Accessibility Links

Laurence Simons newsletter May 2014

Posted by: Laurence Simons 27/05/14

Lawyer Under Fire

How much money do you need to be happy? The answer is nearly always 'more', as seen in the recent case of Manhattan lawyer and genial man-about-town Michael Lamonsoff.
Mr Lamonsoff is an injury attorney and almost certainly not short of money, at least if the fact he lives in one of the most expensive cities in the world and drives a lovely shiny Bentley is anything to go by.
Like many men of a certain age, the lawyer has attempted to fill up the gaping hole in his self-esteem with a luxury car, reports the New York Post (well, it didn't report that exactly but you need to read between the lines).
Now he's been branded a "big, giant cry baby" by repair shop owner, John Steo - upholding the legacy of Hemingway, Mailer and Ellroy with his terse, muscular prose style.
The attorney is complaining that extensive repairs made to the 2013 convertible at Sports & Classics Auto Repair on East 73rd Street were "of poor workmanship and poor quality". He is seeking damages through a civil suit, the first in which Mr Steo's business has been involved.
"We're trying to find out what’s wrong and he’s given us no information. He's a very difficult person," said the repairman, who brands his business the city's pre-eminent authority on luxury cars.
Despite the fact that Mr Lamonsoff can presumably float around New York in a cloud generated by his own ego, he has a history of vehicular problems, having been sued in 2011 after his 2008 Bentley convertible was in a collision with a Nissan.
The lawyer said his Bentley dealer told him that "the repair job was so bad that it destroyed the resale value of the vehicle and had to be completely redone", presumably while lighting up a Cuban cigar with a high-denomination note.

How are mobile devices affecting corporate counsel?

Corporate counsel are frequently warned of the impact mobile devices can have on their working lives (which presumably isn't a reference to the amount of time the average lawyer spends hiding in the bathroom with half a cup of coffee playing Angry Birds and crying).
In fact, it definitely isn't, according to senior discovery counsel for Recommind, Philip Favro. (On a marginally tangential note, what a great job title that is. Even Christopher Columbus wasn't a senior discovery counsel).
Writing for InsideCounsel, Mr Favro indicated that the mobile is changing how in-house lawyers control information, making it more difficult to keep track of the way confidential business data is dealt with.
"Whether that information consists of trade secrets, proprietary financial information or attorney-client privileged discussions, difficulties in policing mobile devices allow employees the opportunity to misappropriate data more easily," he explained.
This underlines the ultimate truth of data security, which is that human error is almost impossible to eradicate. But by blurring the lines of how this information is stored, mobile is making it harder to operate a closed shop.
Mr Favro pointed out that most incidences of information loss are not caused by malicious forethought or cunning hacks, but simply by absent-minded employees who accidentally upload crucial or personal data to social networking sites or an insecure cloud network.
These security threats are "amplified" when mobile devices go missing, he added.
Ultimately, in-house lawyers won't be able to ban smartphones from the workplace - see the first paragraph for evidence of why they're so important. What they need to do is manage the situation as much as possible without encroaching on the convenience and flexibility offered by mobile devices.
For best practice, "in-house counsel should collaborate with their IT and information security colleagues to develop manageable use policies", concluded the business law expert.

British Government spend £250,000 to block Prince's letters

The British government has spent some £250,000 on legal fees over the last four years in attempting to block publication of letters written by the Prince to politicians.
To clarify, these missives are not from funk musician and guitar legend, Prince, who has far sexier things to be getting on with than complaining about brutalist architecture and encouraging people to grow cucumbers on their balconies.

In fact, they are from Prince Charles, who presumably doesn't have anything sexier to occupy his time.
Attorney general Dominic Grieve, with the backing of the cabinet, has been blocking the release of the letters as their contents could damage the crown's supposed political neutrality and create constitutional problems, reports the Guardian.
Earlier in the month, three senior judges ruled that Mr Grieve was acting unlawfully when vetoing the decision of an independent tribunal that recommended the publication of Charles' rambling, impeccably-penned correspondence.
Concerns have been raised in the past about the Prince's willingness to engage with (or interfere with, depending on your point of view) public policy. One of his key concerns is defending stodgy architectural heritage from the kind of people who want to make homes for normal people.
Labour MP Paul Flynn told the Guardian: "This denial of information by [the] government is a sinful waste of public money. If there is something in the letters that suggests Prince Charles will be a poor monarch, then his future subjects have a right to know."
"The head of state is a position of great influence and a clash between an opinionated head of state and a government could cause a constitutional crisis."
Whatever their salacious secrets, it seems fair to suggest that the government shouldn't be wasting this amount of legal spend at a time when its cutting budgets for public interest law across the board.

Litigation spend on the up in the US

In-house lawyers in America have seen the amount of regulatory proceedings they face increase for the third year in a row, according to the Annual Litigation Trends Survey from global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.
The good news, though, is that the annual survey doesn't pin this continued rise on the incredible incompetence of all the corporate counsel in America. Instead, the blame lies with the emergence of a stricter regulatory environment and increased scrutiny from a broad range of state and federal agencies.
Almost 20 per cent of respondents told Norton Rose Fulbright they faced a regulatory or investigatory campaign over the course of 2013, up from just nine per cent in 2012.
While the jump was seen across all industries, it was most pronounced among organisations focused on technology and communications.
Otway Denny, US disputes head with Norton Rose Fulbright, said government agencies in the US are now taking a more proactive approach to driving regulatory compliance in the wake of the various scandals that emerged in the build-up to and during the financial crisis.
"Stricter regulations governing financial, environmental and workplace issues create a more complex environment for businesses, and these results show that a serious regulatory investigation is a reality for a growing number of companies each year," he added.
The majority of cases cited involved the Department of Justice (34 per cent), the Securities and Exchange Commission (23 per cent) or the Environmental Protection Agency (22 per cent), while local organisations were also well-represented.
Concern over the stricter regulatory environment is top of the list for many lawyers, with 41 per cent citing it as the biggest issue facing their organisation in the near future.
Even more worryingly, the financial impact of these cases is becoming heavier. The percentage of companies dealing with lawsuits of more than $20 million increased to 34 per cent last year - in 2011, just 23 per cent of organisations fell into this category.
The rise in social media postings is changing how people go about their investigations, with 20 per cent of respondents having to preserve or collect data from an employee's social media account in 2013 in response to a dispute or investigation, the study concluded.

Workers in Asia 'more likely to be promoted'

If you're looking for success and struggling to find it in depressed, economically-cautious Europe, a move to Asia might be just the ticket.
This might sound like the kind of advice someone gave Raffles when he decided to set off on his adventures and eventually found modern Singapore, but it's actually the conclusion of a recent piece of research from the Lawyer magazine.
According to the news provider's study, legal experts working in international firms in the Asian market are more likely to get promoted to partner than their counterparts elsewhere in the world.
Asia partner promotion statistics from eight international firms over the past four years show that 101 partners were created in the continent between 2010 and 2013 - 12.9 per cent of their global figures.
Hong Kong is by far the largest jurisdiction for promotions in the region, with 46 new partners, while China saw 28 and Singapore 13.
Some of the legal organisations involved in the Lawyer's research include Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, DLA Piper and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
The figures look set to rise. For A&O, just two out of 21 promotions took place in Asia in 2011, while 26 per cent did over the course of 2013 and 18.7 per cent have done so far this year.
In terms of practice areas, corporate and capital markets were the areas with the most promotions, indicating which part of their business law firms consider crucial when investing in the Asian market.
Banking and finance saw 19 associates make the jump to partnership, while dispute resolution claimed 22.
With the Asian market seen as increasingly central to the plans of international law firms, many of whom are planning to move more of their top staff to this market in the coming years, it is likely that it will continue to be a top destination for young lawyers keen to find their best chance of success and promotion.

Big firms 'have deepest relationship with African independents'

It is the largest global legal firms that engage most closely with African independent firms, according to one aspect of the Lawyer magazine's wide-ranging new report on the state of the continent's legal market.
Of course, the nature of Africa means that its legal services sector is comprised of many disparate experiences; it is difficult to draw generalised conclusions within such a huge landmass.
However, the Lawyer has revealed that the likes of Baker & McKenzie, Dentons, DLA Piper, Herbert Smith Freehills and Norton Rose Fulbright are making the most effort to join up with smaller African firms.
This is generally the best way to gain a foothold in an emergent market and highlights just how keen global legal service providers are to gain a place in the potentially lucrative continent.
Norton Rose Fulbright's South Africa managing partner, Rob Otty, told the news provider: "There's absolutely no doubt that the idea of having additional offices in the continent makes perfect sense."
However, this is not a one-way relationship, with the African counterparts of the likes of Norton Rose enjoying major benefits from their new connections.
The amount of referral work coming from international firms means that most African players are determined to remain independent, working with as many global outfits as possible.

Microsoft General Counsel calls for better training

Microsoft General Counsel, Brad Smith, has offered some advice at the annual National Association for Law Placement conference in Seattle, which is something like Glastonbury for young lawyers in the US.
Mr Smith - undoubtedly the Mick Jagger of practicing corporate law - encouraged his budding counterparts to think carefully about where they spend the early part of their careers.
"Go where you think you'll get good training in the first four years. If you don't get good training in the first four years, you will dig yourself into a deep hole," he explained.
With opportunities for talent development becoming less pronounced since the financial slump seen over the last few years, it is even more important that legal workers think carefully about their first couple of jobs, even before they gain their final qualifications.
This has always been the case to some extent, but as the legal market becomes less fluid it seems likely that your first few positions will shape the early years of your career in a powerful way.
The Microsoft GC pledged that his company will invest in training and development programmes that make it easier for youngsters to improve their skills across as many practice areas as possible.
Mr Smith concluded that the law profession also needs to do more to drive up its performance along diversity metrics - according to the Microsoft chief, only veterinary medicine has less people from minority backgrounds than law.
"We need to be as diverse as the country we serve, or we won’t serve the country well at all," he suggested.