Champerty Champions: Betting on Litigation

I think I mentioned before that I’m the son of a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney.  Essentially, growing up, this meant my family’s fortune was pinned onto the misfortune of others.  Paying a water bill for my father wasn’t a matter of billing time so much as it was a matter of hoping someone got bit by the neighbor’s dog or t-boned by a semi truck.  There were Christmas’s where a wrongful death suit meant a new Nintendo, and there were nights where a bad jury verdict meant the family was playing Uno by candlelight and filling up empty gallon jugs with water until the utilities were turned back on.  Feast or famine was the name of the game in those days, and all because of the concept of a contingency fee.

Which is why lawyers, like shitbirds of all stripes and colors, turned to lenders to meet their normal expenses.

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Rough and Tumble: How Not to Deal With Opposing Counsel

Recently I received a brief in a matter from opposing counsel.  It took me somewhat by surprise to find a petition, brief, and twelve attached exhibits on my desk on a Monday morning, since I had spoken with opposing counsel just the week before in regards to the case and we had engaged in some settlement discussions.  Without going into a large amount of detail, and in order to preserve my client’s confidences, the issue here is a petition to open a default judgment on their end, which requires (1) promptly filing the petition, (2) stating a reasonable excuse for the delay, and (3) alleging facts in support of a meritorious defense.  On those facts, the insurer’s attorney and I were having productive conversations about liability, default judgments, the hassle and expense of either fighting to open the judgment on their end or domesticating our judgment on our end, and were beginning to get close to coming to a numbers agreement.

Then the motherfucker, without warning, filed his petition and brief.  Thus hell was unleashed upon the court.  Goddamn these soulless insurance defense attorneys, if they’d just stop fighting and fucking pay me we’d get along a lot better.

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Conflicts of Interest: Clashing Personalities in a Law Firm


I work at a small law firm in a failing city about 45 minutes as the crow flies outside of Philadelphia.  This city, whose railroad is featured on the Monopoly board, is a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll in its makeup, sitting in a county with an eclectic mix of old money and the hillbilliest farmers you’ll see outside of an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies.  The city, however, can best be described as a barrio, with Spanish being the primary language of the streets, the center of downtown failing in a spiral of poverty and crime, and, like many such areas throughout the country, the urban center of decay being a staunchly Democrat stronghold in a sea of an otherwise-Red county.

This has caused me a few problems.  See, I’m a white southern male who transplanted to the North, and as such am viewed with distrust by everyone around me.  I’m also just slightly to the left of Roosevelt politically.  I would have been ecstatic to have had the option to vote for Sanders.  I am, God help me, a southern Democrat.  My style is to never raise my voice, never yell, never scream.  I’m openly friendly, but, as our office staff says, they can easily tell when I’m angry because my tone hardens, my drawl disappears, and I begin to clip my words.

My boss?  Not so much. He is the last of the old school of lawyers, who combined legal skill with powerful presence to get things done.  His style includes yelling during phone calls with clients and opposing parties.  When he’s calm and things are going as predicted, things around the office are peaceful and even friendly.  When something goes wrong, or he perceives something to be wrong, things tense up as he screams his way through the office.

A common target of this screaming is the poor associate who sits behind this keyboard.

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Getting What You Pay For: Free Time Billing Software and Ethics

Recently there was a post in a super-secret forum for lawyers asking about a free case management/time-billing software known as Praxis for Lawyers.  Always a cheapskate, I took a moment to go over there, sign up
for an account, and take a look around the software itself.  First, it appears to be truly free.  Second, it looks like it would be functional for a solo practitioner to bill time and keep track of his cases.  Third, it could end up getting someone in trouble with the ethics panel.

I probably should have led off with that third point, right?

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