (a New England based firm with 90 lawyers) writes: "HIPAA One Year Later: Is Your Law Firm Complying?"
  • "Since nearly a year has passed since the compliance date for most provisions of the Final Rule6, this article focuses on assisting lawyers and law firms looking to evaluate the sufficiency of their compliance efforts to date. This article also underscores the potential impact of the Final Rule on lawyers and law firms in light of recent enforcement activity by the Office of Civil Rights ("OCR") of the HHS, the federal agency charged with enforcement and administration of HIPAA."
  • "The Final Rule also requires updated provisions in BAAs and now requires business associates to have BAAs with its subcontractors. BAAs must provide that the business associate (or subcontractor, as applicable)."
  • "The Final Rule should have been a wake-up call for lawyers and law firms which have access to PHI to ask whether they are considered business associates of covered entities and, if so, to take the steps necessary to comply with their duties and obligations as business associates by September 23, 2013."
  • "Therefore, if a firm represents a covered entity or a business associate of one and accesses PHI to do its job, it must comply with the HIPAA Rules... It is significant that business associate status attaches under the HIPAA Rules regardless of whether the firm has signed a business associate agreement."
  • "Since the release of the Final Rule, OCR investigation and enforcement activities have served to highlight the unfortunate consequences that can arise from failure to comply with the Final Rule. Moreover, the extension of certain covered entity responsibilities to business associates now makes civil and criminal liability possible for lawyers and law firms."
  • "Attorneys who represent healthcare clients are keenly aware of HIPAA compliance issues and routinely work with these clients to ensure compliance. These lawyers, however, are not always mindful of the fact that the Final Rule makes the same standards allegedly violated by APDerm applicable to the lawyers and law firms which receive PHI from covered entities."
Previously, we hosted a webinar on HIPAA compliance for law firms. Interested readers can watch a recording of that and learn more about how Intapp is working with many law firms to address HIPAA compliance.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

IP Matters: Navigating a Complex Conflicts Landscape



Law firms with IP practices normally develop separate matter and risk management processes to prosecute and litigate patents, trademarks and copyrights for their clients. Speed to matter opening is critical, particularly in competitive situations.

But with IP matters frequently cross multiple jurisdictions, firms often struggle to develop efficient practices to open matter families across international jurisdictions and track progress throughout the matter lifecycle.

And IP practices face other unique challenges, including the need to manage subject matter conflicts. These arise when a firm simultaneously prosecutes patents for two different clients whose inventions or technology could merit the same or similar patent.

Identifying a subject matter conflict requires more nuanced and detailed analysis than standard ethical conflict. Firms are often forced to painstakingly examine information scattered across information repositories to identify a conflict, or leave the decision in the hands of lawyers familiar with the practice.

Both approaches invite risks and errors that could potentially generate costly litigation.

Intapp Open specifically addresses the complex and evolving intake landscape. It provides a modern workflow interface and data integration capabilities that make it easy for IP lawyers and staff to open patent matter families across jurisdictions.

The software enables firms to include patent and subject matter information in standard conflicts searches (including data integrated from systems including CPI and PATSY), grouping patent families together for faster resolution and alerting the firm of the hits with the highest risk. And it centralizes financial, ethical and subject matter into a single application to encourage risk management decisions that support firm strategy.

Read more at Intapp.com and access an abridged recording of the recent webinar on IP Conflicts management, featuring a law firm case study (Lathrop & Gage) and insights from legal ethics maven Bill Frievogel, and expert IP management consultant, Chris Kave (Aurora North).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Session Recordings: KM vs. Security Shootout (and More)


The folks at ILTA always do an amazing job at their annual conference, producing panels and seminars on a variety of topics, including IT, finance, risk and more. In keeping with their mission to foster collaboration and knowledge exchange, they kindly share recordings of many of those presentations.

We'll be bringing you several risk-related recordings of note, starting with:

KM and Security and Compliance: Fist Fight or Compromise?
  • Clients demand compliance with strict information security guidelines vis-à-vis protection of legal work product. But the "need to know" security model could hinder information access and collaborative KM processes, including, but not limited to, accessibility of enterprise search. Clients are under regulatory pressures and are cracking down on what they consider lackadaisical law firm security. Is there a right balance or compromise that can address the concerns of all involved — clients, KM and security officers? Come watch the fight unfold!
  • Prioritizing and implementing information security initiatives within the law firm environment can be next to impossible without full buy-in and support from senior firm management. In addition, while many IT security personnel have expert knowledge on how to design, build and deploy the best security-based technology available, many lack the business insight required to identify what is most important from an overall information security risk perspective.
  • Three law firms (Foley & Lardner, Ropes & Gray, and Blank Rome) will share how they've been successful in shifting some or all of the strategic focus, decision-making and prioritization of information security initiatives from the IT department and into the hands of firm business leaders.
  • Our speakers will share some of the tools, techniques and approaches they’ve used to help make this important transition within their firms. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

New Business Intake – Unlocking New Potential

 
Very interesting essay at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog on new opportunities for enhancing new business intake by incorporating new data, new process and new insight: "We Cannot Keep New Business Intake In a Vacuum" --
  • "Very little in the NBI reform/reinvention process is about better data. It focuses more on faster input of information to speed up the time to open a new matter, thus creating a faster turnaround on when attorneys can start (legally) billing time to a matter."
  • "Many of us depend upon the information gathered in the NBI process. Toby's group [pricing and project management] attempts to analyze matter budgeting, matter management, and costs to take on a matter using details gathered in the NBI process. Marketing uses the data gather during the NBI process to determine big matters for Public Relations news releases, and submissions to third parties like Chambers. Business Development uses this information to determine what types of work the firms is strong and weak. Conflicts uses the information to determine what work we may not be able to take on in the future. Incomplete, or bad information gathered during NBI can have a long-range negative impact on the firm."
  • "I'm reminded of a post we did a couple years ago on firms needing to do After-Action Reviews for matters. If we don't ask ourselves what happened, and how can we get better, we tend to continue to act in a similar fashion (good or bad) in the future. If we misidentify information, and never incentivize partners to correct that information, we'll continue to misidentify."
  • "Most firms have absolutely no incentives for partners to identify when information gathered during NBI process needs to be clarified or corrected. We also give almost no incentives to close matters. Yet, both of those processes are key pieces in our quest to better know our clients (KYC), gather BI/CI information, assist in identifying cross-selling opportunities, and gathering historical information to better plan how we price and staff similar matters in the future. I would think that the return on investment in beefing up a mid-matter review (MMR), and the closing matter process (CMP) would be substantial."
  • "Perhaps we stop thinking of the New Business Intake in a vacuum. Instead we combine the NBI, MMR, and CMP into an overall process of cradle-to-grave matter management. The NBI is step-one, and should be improved to help speed up the process of getting matters opened, conflicts checked, people assigned, and have the firm start working on behalf of a client. But it is step one only. If we ever want to leverage our prior work in order to improve or gain new work, then the NBI cannot be the first and only step."
Of course, Intapp is enthusiastically on this path, integrating intake, conflicts and other information flows directly into the act of new business inception – under an ambitious vision of "new business acceptance." That vision includes providing lawyers with an interface and experience (including mobile access) that encourages them to provide critical data at the point of entry.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Morning Conflicts Quarterbacking?


A reader sent word of a conflicts allegation making big news. Whether the discussion involves team names or player health, the NFL has faced its share of controversies this year.

These latest allegations relate to the recent appointment of an independent investigator to review the way the Ray Rice domestic abuse matter has been managed. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appointed former FBI director and current partner at an AmLaw 20 firm, Robert Mueller. That move brought immediate controversy, which the league defended last Friday, and the media continues to analyze.

Here's what commentator Mike Florio thought, writing on the NBC Sports web site: "How independent will Robert Mueller be?" --
  • "When I saw that two old-guard owners would oversee what would otherwise be an independent investigation, I became a little concerned that the investigation wouldn’t truly be independent."
  • "When I realized that the man hired to do the investigation works for WilmerHale, the law firm that helped the NFL recently negotiate a multi-billion-dollar contract with DirecTV, any hope of true and genuine independence evaporated.  As explained by ESPN.com, the firm previously has represented Washington owner Daniel Snyder, and several members of the firm have taken jobs with NFL teams."
Florio's later update includes details of to Goodell's more recent explanation : "Goodell defends Mueller’s investigation" --
  • "'The law firm that he works for is a law firm with extremely close ties to the NFL,' CNN’s Rachel Nichols said to Goodell. "You guys paid that law firm to help you negotiate some television deals. The president of the Ravens, who will be key in this whole investigation, worked at that law firm for more than 30 years. Why hire someone with even the appearance of impropriety and how do you expect us to accept everything?'"
  • "'I respectfully disagree,' Goodell said. "You are questioning the integrity of the director of the FBI. Yes, that firm has represented us in the past. They have also been on the other side in litigation against the NFL. So this is a highly respected individual, the longest serving director in the FBI.'"
  • "'Part of the idea of this is to restore public trust,' she said. 'So even if he does a flawless investigation isn’t there an element here of your leaving the door open for doubt?'"
  • "'Well, Rachel, unfortunately we live in a world where there is a lot of litigation,' Goodell said.  'A lot of law firms and maybe people have had some interaction with us in the past. Robert Mueller has not. The law firm may have. We are hiring Robert Mueller, his credentials to do an independent investigation reporting to the owners and I’m confident that will be the case.'"
And then Florio adds his own commentary:
  • "But there are thousands of law firms and thousands of lawyers capable of doing a fair and impartial investigation. Mueller’s appointment gives the investigation credibility on the surface, because he ran the FBI. The failure to pick a lawyer from a firm with no past connection and, most importantly, no aspiration for any future connection to the NFL prevents the investigation from having the appearance of independence."
  • "Ultimately, the decision to pick Mueller was just another mistake in the chain of blunders that has turned the NFL on its head. At a time when it’s become very popular for people connected to the NFL to talk about getting it right, how about we stop saying it and start doing it?"
Which is echoed by other commentators, such as Steve Rosenbloom at the Chicago Tribune: "Yes, Roger, I am questioning Mueller's standing" --
  • "Yes, Roger Goodell, as a matter of fact, I am questioning Robert Mueller’s integrity. Yours is gone, Roger. Long gone. Way gone. But sad to say, so is Mueller’s."
  • "Everybody watching the NFL should question Mueller’s integrity, which disappeared when he accepted the invitation to investigate Goodell’s horrible handling of the Ray Rice case. Mueller, a former FBI director, works for a law firm that has represented the NFL, specifically negotiating a broadcast deal. Mueller’s firm also has worked for two NFL teams, the Cowboys and Redskins, in cases against the NFL."
  • "This is a clear conflict of interest. Even the appearance of conflict of interest is a conflict of interest. Even a pinhead lawyer like Goodell could make that argument in court."
Ethically permissible or not, the relationships and history underlying this situation present yet another example of the sound bite appearances, coupled with external attention create challenges.

Friday, September 19, 2014

More Notes from BNA on Conflicts


Two updates of notes from ABA/BNA:

"If Job Hunt Extends to Client’s Adversary, Risk of Personal Conflict Must Be Assessed" --
  • "A nuanced analysis rather than any bright-line test must be used to determine whether a conflict of interest exists when a lawyer wants to be hired by a client's opponent or the law firm representing the adversary, the District of Columbia bar's ethics committee advised in July."
  • "The comprehensive opinion explains how lawyers should judge whether and when a job hunt may create a conflict. It also outlines what options a lawyer has if a conflict does exist, and discusses the responsibilities of supervisory lawyers when an associate's employment search gives rise to a conflict."
  • "When a lawyer in a private firm is seriously angling for a job with a law firm or litigant she is opposing in a client's matter, the lawyer's representation of the client may be materially limited by the lawyer's personal interests. Model Rule 1.7 cmt. [10]. The lawyer facing such a conflict must let the client know so that the client can make an informed decision about whether to continue the relationship."
  • "'There is no ‘bright line' test for determining the point during the employment process when a personal interest conflict arises, and that point may vary,' the committee stated."
  • "The opinion identifies two criteria to consider in determining whether a personal interest conflict exists. One is whether the lawyer has a material and active role in representing the client, either by having contact with the client regarding the matter, having contact with the adversary or adversary's lawyer in the course of working on the client's matter or doing work on the substance of the matter."
  • "The second criterion is the extent to which the lawyer's interest in the adversary or the adversary's lawyer is 'targeted, communicated and/or reciprocated.'"
Read the full article for additional cases, ethics opinions, and suggested options for addressing these scenarios.

"Trying to Shift Sanction to Client Alone Creates Unwaivable, Disqualifying Conflict" --
  • "An attorney who argues that a sanction imposed jointly on his client and himself should be paid solely by the client creates an unwaivable conflict requiring the lawyer's disqualification even if no party has complained, the Washington Court of Appeals, Third Division, held Aug. 12.'"
  • "The panel disqualified the lawyer in question on its own initiative, saying that courts have inherent authority to order an attorney's removal even when no other participant has sought it."
  • "Moreover, the court said the lawyer cannot continue to represent his own interests in this matter. He must obtain independent counsel to argue that the client alone should pay the sanction, and he may not reveal confidential information to that attorney except in response to any accusations the former client asserts against the lawyer, Judge George B. Fearing said."
  • "The appeals court said that Caruso violated “the supreme commandment of attorney ethics”—undivided loyalty to the client and the shunning of any self-interest at odds with the client's interest—by contending on appeal that the sanction should borne entirely by Wixom if it is upheld."
  • "The court found that Caruso was representing both himself and Wixom in challenging the sanction, and that the lawyer's personal interest in shifting the sanction entirely to Wixom was directly adverse to Wixom's interests."
  • "Although no Washington cases have addressed this issue, Fearing said that, based on general principles of attorney ethics and several federal decisions, 'we possess authority to disqualify an attorney, whose representation of a client poses an actual conflict with himself or another client.'"

Lateral Lawyer Movement, Lawyer vs. Client Contlicts


Two updates of notes from ABA/BNA:

"If Job Hunt Extends to Client’s Adversary, Risk of Personal Conflict Must Be Assessed" --
  • "A nuanced analysis rather than any bright-line test must be used to determine whether a conflict of interest exists when a lawyer wants to be hired by a client's opponent or the law firm representing the adversary, the District of Columbia bar's ethics committee advised in July."
  • "The comprehensive opinion explains how lawyers should judge whether and when a job hunt may create a conflict. It also outlines what options a lawyer has if a conflict does exist, and discusses the responsibilities of supervisory lawyers when an associate's employment search gives rise to a conflict."
  • "When a lawyer in a private firm is seriously angling for a job with a law firm or litigant she is opposing in a client's matter, the lawyer's representation of the client may be materially limited by the lawyer's personal interests. Model Rule 1.7 cmt. [10]. The lawyer facing such a conflict must let the client know so that the client can make an informed decision about whether to continue the relationship."
  • "'There is no ‘bright line' test for determining the point during the employment process when a personal interest conflict arises, and that point may vary,' the committee stated."
  • "The opinion identifies two criteria to consider in determining whether a personal interest conflict exists. One is whether the lawyer has a material and active role in representing the client, either by having contact with the client regarding the matter, having contact with the adversary or adversary's lawyer in the course of working on the client's matter or doing work on the substance of the matter."
  • "The second criterion is the extent to which the lawyer's interest in the adversary or the adversary's lawyer is 'targeted, communicated and/or reciprocated.'"
Read the full article for additional cases, ethics opinions, and suggested options for addressing these scenarios.

"Trying to Shift Sanction to Client Alone Creates Unwaivable, Disqualifying Conflict" --
  • "An attorney who argues that a sanction imposed jointly on his client and himself should be paid solely by the client creates an unwaivable conflict requiring the lawyer's disqualification even if no party has complained, the Washington Court of Appeals, Third Division, held Aug. 12."
  • "The panel disqualified the lawyer in question on its own initiative, saying that courts have inherent authority to order an attorney's removal even when no other participant has sought it."
  • "Moreover, the court said the lawyer cannot continue to represent his own interests in this matter. He must obtain independent counsel to argue that the client alone should pay the sanction, and he may not reveal confidential information to that attorney except in response to any accusations the former client asserts against the lawyer, Judge George B. Fearing said."
  • "The appeals court said that Caruso violated “the supreme commandment of attorney ethics”—undivided loyalty to the client and the shunning of any self-interest at odds with the client's interest—by contending on appeal that the sanction should borne entirely by Wixom if it is upheld."
  • "The court found that Caruso was representing both himself and Wixom in challenging the sanction, and that the lawyer's personal interest in shifting the sanction entirely to Wixom was directly adverse to Wixom's interests."
  • "Although no Washington cases have addressed this issue, Fearing said that, based on general principles of attorney ethics and several federal decisions, 'we possess authority to disqualify an attorney, whose representation of a client poses an actual conflict with himself or another client.'"

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Insider Trading Charges Leveled at Another Wilson Sonsini Employee

 
With coverage breaking across major media, including the New York Times, CNBC, Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, eyes turn once again to Wilson Sonsini on the topic of insider trading.

Readers may remember that in 2011 a Wilson Sonsini lawyer was charged with and later plead guilty to insider trading. In that case, the individual was accused of gathering information by numerous methods, including searching the firm's document management system.

Now news of allegations that an IT staffer used access to electronic repositories including time entry, billing and conflicts software systems to collect and act on inside information:

"Wilson Sonsini Employee Is Charged With Insider Trading" --
  • "A computer systems engineer at the Silicon Valley law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati was charged with trading on inside information about potential mergers and acquisitions he learned on the job."
  • "Dimitry Braverman, 41, is the second employee in three years at the Palo Alto, California-based firm to be charged with insider trading."
  • "Braverman used computerized records at the law firm to identify companies involved in possible acquisitions, including Gymboree Corp., Drugstore.com Inc., Epicor Software Corp. and Seagate Technology Plc, according to charges made public today in Manhattan federal court. He was arrested this morning at his home in San Mateo, California. Braverman temporarily suspended his illicit activity when a Wilson Sonsini lawyer was arrested for an unrelated insider-trading scheme in 2011, according to prosecutors."
  • "Braverman made almost $300,000 from the illegal trading, the U.S. said. He had access to billing records and attorney time sheets created when the firm opened new accounts or checked for conflicts of interest, according to the government."
  • "According to court documents, Wilson Sonsini's general counsel emailed employees after Kluger's arrest to remind them of the firm's policies on insider trading."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New Business Intake & Conflicts – Wiggin Goes to the Cloud


 
Media and technology law firm Wiggin has implemented Intapp Open for new business intake (NBI) and conflicts management. Pinnacle, a provider of specialist consulting services, executed the Intapp Open implementation as part of a broader Wiggin initiative to virtualise and host its entire IT infrastructure in a private cloud environment.

Wiggin, a highly regarded boutique firm with an innovative approach to legal services delivery, is well known for its strategic approach to outsourcing key aspects of its operations. Pinnacle completed the project, which included integration of Intapp Open with Creditsafe for conflict reports, within 35 days.

 
 
Said the Firm's Chief Executive Officer, John Banister:
  • "Intapp Open has transformed how we evaluate new business and manage potential client conflicts – a sensitive issue in the fast-paced media and technology industries. The product’s integration with Creditsafe has streamlined our process for new business review, and the ability to apply business rules to conflicts reports enables us to quickly identify and prioritise issues that need to be addressed."
  • "Migrating our IT infrastructure to a private cloud has been a major priority for our business, and we’re thrilled with the work that Pinnacle did in accelerating the implementation and integration of Intapp Open with our virtual environment."
Intapp Open was chosen to replace Wiggin’s legacy workflow system for NBI, which was difficult to maintain and could not be virtualised. Faced with the prospect of a costly and complicated upgrade of its existing system, which would have required re-implementation of business processes from scratch, the firm seized the opportunity to adopt a fresh approach to new business intake with Intapp Open.

Pinnacle worked with Wiggin to configure the Intapp Open forms and flows to fit the firm’s unique business model; managed integration with other applications that were part of Wiggin’s new virtual environment including Elite Enterprise; and coordinated with its cloud services provider throughout the project.


Said the Intapp Risk Practice VP,  Pat Archbold:
  • "Increasingly, new business intake is about improving client selection and financial performance for firms as much as it is about risk management. The work that Pinnacle and Wiggin have done to integrate Creditsafe for client review is a great example of how the Intapp Open platform is changing the way law firms take on new business."
 
Visit Intapp.com for more information on Intapp Open new business intake and conflicts management software, or to request a demonstration.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Conflicts Allegations & Disqualification Attempts


"Drugmakers Seek to Disqualify Counsel in Opioid Lawsuit" --
  • "Purdue Pharma L.P. and two affiliated companies are seeking to disqualify a former District of Columbia attorney general from representing the city of Chicago in its lawsuit against several drugmakers for allegedly seeking to misinform the public about the risks and benefits of opium-like pain medications."
  • "According to Purdue, attorney Linda Singer and her law firm law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll should be disqualified because Singer served as attorney general between Jan. 2, 2007, and Jan. 5, 2008. The District and 26 other jurisdictions reached a $19.5 million settlement with Purdue over the marketing of OxyContin on May 8, 2007, the drugmakers said."
  • "Singer personally and substantially participated in the older lawsuit by approving the consent judgment, the defendants argued. She was briefed on the settlement more than a month before any court filings were made; edited the proposed press release about the consent judgment; and lobbied to increase the statutory caps on D.C.’s consumer protection fund to accommodate the $950,000 the District recovered in the lawsuit, the pharmaceutical companies said."
  • "Singer also has entered a contingent-fee agreement with Santa Clara and Orange counties in California to pursue a similar lawsuit.
 Patrick Fitzgerald and R. Ryan Stoll of Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom in Chicago filed Purdue’s motion."
[Updated: See this story, which include the firm's response to the disqualification motion.]


"Blackstone's law firm worked with Michael O'Flynn: Arthur Cox has advised Nama and the State" --
  • "Michael O'Flynn's legal showdown with US buyout fund Blackstone over its attempt to gain control of the O'Flynn Construction Group brought him face to face with a former adviser - law firm Arthur Cox. The Magic Circle solicitor firm, which represented Blackstone subsidiary Carbon Finance in the High Court case, had worked for Mr O'Flynn in the past. They had acted for one of his companies in a judicial review as recently as June of this year."
  • "When contacted for comment, Mr O'Flynn said: 'It's disappointing when a professional firm acts against you so recently after acting on your behalf, particularly given the nature of this case.'"
  • "The law firm's decision to represent Blackstone in its vicious legal dispute with Mr O'Flynn, designed to oust him as a director and wrest control of his construction group, has severed those ties. A further personal relationship between Arthur Cox and Mr O'Flynn existed beyond a lawyer-client relationship."
  • "Arthur Cox has previously denied suggestions that it faced potential conflicts of interests, having acted for the banks, developers and other state bodies in major cases. It has provided advice to the Government and state bodies, including Nama and the Department of Finance..."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Client Conflicts Allegations in the News

A few stories of conflicts allegations making news, each with complex fact patterns worth a click-through for those looking for a more complete picture:

"Ex-Client Sues, Alleges Conflict of Interest Against Thompson & Knight" --
  • "A former client of Thompson & Knight seeks at least $1 million in damages in a Sept. 8 lawsuit that alleges that the firm had a conflict of interest when it represented him and a third-party investor in the acquisition of a Houston company."
  • "Richard Slaughter of Houston alleges in a petition he filed in state district court in Harris County that he was 'shocked' to discover that Thompson & Knight had filed paperwork in the deal that identified the third-party investor as the 'sole manager' of Sivco Holdings..."
  • "Slaughter alleges in Slaughter v. Thompson & Knight that no one at Thompson & Knight, including former partner Bryan K. Brown, who allegedly worked on the deal, ever disclosed to him that the corporate formation documents excluded him as a manager of the company."
  • "Slaughter alleges that only after Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, of Rusty Hardin & Associates, 'expressed his concern' on Slaughter's behalf did the firm withdraw from representing the third-party investor and affiliated entities in connection with a postpurchase dispute with Slaughter."
  • "As alleged in the petition, Slaughter 'sought legal advice' from Brown, who was then a partner in Thompson & Knight in Houston, and Brown represented him in connection with the acquisition from late 2011 through the acquisition in December 2012."\
  • "When asked for a response to the allegations in the petition, the firm provided a written statement from Thompson & Knight partner L. James Berglund II of Dallas. Berglund wrote that the firm will vigorously defend itself... 'The claims in the lawsuit are simply incorrect. Thompson & Knight has a long history of honoring our legal and ethical obligations at every turn, which is exactly what occurred in this case. We regret that the plaintiff has elected to file litigation, and we are confident that a full examination of the facts will confirm that Thompson & Knight handled the matter appropriately,' Berglund wrote."

"Sparks fly as Cassels Brock rejects GM conflict claim" --
  • "Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP was 'hopelessly conflicted' when it represented the Canadian government in its bailout talks with General Motors of Canada Ltd. in 2009 while simultaneously acting for the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association, counsel for dealers who launched a class action over the matter told a Superior Court judge last week."
  • "Before some 180 dealers signed GM’s wind-down agreement in 2009, Cassels Brock “did nothing” to help them get a better deal from the company, said Bryan Finlay, one of the counsel for the dealers, as the trial got underway on Tuesday. The class action seeking $750 million in damages names GM and Cassels Brock as defendants. None of the allegations have been proven in court."
  • "The interests of the dealers were adverse to those of Canada, said Finlay, adding that instead of advising the dealers of their rights, Cassels Brock told some of them the wind-down agreements weren’t negotiable."
  • "For its part, Cassels Brock argues the association, and not the individual dealers, had retained the firm. When the wind-down notice went to a group of GM dealers, the association advised them to seek legal advice from their individual lawyers."
  • "Cassels Brock didn’t present its opening statement on the first day of the class action trial on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, another lawyer for the plaintiffs, David Sterns of Sotos LLP, argued GM had made the dealers sign the wind-down agreements during the financial crisis through 'ambush, deception, and divide-and-conquer tactics.'"
  • "The trial continues with hearings set for six weeks in Toronto."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Another Law Firm Trumpets ISO 27001 Security Certification

We've covered law firm adoption of the ISO 27001 information security standard over the years. Many firms see this as a quick path to addressing client concerns about managing sensitive data, and several view it as a competitive differentiator, including: "Aberdein Considine achieves ISO 27001:2013 certification"--
multiple times
  • "Aberdein Considine (18 offices and 400 staff), has had its commitment to high standards of information security across all of its practice areas and locations recognised with a national accreditation."
  • "The firm has achieved the prestigious ISO 27001:2013 certification which acknowledges the implementation of robust procedures and processes relating to information security management after it recently underwent a comprehensive independent audit of its systems."
  • "The certification standards set out a strict framework for managing the security of assets, including financial information, intellectual property, employee details and information entrusted to an organisation by third parties."
  • "Jacqueline Law, a corporate partner at Aberdein Considine, has welcomed the certification and believes it is reward to the high importance placed by the firm on the security of its own and its clients’ information: 'To achieve ISO 27001:2013 certification – one of only a handful of law firms in Scotland to do so – is incredibly pleasing and recognises our commitment to high standards of information asset security.'"

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Law Firm Conflicts Allegations in the News

A few interesting stories making news. First: "The mysterious case of Hewlett-Packard’s Autonomy deal"--
  • "...one of the law firms that represented the shareholders in their case against H-P directors, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, now working with H-P, is being accused of a conflict of interest. Cotchett was previously the lead counsel in another class action against H-P. That suit, which also recently settled, alleged that the company’s inkjet printers falsely warned consumers when they were out of printer ink."
  • "Theodore Frank, of the non-profit Center for Class Action Fairness, has filed a motion contesting the ink jet settlement, seeking to disqualify the Cotchett firm... 'It’s just a black letter ethical violation,' Frank said... 'The inkjet litigation has no bearing on the Autonomy settlement,' an H-P spokeswoman said in an email."
  • "Rodney Cook... has his own separate derivative action against H-P regarding the Autonomy deal, also seeks to remove the Cotchett law firm as the lead plaintiff’s counsel, citing conflict of interest."
  • "One challenge has been filed by Autonomy’s former chief financial officer, Sushovan Hussain, who contends that the proposed settlement H-P poses a threat to his own legal rights... Hussain’s motion brings up a bigger question about the Autonomy acquisition. He states in his motion that with the settlement, 'H-P seeks to forever bury from disclosure the real reason for its 2012 write-down of Autonomy: H-P’s own destruction of Autonomy’s success after the acquisition.'"
  • "How this became a multi-billion-dollar write-down is a big question among investors. Perhaps these legal maneuvers will shine some light on the mystery. But it probably will be a long time before investors know what really happened."


Next: "DOJ: Hacking suspect's lawyers may face conflict"--
  • "Two attorneys representing the son of a prominent Russian lawmaker may face a conflict of interest because their firm represented victims of a hacking scheme he's accused of running, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday."
  • "Ray and Goldin are attorneys with Fox Rothschild, a national firm with 600 attorneys and 19 offices, according to its website. Ray succeeded Kenneth Starr in 1999 as the independent counsel on the Whitewater investigation. Seleznev is also represented by Seattle defense attorney Larry Finegold."
  • "'We feel strongly that our representation comports with all applicable rules of ethics and that Mr. Seleznev is legally entitled to vigorous defense - which we intend to provide,' Goldin wrote in an email Wednesday."
  • "Assistant U.S. attorney Norman Barbosa said the government was not implying any wrongdoing by the defense attorneys, only raising the question of whether they should continue to represent the defendant when at least one other attorney in their firm represented the pizza chain Z Pizza in connection with a breach in late 2010 and early 2011 that resulted in the theft of thousands of its customers' credit card numbers. Seleznev was responsible for the hack, prosecutors say."
  • "The government noted that if Seleznev is ultimately ordered to pay restitution in the case, Fox Rothschild could wind up representing both the defendant and the people he is required to pay. And if anyone from Z Pizza is called as a witness in the case, the firm could wind up cross-examining its own client.'
For more detail (and intrigue) on the case of an alleged hacker the US Secret Service calls "one of the most prolific in the world," see: "Accused Russian hacker must stay in custody, judge says," which covers details such as an arrest at the Maldives airport, a seized laptop containing over 2 million stolen credit-card numbers, and Russian allegations that the suspect was kidnapped...


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Information Security Policies & Practices -- Protecting Client Information


via Law Technology News "Law Firm Data Breaches: Protecting Clients --  Maintaining diligent protocols and educating personnel are crucial tools to protect client data" --
  • "Data threats against law firms can be generated from internal or external sources... Imagine a disgruntled employee who wants to get even with the employer and has unrestricted rights to  client data kept on the firm’s network folder."
  • "Some ways a firm can safeguard against internal data theft include:
  • Be careful about which users are given access to data systems.
  • Monitor user access control to each data source on a regular basis.
  • As users within the firm change positions and/or departments, ensure that system access is verified so that users only have access to the systems they need.
  • Promptly disable all system access (both internal and external) for terminated employees."

For those attending the ILTA conference this week, see also: "Security Policies and Procedures: Why You Need Them and How To Decide Which Ones Matter Most" --

8/21/2014 2:00 p.m. (Event Code:SOSPG6,  Presidential Ballroom B)
  • In response to client guidelines and regulatory requirements such as HIPAA, law firms are increasingly developing and documenting central policies and procedures for managing information security. But policies are only effective if they are living documents accepted by firm stakeholders and honed to match the business issues of greatest risk to the firm. This interactive session will include an overview of the drivers behind security policies as we teach participants how to use a risk-based methodology to develop security policies aligned with firm business goals and encourage buy-in from lawyers, management and staff.

Speakers:
Karen Campbell - Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP
Michael Johnson - Security Grc2
Kathryn Hume - Intapp

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Conflicts Story Update: $270k in Sanctions

 
 
Law360 (subscription required for full article) reports that: "Boies Schiller Fined For Conflict In $350M Antitrust Suit" --
  • "Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP was ordered by a New York federal judge Friday to pay Host Hotels & Resorts Inc. about $270,000 in sanctions for failing to bow out of a $350 million antitrust suit over a scheme to keep Marriott International Inc.'s flagship New York hotels union-free."
  • "U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, who initially ordered the law firm sanctioned in October for ignoring a conflict of interest that "could not have been clearer," awarded Host a sanction of $271,063 in legal fees for work..."
For non-paywalled history and detail on this matter, see also this article from 2013 for additional background, as the facts and accusations in this matter are complex and worth attention:
  • "On March 8 [2013], Boies Schiller filed a motion to withdraw from the case after Host Hotels threatened to file a motion to disqualify the firm from the litigation. Host Hotels hired the firm in 2000 to examine the company's business relationship with Marriott, which manages some of its hotel properties."
  • "Boies Schiller's outside ethics counsel informed Host Hotels that it would not reimburse it for any portion of its costs associated with drafting the motion because it made attempts to withdraw after the company presented the firm with documents solidifying the conflict, Host Hotels said."
  • "Host Hotels seeks reimbursement for its attorneys' fees and expenses associated with investigating Boies Schiller's conflict-of-interest. The company denies that it participated in any unlawful conduct in its dealings with Marriott."
At the time this matter first made news, we pointed out additional detail, commentary and analysis worth reviewing as well. (Including interesting details on the specific timing, scope and suitability of the searching performed by the firm.)

Monday, August 11, 2014

BB&K Improves Business Intake, Conflicts Management and Matter Evaluation

 
Best Best & Krieger LLP, a full-service law firm with nearly 200 lawyers in nine offices across California and in Washington, D.C., has selected Intapp Open to automate processes related to new business intake. BB&K, which represents many recognized public agencies and businesses, is using Intapp Open to enhance conflicts checks and accelerate new client matter inception.

 
Said the Firm's IT Director,  Tim Haynes:
  • "BB&K’s public agency, business and individual clients rely on us to quickly and efficiently help them solve their legal issues. Intapp Open allows us to identify, manage and clear any conflicts of interest that arise, and also provides our attorneys with a holistic view of the client, enabling us to be more strategic and responsive in our representation."
BB&K selected Intapp Open following a thorough evaluation by a panel that included firm management and lawyers, as well as representatives of the firm’s finance, conflicts and IT teams. Of all the products evaluated, Intapp Open was the most comprehensive and the most user-friendly – offering role-specific views and to-do lists for key stakeholders involved in new business intake, and eliminating duplication of effort. Intapp Open also allows designated users to create and modify processes to support firm- and practice-specific matter evaluation procedures.

Said the Intapp Managing Director,  Kerry Stivaletti:
  • "Having worked with Best Best & Krieger as an Intapp customer for more than nine years, we know that making the most of the data available throughout the firm has been a long-standing priority for executive management, finance and IT. Intapp Open supports this by providing firms with visibility into the strategic implications of new business acceptance."
  • "By introducing Intapp Open for new matter inception, as well as conflicts management, BB&K is bringing a new level of agility, efficiency and governance to its business intake processes."
 
Visit Intapp.com for more information on Intapp Open new business intake and conflicts management software, or to request a demonstration.