I Quit!

Former Partner of the Greenberg Traurig Law Firm Charged with Overbilling Client

Lawyerstealing In Martha Neil's recent ABA Journal article, Mark McCombs, a former partner of the Greenberg Traurig Law firm was recently let go and brought up on criminal charges for allegedly over-billing a client in excess of $1 million.  Here are some excerpts from the article: 

Mark McCombs, 50, is accused of taking advantage of longstanding professional and personal relationships with officials in Village of Calumet Park and charging more than $1 million since 2003 for work that wasn't performed, reports the Chicago Tribune. If convicted of the felony, he could be sentenced to six to 30 years in prison.

The Northwestern University School of Law graduate is no longer listed on the firm's website, but a 2002 Greenberg Traurig press release details his background and governmental practice at the time he began working at Greenberg Traurig's office in Chicago.

His Martindale-Hubbell listing says the village honored him by designating a "Mark McCombs Drive" in recognition of his leading role in redeveloping the commercial corridor along Ashland Avenue and Vermont Street.

A Chicago Sun-Times article provides further details about the alleged overbilling scheme and how it was discovered. In addition to overbilling, it says, McCombs is accused of charging a higher-than-authorized hourly fee.

Here is the link to the full article on the ABA Journal website:  "Greenberg Traurig Partner Charged With Overbilling Client By $1M to Gain Prestige in Firm"

Twittering the Blow by Blow of Courtroom Action Is the Latest Onslaught by Technology on the Court System

A hardy thank you to Robert J. Ambrogi over at Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites for posting the following article on Facebook titled “Judge Shuts Down NewWest.Net Twitter Feed from Yellowstone Club Trial” by Courtney Lowery.  Federal Bankruptcy Judge Ralph B. Kircher shut down the use of Twitter in his courtroom.

Continue reading "Twittering the Blow by Blow of Courtroom Action Is the Latest Onslaught by Technology on the Court System" »

Legal Technology Trends: 2009 Predictions

Dennis over at the Dennis Kennedy blog has published an article called “Nine Legal Technology Trends for 2009: The Year of Hunkering Down”.  In his article, Dennis observes the legal technology market and makes his predictions for legal technology trends in the coming year.  Here are his nine predictions:

Continue reading "Legal Technology Trends: 2009 Predictions" »

Law Firm With $2 Billion in Annual Revenue Takes Unprecedented Step To Cap Associate Pay

And yet another sure sign that the rules of the game have changed for the big law firms that have dominated the legal landscape over the past decades, Latham & Watkins has now capped associate salaries in 2009.  That means that associates will get the same pay next year as they received last year.  One legal recruiter notes that the move is unprecedented and that we should expect other large firms to now follow suit.

Continue reading "Law Firm With $2 Billion in Annual Revenue Takes Unprecedented Step To Cap Associate Pay" »

If Your Bonus Is Cut In Half This Year, What Will Happen When the Economy Really Takes a Hit Next Year?

Here is a recent article by Julie Triedman of The Am Law Daily blog titled "Following Pack, Davis Polk To Halve Bonuses".  Julie reports that more and more  Am Law 100 firms are reducing yearly bonuses in order to cut expenses during these difficult economic times.

Continue reading "If Your Bonus Is Cut In Half This Year, What Will Happen When the Economy Really Takes a Hit Next Year?" »

Reflections on Reflections

I have never been one to live in the past or the future.  I am very grounded in the present.  I couldn’t tell you the name of single teacher I had in grade school or high school.  I might be able to name three professors I had in college.  Some people remember everything.  I am not one of those. 

I tend to let things go as soon as they pass me by.  I don’t hold grudges.  I see the grand sweeps of life, which gives me a sense of perspective and priority.  People get so caught up in things that we all know don’t matter at the literal end.  The things we get so swept up in each day, we can’t even remember two years from now. 

No one likes being sued.  We, as lawyers, file suits all the time.  Litigation is like divorce.  There, quite simply, is nothing good about it at its core.  But if you look a little deeper and expand your mind a little broader, you can always pull positives out of anything.  I’ve always said, “There is good and bad in everything.”

One of the wonderful things that have happened as a result of being sued again by Big Boss and the firm is that it has forced me to do something that I am otherwise not inclined to do, reflect.  The issues presented in the lawsuit include:

The process of me deciding to quit the firm;

How I went about quitting the firm;

Starting up my law firm and setting out on my own;

My firm’s success as driven by the use of innovative technology including dictation, extranets, and virtual workers;

Developing a business model which is, in many ways, the opposite of a traditional firm model; and

Finding ways to treat clients like business partners, rather than bank accounts. 

I’ve been walking around for two days with a big smile on my face.  In fact, I saw Tim, my old partner, in court yesterday and I found myself almost giddy.  Tim seemed a little shy and withdrawn when I approached him, probably embarrassed by all the nonsense that his firm seems so caught up in.  I couldn’t help but thank him for filing the lawsuit against me.  It is hard to explain in words why I feel the way I do.  But I do know it has something to do with the pride and excitement of looking back on that time in my life and my accomplishments since.  Quitting my old firm ranks up there as one of the top decisions that I have made in my life.  It is hard to explain the positive impact that it has had on me personally, professionally and on my relationships with friends, clients and others.

I would have never stopped to think back on the period affectionally categorized on this blog as “I Quit” before this litigation.  And as much as I have told a small part of my story about quitting my old law firm on this blog, it is a mere fraction of what will come out in depositions and other discovery.  The transcripts from those depositions will read like a biography of that portion of my life, what I was feeling going through. 

This will be a wonderful opportunity to take stock and pride in these last two years.  They will also remind me of the differences in my life now compared to before, and that is probably something I needed right about now. 

Complaints Can Bring On Such Fond Memories ..

My old firm blogging you ask?

Bad Dream Flashback:  I once tried to do a mailing of a firm bulletin to prospective clients.  Big Boss intercepted them, and without even as much as a comment to me, instructed my secretary to throw them in the trash. 

More flashbacks:  I once tried to put a couple we are friends with on the Christmas party list. One is a local doctor and the other the CEO of one of the largest companies of its kind in the world.  I had to explain a half-dozen times to Big Boss why I was putting them on the list, after he kept crossing them off.  The firm spent huge sums entertaining his clients in order to perpetuate his origination.  For me (a partner), adding a person to the Christmas list invited something just short of the inquisition.

Fond reflection:   My blogs were mere baby blogs back then.  And who knew about incoming links back then? And who knew about 'no follow' tags in comments?  I thought I was driving traffic by placing comments on other people's sites.  The couple of blogs I had were test tube babies, the bastard children of my passion for everything Internet and my frustration that a single partner usurped virtually the entire marketing budget to perpetuate his origination.

More Fond Reflection:  What seems so obvious to me today was viewed as a bad joke back then. Using blog software for a firm web site?  Yeah, right.  In order to usurp, someone has to want it in the first place. And even if they can say they wanted it with a straight face, they would have to know what to do with it. And even if they knew what to do with it, they would have to devote untold hours of non-billable time to nurture it. Too funny to even imagine, but for the judicial resources which will be "usurped" by the folly of this litigation.

The Early Days Of Blogging

My old firm's latest lawsuit attack brings back such great memories. Back in the days I left my firm, blogging was a very fringe activity. No big firms did it. It was an experiment by those of us interested in technology and search engines. People like Dennis Kennedy, Ernie the Attorney, and Carolyn Elefant at MyShinge were blazing new trails. No one knew where those trails would lead. For the first year of my practice the debate raged - can blogging be done for business purposes? The debate goes on today. Blogging is still largely for innovators and evangelists. Blogging was about immediacy, typos, and stream of consciousness. The templates available for blogs were one-step below what we now know as myspace.

However, the old firm, having seen my current success, now wants its cut, not of what existed when I left, (They got all the cases that came in through the blog while I was at the firm) but what I have created since I left! Can anyone spell w-a-i-v-e-r (whoops, maybe Big Boss' son shouldn't have alleged in the complaint that he knew I had blogs while I was there, I took them with me and did nothing for two years until after losing on unrelated litigation).

So stay tuned. This one will be even more interesting and perhaps has implications for many of you who blog at your firm.

Who Owns Your Blog

Who Owns Your Blog? This is a question that makes me laugh just a little bit. My thought at the time I quit my old firm was that putting unauthorized content on-line was pushing the limits in my firm. Everything had to be approved by Big-Boss. One of the reasons I quit was that I wanted to blog, and there is no way my firm would support the effort and time that it takes to do it right.

My blogs back when I left my old firm were Ugly Betty; they must be cuter now. And apparently, I stole their idea. Posting unmonitored, unregulated stream of consciousness information on your firm web site definitely fit the old firm model. Broadcasting free information about client rights and legal issues was part of their pro bono activity, right? I should have anticipated this. When I think back on all those typos (well there are still some but that is the nature of blogging).

Of course, the point here for you the dear reader is this.... Who owns your blog?

What if two years after you leave your company, your old firm sues you for your blog? Not just the baby blog as it existed long ago, but the content and links you have generated since then? Moreover, what if they want your profits? After all, it must have been the blog, not the business model that landed all those clients! Clients are dumb, right? They sign retainers with the first blog they land on....

So who owns your blog? Some obvious questions you might ask:

  1. Did your company provide support for your blogging?
  2. Did they pay for the software or server space?
  3. Did they allow you to blog and provide resources for you to do so?
  4. Did they have an email or blogging policy that claimed ownership rights?

The answer to all four questions in my case was 'no'. According to their complaint, at least one partner knew I was blogging and that I took my blogs with me on departure (a big yawner at the time for him I am sure. I know it was for me).

But they now know from reading this blog that I did a lot of business off my various blogs this last year. Or maybe they just want the two blogs that existed at the time I left. Let's see, there was an auto no fault blog that generated a single client, who by the way retained their firm. Or perhaps they want my domain dispute blog that was a mere seed when I left. Then again, they really could not have had that blog since they would have had to defraud clients to do the work (they did not do trademark work, let alone domain arbitration). Or maybe the last blog, a vaccine injury blog, which I deactivated long ago, is the one that they want. HMMM...

These issues touch on many of us who blog. Of course, we will post all the pleadings, depositions and other public documents on-line as they are filed. Interesting indeed.

Blog Fight!

Yes, the rumors are true, GAL was sued once again by his old firm.  Ah yes, my old firm ....

...  A firm which just can't seem to let go of the past.
...  A firm which apparently can't make its own future. 
...  A firm that still cannot accept the fact that any of its attorneys could be successful after departing (despite the fact that virtually all of them have been far more successful after leaving).

Last time Big Boss sued, he wanted my fee (he didn't get it).  He filed a grievance (which was summarily dismissed by the Grievance Committee before I even had notice it was filed).  This time, Big Boss wants my ...   you will never guess ...  Big Boss who has his secretary print his emails and bring them to his desk in paper format wants ...   my blogs! (apparently and to my surprise, he was going to develop these blogs, change his business model to reject his hourly billing model and devote staff time to becoming entrenched in the blogosphere - Who knew!?!).

If I had just left him the initial typepad URL, he would himself be the author of th Greatest American Lawyer blog today. His inner-blogger never blossomed and it is all my fault (apparently, he did not realize that he could have opened his own blogger account for free and developed his own blogs instead of trying to take mine).

YES THAT IS RIGHT.  YOU HEARD IT HERE.  A first ever for the blogosphere.  Blog-fight!