Posts Tagged ‘pro bono’

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* Ted Frank contributes items on malpractice by expert witnesses and on a new study suggesting that experts suffer from some of the same biases as lay observers in high-damage cases, on whether much “pro bono” litigation really helps the public, and on “Robin Hood” school-finance suits;

* Jim Copland welcomes a new and improved website, LegalReformNow;

* I’ve got posts on sanctions for wrongful litigation (did you know federal judges liked the sanctions in their old, stronger form?), collective business guilt, ski slope disclaimers, Sarbanes-Oxley, Judge Posner’s view that both Sherlock Holmes and law reviews are much overrated, liability’s burden on small businesses, and insurance broker scandals (posts in progress). Much more, too; bookmark the site today.

A blawg’s pro bono trial

The Uncivil Litigator is a blog of a mid-level associate whose practice consists mostly of insurance disputes. The insights into his daily practice and the litigation culture, told with appropriate humility, will be interesting for law students and laypeople, but so are the unspoken assumptions behind UCL’s work, which unwittingly demonstrate some of the problems with the legal system.

In particular is a pro bono case taken on behalf of an elderly woman with a $800 dispute over an auto accident, resulting in a jury trial. The nine-post tale, told over several months on the blog, is an entertaining small story in and of itself. But, while he complains about the recalcitrance of the opposing defense attorney, at no point does UCL stop to think that he’s partially responsible for thousands of dollars of societal resources (including seven people are giving up a day of work to sit on a jury) that are going to resolve this dispute. Or that his client, the opposing party, the opposing party’s customers, and society as a whole would’ve been better off if he had spent the time he worked on this case with paying clients, and his firm simply wrote the plaintiff a check for a small fraction of those fees. Pro bono means uncompensated legal services for the public good, but here, as with too many law firm pro bono programs, a law firm imposed a huge externality on the public and an opposing party essentially for the purpose of subsidizing an expensive and inefficient training exercise to get a young lawyer experience. Junior stockbrokers aren’t given $20,000 from the public fisc to churn for practice, but when lawyers do the equivalent, it’s extolled as part of the category of cases where the pro bono lawyer really is working for the public good without pay.

Update: UCL responds, though he confuses a systemic criticism (are there better ways for society to handle small disputes than full-blown trials with all the trappings?) with a personal criticism that wasn’t there.

Another update: Professor Martin Grace initiates a discussion on his weblog.

Read On…

Pro bono: being fair to Edwards

A Washington Times editorial asserts that John Edwards during his career as a plaintiff’s lawyer “took no pro bono cases”, which if true might expose him to obloquy and also could put him into conflict with the ABA’s Model Rule on the subject (“The science of malpractice”, Jul. 25; see KipEsquire, Jul. 25). Tucker Carlson voiced the same charge on CNN “Crossfire” Jan. 12 (transcript).
But is the charge accurate? In a quick search on “John Edwards” + “pro bono”, the most prominent article to turn up is Adam Liptak’s Jul. 14 New York Times piece, “Edwards’s Lawyerly Style Drew Fierce Foes and Fans”, which phrases things rather differently: “Mr. Edwards handled no notable pro bono cases, the typical vehicle for lawyers who want to have a larger impact.” (emphasis added). The difference is potentially significant, since an attorney might devote considerable effort to pro bono work without handling any court cases that his colleagues might recognize as notable (say, because they sought to shape the course of the law).

No doubt we’ll be hearing more about the nature and scope of Edwards’ pro bono efforts as the campaign proceeds. In the mean time, those of us who are skeptical of his candidacy should be careful not to let our criticisms run ahead of the available evidence.

Bad-teacher removal: consensus now complete?

As Joanne Jacobs puts it, remarkable and refreshing: “The New York City teachers’ union proposed yesterday cutting to six months the time it takes to remove incompetent teachers, speeding up a process that can now drag on for years.

“As part of a broad overhaul of the disciplinary process and evaluation system for teachers, the union president, Randi Weingarten, also called for ending so-called rubber rooms, where more than 200 teachers facing charges of malfeasance are sent to languish, some for years, while still receiving full pay. She proposed the appointment of a special master and a task force of pro bono lawyers to clear the backlog of cases.” (David Herszenhorn, “Failing City Teachers Face a Faster Ax”, New York Times, Jan. 15) (more)