Thursday, May 30, 2013

Improving Law Firm New Business Intake


Lathrop & Gage, a full-service law firm with more than 320 lawyers working across 11 offices nationally, has selected IntApp Open to streamline and automate its new business acceptance practices.
Said Lathrop CIO Sean Power:
  • "Effective business approval is the lifeblood of every law firm. We sought to invest in a product that we could deploy quickly, reconfigure easily as our needs evolve, and maintain ourselves over the long term. We considered many options and settled on IntApp Open for the high-quality user and IT experience it offers. The product aligns precisely with our larger risk management and data governance objectives. IntApp has delivered something really special here, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of a better way to manage new business intake."
Today, multiple market trends are putting new pressures on law firms to transform the way they evaluate and engage new business. These include clients with increasing service expectations, and a risk landscape with evolving regulatory rules, compliance requirements and professional standards. In response, firms are looking to increase the sophistication, efficiency and agility of their intake processes to better align client selection and terms of business with overall strategy, service models and internal policies.

IntApp Open replaces conventional workflow software with an application specifically designed to streamline how new clients are evaluated and new matters are created. It offers an intuitive, audience-specific user experience, tuned for management, lawyer, IT and risk stakeholders.

And it offers unique features, including a flexible business rules engine that enables effective management of practice-specific matter evaluation procedures as well as conflicts clearance practices that may be centralized, distributed among lawyers and practice heads, or both, depending on firm preferences.

The product also includes an integrated question library that provides visibility into the practices, standards and insights developed by industry peers. And it delivers unique value for IT, with an architecture that simplifies change management, data integration and system automation.

Commenting on Lathrop's Decision, Pat Archbold, Head of IntApp's Risk Practice Group added:
  • "We’ve seen tremendous response from the legal industry to IntApp Open as firms embrace a fresh approach to managing inception" We’re proud to count Lathrop & Gage as one of several firms adopting the product and look forward to supporting their ongoing success."
Visit IntApp.com for more information on how IntApp Open enhances law firm new business intake.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

More Conflicts in the News

Sometimes it feels like these stories surface in packs. Here's the latest, coming out of Illinois: "House gambling sponsor recuses self because of potential conflict" --
  • "The Illinois House's longtime gambling expansion point man has dropped his sponsorship of a casino bill to avoid a potential conflict of interest. Democratic Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie wrote to the House clerk that he is now affiliated with a law firm that has a client with an "interest that could be impacted by" gambling legislation that has passed the Senate and is pending in the House."
  • "In the letter, Lang wrote that 'it was recently brought to my attention that there may be a perceived conflict of interest.' Lang, too, said he does no legal work for the client and insisted there have been no ethics violations 'of any kind.'"
  • "Lang said he is 'distancing myself from public perception that there may be something untoward because there isn't.' Lang also said he is weighing whether to vote on the legislation if it comes before the House. Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, is the new sponsor."

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Another Conflict Allegation Makes Mainstream News


Here's another conflicts accusation playing out in the public eye. CalPERS even issued a press release with their side of the story: "CalPERS Files Motions to Disqualify Law Firm." For more detailed reporting, see:"CalPERS blasts move by law firm" --
  • "A law firm representing a Stockton creditor in bankruptcy is accused of playing dirty by raiding attorneys from an opposing firm that represents the California Public Employees' Retirement System. CalPERS, with which the city contracts to manage employee pensions, wants the judge overseeing Stockton's bankruptcy to kick Winston & Strawn, LLP, off the case in an argument also with implications in San Bernardino's ongoing Chapter 9."
  • "Winston & Strawn… represents National Public Finance Guarantee, which insures bonds Stockton stopped paying down in its financial crisis."
  • "CalPERS contends in court papers that Winston & Strawn recruited three members of a restructuring and insolvency team - one partner and two associates - from the Charlotte, N.C., office of K&L Gates. CalPERS contracts with K&L Gates for assistance in the Stockton bankruptcy."
  • "Those three attorneys were at the heart of a team forming CalPERS' strategy in Stockton's case, having collectively logged 500 hours at K&L Gates, CalPERS contends."
  • "Yet, Winston & Strawn says the attorneys in question will be appropriately screened from the case. The firm is well aware of its legal and ethical obligations while hiring attorneys, Winston & Strawn said in a statement."
See also reporting by Thomson Reuters.

Monday, May 20, 2013

New HIPAA Rules – Law Firms Taking Action to Address Compliance Deadline

With the new 2013 HIPAA Omnibus Rules in effect, and a September compliance deadline looming, firms are taking action. Waller, a law firm serving ten core industries and frequently advising clients and peer law firms on complex compliance issues, is using IntApp Wall Builder to satisfy core requirements of the 2013 HIPAA Omnibus Rule.

Said Waller Strategic Director of Information Services Doug Leins:
  • "Our firm has always paid close attention to the HIPAA/HITECH rules, as we advise multiple healthcare clients and peer law firms on their compliance and professional responsibility obligations. With the September HIPAA enforcement deadline rapidly approaching, we wanted to take additional steps to enhance our existing compliance measures. IntApp Wall Builder and Activity Tracker enable us to effectively respond to the HIPAA Security and Privacy Rules by locking down and monitoring internal use of electronic PHI."
  • "We worked with the IntApp risk practice team to scope a software configuration best suited to address our HIPAA requirements without disrupting lawyer productivity. With clients increasingly asking detailed questions about compliance, and new rules that explicitly mandate stricter protocol, this is an issue that is here to stay."
Wall Builder is the most-adopted information security management software by law firms with 150 or more lawyers. According to an independent survey by the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA), 72% of large law firms using commercial software to enforce information access controls use IntApp Wall Builder.

IntApp Activity Tracker supplements these security capabilities by monitoring how lawyers and staff use sensitive information. It notifies management of suspect activities so that firms can resolve potential problems before they become crises or compliance violations.

Pat Archbold, Head of IntApp's Risk Practice Group added:
"We're delighted to highlight Waller's focused efforts to enhance compliance with the new HIPAA rules. By using Wall Builder and Activity Tracker to safeguard and monitor PHI, the firm is demonstrating its strong commitment to client service and compliance."

For more information, see the official news release, background on how the new HIPAA rules affect law firms, and our recorded panel webinar on compliance requirements and strategies.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Law Firm Conflicts, Continued



"Ex-Dewey Lawyer's Move Adds Wrench to Firm's Bankruptcy" --
  • "The announcement earlier this week that onetime Dewey & LeBoeuf partner Stephen Best had moved from Brownstein Hyatt Farber & Schreck to Brown Rudnick has prompted a barbed email exchange between two lawyers representing clients with competing interests in now-defunct Dewey's bankruptcy proceeding."
  • "Bassen contends that Brown Rudnick should be immediately disqualified from representing Dewey liquidation trustee Alan Jacobs in a settlement that affects his clients because Best, before working at Brown Rudnick, consulted with DiCarmine and Sanders on the issues now in question."
  • "Jacobs and Brown Rudnick are pushing for court approval of a settlement reached by former chair Steven Davis, XL Specialty Insurance, and the bankruptcy estate that would see XL chip in $19 million to resolve mismanagement claims."
  • "As Bassen explains in his letter, which is addressed to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Martin Glenn, DiCarmine and Sanders consulted with Best "for several hours" in 2012 during a daylong meeting and in several separate conversations "regarding their employment at Dewey and the facts and circumstances that led to the firm winding up in this Court." According to Bassen, the conversations included "their defenses to and strategies regarding potential claims, including mismanagement claims" as well as potential claims not covered by XL and other insurers."
  • "Brown Rudnick partner Edward Weisfelner explains in a three-page email that Bassen attached to his letter to Glenn why he believes there is "zero basis for disqualification here." Weisfelner says in the message that Best and Brown Rudnick created a complete ethical wall to prevent Best from seeing any Dewey-related documents and which prohibits lawyers working on the case from talking to him—and that the proposed settlement was filed with the court before Best even joined the firm."
  • "Weisfelner also lashes out at Bassen in the email for what he says are a series of delay tactics the Hughes Hubbard lawyer has used to prevent the XL settlement from getting court approval. Despite the opposition to Bassen's claims, Brown Rudnick did agree to delay depositions of Bassen's clients that were scheduled to take place Thursday, according to the court filing."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Conflicts in the News (School & Sports Edition)

"Judge says defendants in Atlanta public schools cheating scandal must have separate lawyers" --
  • "To avoid potential conflicts of interest, lawyers may not represent more than one of the 35 defendants in the case involving a cheating scandal in the Atlanta public schools, the judge in the case said Thursday."
  • "The lawyers who appeared Thursday for the conflict of interest hearing represented a dozen clients in the case."
  • "Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter said during a hearing for lawyers who already have been representing more than one client in the case that he was acting very cautiously because he doesn’t want to encounter any potential conflicts — even if none are immediately evident."
  • "A Fulton County grand jury in March indicted 35 educators, including former Superintendent Beverly Hall, and accused them of involvement in a broad conspiracy to cheat, conceal cheating or retaliate against whistleblowers. Prosecutors say the educators were driven at least in part by bonuses for improved student performance."
  • "Bob Rubin, who represents two former Atlanta Public Schools principals, said he was confident there was no conflict of interest between his clients, who he said worked at different schools and had never spoken or met each other prior to their indictment. Rubin has been working with his clients for more than a year, and forcing one of them to start over with a new lawyer now could hurt their defense, he argued. Three other lawyers who represent multiple clients made similar arguments. But Baxter denied all requests to reconsider his decision, saying all of the educators face a conspiracy charge implicating them in a coordinated scheme."
"Law firm hired to probe Rutgers basketball scandal quietly resigns over conflict" --
  • "Nearly three weeks after Rutgers University hired a high-profile law firm to conduct an independent review of its basketball coaching scandal, the school named a new firm to the job today after the original investigators quietly resigned — citing a previously undisclosed conflict of interest."
  • "The firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel stepped aside Friday after it discovered a link to Connell Foley, the Roseland law firm Rutgers hired last fall to investigate claims basketball coach Mike Rice had physically and verbally abused players. Rutgers officials previously said Connell Foley gave them faulty advice."
  • "'We discovered after the announcement of the engagement that the Connell Foley firm, which represented Cahill as local counsel in litigation in New Jersey, is the same firm that issued a report to Rutgers about the coach Rice allegations,' said Cahill Gordon spokeswoman Lynn Tellefsen."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Law Firm Insider Trading News & Allegations

In interesting update about the growth of the "political intelligence" industry and the potential for concern, as reported in recent stories via the Washington Post:

"SEC subpoenas firm, individuals in a case of leaked information" --
  • "The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued subpoenas to a firm and individuals in connection with the leak last month of a federal funding decision that appeared to cause a surge in stock trading of several major health companies. The move deepens the government’s scrutiny of the growing 'political intelligence' industry, which has been thriving on delivering valuable information from Washington to investors. This relatively new breed of companies capitalizes on the fact that decisions made in Washington — whether a regulator blocking a big merger or a lawmaker tweaking legislation — can create opportunities for stock traders to make money."
  • "The latest case emerged April 1 when Height Securities, a Washington-based stock brokerage firm, alerted its clients that the government would soon make a decision favoring private health insurers who participate in a Medicare program. The alert went out 18 minutes before the end of the trading day, sparking a surge in trading in the shares of several major health-care firms, including Humana and Aetna. The official government announcement was made after trading closed for the day."
  • "On Wednesday, several people familiar with the probe confirmed that the SEC has subpoenaed a Height Securities analyst and Mark Hayes, a health-care lobbyist who advised the firm on legislative issues. Hayes’s law firm, Greenberg Traurig, was also subpoenaed by the SEC, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter was under federal investigation. The SEC has conducted an interview with Hayes, who voluntarily submitted to four hours of questioning, these people said. The FBI was present at the meeting, suggesting that the Justice Department has taken a deep interest in the matter, one of the people said. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on an ongoing investigation."
"Greenberg Traurig law firm at the center of ‘political intelligence’ case" --
  • "How the lobbyist, who works at the law firm Greenberg Traurig, stepped into this morass offers a window into what has become a routine and profitable practice at law firms and lobbying shops: In addition to their usual work, lobbyists share with financial firms the latest political tidbits they are gathering from sources, sending an e-mail here and there with the latest ‘political intelligence.’ The financial firms value the information because it can inform their investments."
  • "Greenberg Traurig was not doing anything unusual for a law firm by sharing political insight with clients who have investment interests. But when that information then informs stock trading, the ethics can become murky. ‘The road to hell in this particular situation is not paved with clarity,’ said Stephen M. Ryan, head of the government strategies practice group at the law firm McDermott Will & Emery. ‘You wander into it.’"

New Playbook Disqualification Decisions

The always watchful Bill Freivogel notes two recent disqualification decisions where assertions of playbook knowledge where integral to the arguments at hand. (We've covered playbook debates, discussions and decisions several times, see here and here.)
  • "Khani v. Ford Motor Co., 2013 Cal. App. LEXIS 320 (Cal. App. April 2, 2013).  Lawyer brought this action for the plaintiff under California's "lemon law."  Defendant moved to disqualify Lawyer because, between 2004 and 2007, Lawyer had represented Defendant in 150 lemon law cases.  The trial court granted the motion.  In this opinion the appellate court reversed.  In doing a playbook analysis the court felt that Defendant's evidence was 'bare-bones.'  Among other things, the court noted that this case involved a 2008 Lincoln Navigator and that Lawyer had not worked on any cases dealing with that vehicle.  The court also said that alleging that Lawyer's work for Defendant involved the same statute as that in this case was simply not enough to establish a substantial relationship." [Ed: See BNA for additional detail.]
  • "Childress v. Trans Union, LLC, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61360 (S.D. Ind. April 30, 2013).  The plaintiff's lawyer ("Lawyer") in this FCRA case previously represented the defendant in defending cases under the same provisions of that act.  Lawyer billed more than 4,200 hours in defending 250 such cases.  In a fact-intensive analysis the magistrate judge granted the defendant's motion to disqualify Lawyer.  In this opinion the district judge affirmed.  The opinion contains an interesting discussion of application of Indiana's Rule 1.9 and 'federal common law.'  Among other things, the court held that Comment [2] to Indiana's Rule 1.9 is not inconsistent with disqualification in this case.  (Indiana's Rule 1.9 and Comment [2] appear to be identical to MR 1.9 and its Comment [2].)"

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Report from Recent Risk Roundtables in LA & SF

Last week, we held a Risk Roundtable series in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Many thanks to Sheppard Mullin and Sedgwick for hosting. The events featured lively discussions on risk issues ranging from law firm best practices for HIPAA compliance, strategic policies for information governance, new business intake and engagement management. Kathryn Hume, who manages and moderates the Risk Roundtable Program, sends this update:
  • Dan, I'm pleased to report back a successful west coast Risk Roundtable series. Sheppard Mullin and Sedgwick generously agreed to host our group of risk managers and technology leaders. A special thanks to Steven Shock, Chief Technology Officer at Irell & Manella, who led a spirited discussion about the challenges of changing and successfully executing an information governance program. Attendees shared various opinions on email management, document management, records retention and disposition. 
  • At both events, Adam Carlson, who recently joined the IntApp team as an information security expert and consultant, lead a discussion about best practices for HIPAA compliance in law firms. Drawing on his experience helping firms improve their compliance posture before the September 23 enforcement deadline, Adam advised firms to survey systems and practice groups to identify PHI, designate a privacy and security official, tag PHI during intake and develop an access control and activity monitoring strategy to meet key HIPAA privacy and security requirements. 
  • Firms agreed that there remains cultural resistance to implementing a "minimum necessary" model for information access in law firm environments, even as regulations, state laws and clients push firms to restrict access to those who need it to do their work. To contain risk without entirely closing down systems, many firms choose to lock down their most sensitive and valuable information, while leaving less sensitive information available for general internal use. Risk and IT stakeholders agree that it is crucial that management foster a culture of risk awareness to change organizational habits and drive project success.
  • Finally, we spent substantial time in our San Francisco meeting discussing engagement management and new business intake. Firms across the board reported that clients were demanding discounted rates, putting pressure on firms to budget matters on the front end to ensure profitability. In response, many firms are seeking to improve insights into matter pricing patterns so as to make informed decisions about engaging clients in the future. Firms are also revisiting intake to build processes and procedures lawyers endorse and comply with, both to improve data quality and decrease risk.
We're looking forward to our upcoming Roundtable in Toronto.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

News & Updates: Conflicts, Information Security

"Greenberg Traurig Settles Heller Ehrman Suit for $4.9 Million" --
  • "Greenberg Traurig LLP agreed to settle a malpractice suit with defunct law firm Heller Ehrman LLP for $4.9 million. Heller alleged that Greenberg had a conflict of interest when it was retained by the firm for the bankruptcy proceedings because the firm also represented Bank of America, which was the law firm’s lender and claimed an interest in its assets
  • "Greenberg took the position that the claims were without merit, asserting that the scope of its engagement was narrower than alleged, according to court documents. The settlement was a result of mediation... It will be considered for approval before judge Dennis Montali on May 31."
The Daily Record has published: "Seven Tips for Better Law Firm Security" --
  • "Corporations allocate significant time and money for protecting their digital intellectual property. If you have ever met an information security professional, you know that they take their jobs seriously."
  • "Once possession of that data was transferred from ABC to the law firm, they became the custodian of that data. I would argue that they had a professional and ethical obligation to protect it."
  • "Too often I see little thought or effort put towards protecting client data that is in the custody of law firms. Don’t simply take my word for it. In late 2011, representatives from New York’s top 200 were asked to meet with the FBI’s cyber division in New York City..."
  • "Make security a priority. If the managing partner at the firm isn’t buying in to the security craze then you can bet no one below is either. Make it part of your company’s culture. Many big law firms are touting their security prowess to attract bigger clients. So putting security at the top of the list can also have the benefit of getting (or holding) clients. Security makes good business sense!"
  • "One hundred percent security can never be achieved. The goal is not to be a soft target. Most hackers will move on to the next victim if they find your systems difficult to penetrate. Is your law firm doing all it can to safeguard client data?"

Monday, May 6, 2013

Do Law Firms Have the Right Compliance Measures in Place?

That's the question Corporate Counsel magazine is asking: "Looking for Top Law Firms' Compliance Programs." They report that they: "thought it would be enlightening to check out how top law firms handle compliance issues. But what it found was that either many firms don't have formal compliance programs, or else they don't want to share how they do it."

This story is interesting both because of its substance and because it's raising the profile of law firm compliance with its corporate law readers:
  • "[Kenneth] Young, a member of the American Bar Association's law practice management section, said he has worked with law firms across the country. 'Candidly, I'm not seeing a lot of formal compliance efforts,' he said."
  • "And it's not like law firms haven't had any compliance problems—e.g., lawyers charged with insider stock trading for using or leaking confidential client information... Such high-profile cases 'should be a wake-up call to law firms that robust compliance and ethics programs are as critical to their business as to their clients,' said Donna Boehme, a compliance consultant who writes the Compliance Strategist column for CorpCounsel.com."
  • "Boehme also thinks law firms are missing a key chance to toot their own horns. 'It seems to me that a law firm that could boast of a robust approach to compliance and ethics would find that a significant competitive advantage,' she noted."
  • "One compliance attorney who advises corporations, and who asked not to be named, said most law firms are not set up to enforce their own compliance. 'There are no hotlines or compliance officers or other types of mechanisms' like the ones that corporations are advised to employ, he said. The lawyer suggested that compliance is a piece that accounting firms have gotten right, while law firms have morphed into full-service, global companies without making compliance a priority. 'But the services are similar, and the risks are the same sort of risks," he noted. "It's crazy.'"
Corporate Counsel reached out to top five AmLaw firms by revenue for comment and received little on the record feedback:
  • "Latham & Watkins chief operating officer LeeAnn Black also handed off to spokesman, Frank Pizzurro, who said, 'Latham will pass on discussing the compliance topic, but thanks for the outreach.'"
 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ethics Opinion Updates

"Multiple Firm Practice Blessed By Ohio Ethics Opinion" --
  • "Finding “substantial justification for a new perspective on  practice in multiple firms” and considering “the context of current rules and  modern practice,” the board concluded in Opinion  2013-1 that practice in multiple firms can occur in compliance with the  Rules of Professional Conduct."

"Client Identities, Legal Bills Can Be Disclosed, [Pennsylvania] High Court Says" --
  • "The court set a fact-specific standard in determining that client identities are typically not privileged unless they would be coupled with information about what type of work the attorney has done on behalf of the client that, when disclosed together, would essentially disclose attorney-client communications. The Supreme Court determined, however, that previous disclosure that the attorney is representing a client in a grand jury investigation is not enough to protect the identity of the client."

And, for those embracing every avenue of our new social world: “Ohio Ethics Opinion states that lawyers may use text messages to solicit clients if all lawyer advertising rules are followed