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Survey: lawyers ready to join in major push to spot and report financial fraud targeting older Americans

August 12, 2014 Comments off

Survey: lawyers ready to join in major push to spot and report financial fraud targeting older Americans (PDF)
Source: Investor Protection Trust (IPT), the Investor Protection Institute (IPI), and the American Bar Association (ABA)

Nine out of 10 practicing attorneys surveyed by the Investor Protection Trust (IPT), the Investor Protection Institute (IPI), and the American Bar Association (ABA) are willing to take part in a new campaign to address the estimated 20 percent of older America ns who have been the victims of investment fraud and financial exploitation.

In releasing the survey findings, the three groups announced that they are launching the Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation (EIFFE) Prevention Program Legal. The EIFFE Prevention Program Legal will develop, test, and implement a model national continuing legal education (CLE) program to teach lawyers to: (1) recognize clients’ possible vulnerability to EIFFE due to mild cognitive impairment (MCI); (2) identify EIFFE in their clients; and (3) report suspected instances of EIFFE to appropriate authorities. In June 2010, the Investor Protection Trust released a national survey showing that one out five older Americans are victims of financial swindles.

+ Survey Results (PDF)

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Dirty Work: The Effects of Viewing Disturbing Media on Military Attorneys

July 30, 2014 Comments off

Dirty Work: The Effects of Viewing Disturbing Media on Military Attorneys
Source: Minnesota State University-Mankato (Sokol)

This study examines the psychological effects of viewing disturbing media on military attorneys who are part of the JAG Corps. Twenty seven legal professionals who work with cases involving child pornography and sexual violence completed measures of secondary traumatic stress disorder (STSD), burnout, perceptions of social stigma, and feelings of protectiveness and distrust towards others. A substantial number of participants reported poor well-being, though exposure to disturbing media was not predictive of these outcomes. However, defense attorneys and prosecuting attorneys differed significantly in severity of their perception of social stigma, which was linked to increased negative outcomes. Furthermore, qualitative results added to the growing pool of data related to effective methods of coping with exposure to disturbing media which may have important practical implications for the legal professionals who engage in this work.

CRS — Aliens’ Right to Counsel in Removal Proceedings: In Brief

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Aliens’ Right to Counsel in Removal Proceedings: In Brief (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The scope of aliens’ right to counsel in removal proceedings is a topic of recurring congressional and public interest. This topic is complicated, in part, because the term right to counsel can refer to either (1) the right to counsel of one’s own choice at one’s own expense, or (2) the right of indigent persons to counsel at the government’s expense. A right to counsel can also arise from multiple sources, including the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), other federal statutes, and federal regulations. Further, in some cases, courts have declined to recognize a “categorical” right to counsel, applicable to all aliens in removal proceedings, but have found that individual aliens could potentially have a right to counsel on a case-by-case basis because of their specific circumstances.

Junk Justice: A Statistical Analysis of 4,400 Lawsuits Filed by Debt Buyers

April 1, 2014 Comments off

Junk Justice: A Statistical Analysis of 4,400 Lawsuits Filed by Debt Buyers
Source: Social Science Research Network

Debt buyers have flooded courts nationwide with collection lawsuits against consumers. This article reports the findings from the broadest in-depth study of debt buyer litigation outcomes yet undertaken. The study demonstrates that in debt buyer cases, (1) the vast majority of consumers lose the vast majority of cases by default the vast majority of the time; (2) consumers had no lawyer in ninety-eight percent of the cases; and (3) those who filed a notice that they intended to defend themselves without an attorney fared poorly, both in court and in out of court settlements.

This study challenges the notion that there is an “adversary system” within the context of debt buyer lawsuits. The findings suggest that no such adversary system exists for most defendants in consumer debt cases. Instead, these cases exist in a “shadow system” with little judicial oversight, which results in mass produced default judgments.

The procedural and substantive due process problems which are endemic in debt buyer cases call for heightened awareness and remedial action by the bench, the bar, and the academy. As lawyers who are “public citizens, with a special responsibility for the quality of justice,” the profession can do better. This article proposes suggestions for further study, and several common sense reforms.

Legal Billing and Predictive Coding — A fresh way to assess your legal spend

March 27, 2014 Comments off

Legal Billing and Predictive Coding — A fresh way to assess your legal spend
Source: Deloitte

In recent years, many corporate law departments and law firms have been challenged with the task of reducing the costs of delivering services. Similar to other businesses, in-house and outside counsel have sought to streamline activities and improve efficiencies. In order to do that, counsel needs to be able to assess their past and current billing activities.

Since their introduction about twenty years ago, Uniform Task-Based Management System (UTBMS) codes have brought some clarity to the billing and analytics process, even as the codes have suffered from significant limitations. However, innovations in analytics and predictive coding have introduced new possibilities to traditional UTBMS coding and reporting metrics. With the information that attorneys routinely provide within line-item descriptions in billing invoices, text analytics can be utilized to delve into the informational content of the task descriptions to predict what appropriate codes should be used. This may allow law firms and legal departments to:

  • Develop more meaningful metrics at a much lower cost
  • Gain more insight into cost-to-deliver services, which allows for a more strategic use of alternative billing arrangements
  • Improve partnerships between in-house and outside counsel

What Makes Lawyers Happy? Transcending the Anecdotes with Data from 6200 Lawyers

March 24, 2014 Comments off

What Makes Lawyers Happy? Transcending the Anecdotes with Data from 6200 Lawyers
Source: Social Science Research Network

Attorney well-being and depression are topics of great concern, but there has been no theory-driven empirical research to guide lawyers and law students seeking well-being. This article reports a unique study establishing a hierarchy of five tiers of factors for lawyer well-being, including choices in law school, legal career, and personal life, and psychological needs and motivations established by Self-Determination Theory. Data from several thousand lawyers in four states show striking patterns, repeatedly indicating that common priorities on law school campuses and among lawyers are confused or misplaced. Factors typically afforded most attention and concern, those relating to prestige and money (income, law school debt, class rank, law review, and USNWR law school ranking) showed zero to small correlations with lawyer well-being. Conversely, factors marginalized in law school and seen in previous research to erode in law students (psychological needs and motivation) were the very strongest predictors of lawyer happiness and satisfaction. Lawyers were grouped by practice type and setting to further test these findings. The group with the lowest incomes and grades in law school, public service lawyers, had stronger autonomy and purpose and were happier than those in the most prestigious positions and with the highest grades and incomes. Additional measures raised concerns: subjects did not broadly agree that judge and lawyer behavior is professional, nor that the legal process reaches fair outcomes. Specific explanations and recommendations for lawyers, law teachers, and legal employers are drawn from the data, and direct implications for attorney productivity and professionalism are explained.

Hundreds of Justice Department Attorneys Violated Professional Rules, Laws, or Ethical Standards

March 16, 2014 Comments off

Hundreds of Justice Department Attorneys Violated Professional Rules, Laws, or Ethical Standards
Source: Project on Government Oversight

An internal affairs office at the Justice Department has found that, over the last decade, hundreds of federal prosecutors and other Justice employees violated rules, laws, or ethical standards governing their work.

The violations include instances in which attorneys who have a duty to uphold justice have, according to the internal affairs office, misled courts, withheld evidence that could have helped defendants, abused prosecutorial and investigative power, and violated constitutional rights.

From fiscal year 2002 through fiscal year 2013, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) documented more than 650 infractions, according to a Project On Government Oversight review of data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and from OPR reports.

In the majority of the matters—more than 400—OPR categorized the violations as being at the more severe end of the scale: recklessness or intentional misconduct, as distinct from error or poor judgment.

The information the Justice Department has disclosed is only part of the story. No less significant is what as a matter of policy it keeps from the public.

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