LACBA Update Back Issues - March 2015
Alan K. Steinbrecher Receives Robie Award from Litigation Section
The Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Litigation Section presented past LACBA President Alan K. Steinbrecher with its Jim Robie Professionalism and Civility Award at this year’s Bench Meets the Bar program in February. The award was created in memory of past LACBA Trustee and Litigation Section Chair Jim Robie, an accomplished trial lawyer and consummate professional who embraced civility and service to the bar and the civil justice system. Mr. Steinbrecher was chosen as this year’s recipient because he demonstrates the same qualities of professionalism, civility, service, enthusiasm, and collegiality as the award’s namesake.
Volunteers Needed: Family Law Section Expands Daily Settlement Officer Program to Compton Court
To provide improved service to the members of the Compton community, LACBA’s Family Law Section will expand its Daily Settlement Officer (DSO) program, which currently operates in the Downtown Los Angeles courthouse, to the South Central Court beginning March 12, 2015. Volunteers are needed to ensure the success of the Compton program. The DSO program provides the Central District Family Law courts with settlement officers who are family lawyers and forensic accountants. Settlement officers have been extraordinarily successful in resolving disputes in the Downtown court, settling more than 60% of the referred cases.
LACBA, BASF File Amicus Brief Urging Ninth Circuit to Hold That Law Firms Have No Property Interest in Hourly Fee Matters That Are Abandoned When the Firm Dissolves
The Los Angeles County Bar Association and the Bar Association of San Francisco filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in February in support of defendant-appellee in Heller Ehrman LLP v. Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. In this case, the bankruptcy trustee for Heller Ehrman LLP (Heller) argues that pending hourly fee matters transform into a property interest of the dissolving firm. The firm’s creditors may then wield this interest against the new law firms that complete the work begun by the dissolved firm. This notion effectively nullifies the client’s fundamental right to hire, fire, and control counsel, and defies both ethical canons and common sense. In this brief, amici argue that the California Supreme Court would not recognize a property interest in future hourly fees for multiple reasons. Because the trustee seeks a result that is harmful to clients and is barred by California law, the U.S. Court of Appeals should hold that the Heller firm has no property interest in the hourly fee matters that it abandoned at the time of its dissolution. LACBA’s Amicus Briefs Committee, chaired by Richard A. Rothschild, worked closely with the Bar Association of San Francisco and pro bono counsel to prepare the brief.
Veterans Project Thanks Herbalife and LACBA Barristers
Since the beginning of 2015, more than 50 attorneys have already volunteered their time and talents to assist the LACBA Veterans Project. By helping veterans work through legal barriers to their employment, such as outstanding tickets and warrants and minor criminal convictions, these attorneys have made a tremendous difference to Los Angeles County's veterans. In particular, the Veterans Project would like to acknowledge the Herbalife legal team and the LACBA Barristers Section for headlining the January and February veterans legal clinics.
LACBA Center for Civic Mediation: Developing Problem-Solving Skills through Mediation Starts at an Early Age
Michael and Tyler (not their real names), now in the 7th grade, have been in the same classes and activities since elementary school. From the very beginning, they’ve had a competitive relationship and have had run-ins with each other periodically. This most recent incident in middle school was an escalation of a continuous string of interactions over a number of years. But Michael had had enough after a lunch altercation with Tyler, who was swinging his water bottle around and clipped Michael in the head.
Concurrent Representation of Bankruptcy Debtor and Creditor May Be Permissible in Limited Situations
In a recent opinion, the State Bar Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct (COPRAC) reached the conclusion that in a certain specific factual scenario, an attorney can represent a debtor in bankruptcy even if the attorney also represents a creditor of the debtor in an unrelated matter. While the opinion is important for its recognition that the representation of two clients under this scenario does not create a conflict of interest, of equal importance is the opinion’s discussion of how slight changes in the factual situation could create a disqualifying conflict of interest. Attorneys who practice in this area should review the opinion and recognize how to evaluate the facts involving the representation to determine if a potentially disqualifying conflict may exist.
Ethics Opinion No. 526: Contingency Lawyer's Right to Negotiate a Fee Agreement That Gives First Proceeds to the Lawyer and Shifts to the Client the Risk of Nonpayment
Don't Forget Law Firm Employees When It Comes to Risk Management
Law firm employees are often crucial to a lawyer's success. However, these employees can also be potential liabilities. What if a secretary misses an important filing deadline? A paralegal includes an inaccurate legal description for a property on a contract? When scenarios such as these arise, the wronged person (typically the client) will look to the law firm or you, as the supervising attorney, to correct the situation and/or pay for the resulting damages. Be sure you implement risk-management steps to guard against common employee mistakes.
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