Monthly Archives: May 2008

Vedder Price’s task force

Each week I will highlight a different case or legal happening, and solicit your thoughts on the impact of it in the legal community.

Vedder Price announced in February the formation of its Subprime Lending and Mortgage Task Force to assist clients with investigations, lawsuits, and bankruptcy arising from the current crisis involving the contraction of the lending and mortgage markets and other structured credit markets.

Vedder Price’s Task Force includes more than 30 lawyers throughout the firm, including former federal prosecutors and attorneys who have worked with federal banking regulators, who can advise clients on the investigation of failed deals and investments, dispute resolution, and bankruptcy counseling, and, to the extent necessary, provide efficient and practical representation in high-stakes litigation.

The firm focuses its litigation, regulatory, corporate, finance, and capital markets practices on a broad range of international financial institutions and financial services companies.

The task force brings together Vedder Price lawyers from all types of practice areas who can address this issue from different perspectives, said Margo Wolf O’Donnell, a shareholder in the litigation practice area and co-chair of the task force.

The group wants to help its clients avoid litigation, if at all possible, in this area, she said. And it wants clients to be prepared and understand the issues.

“Any institution in the financial services sector may find themselves presented with an issue related to the credit crisis,” said Vivek Bhatt, a shareholder in the capital markets group and a co-chair of the task force.

The task force has a June 17 seminar planned to update the firm’s clients or potential clients about the current credit crisis and what needs to be done. The task force wants to make sure clients understand the current trends in the law, and it will discuss actual litigation that has been filed and who has been targeted in such litigation, they said.

Members of the task force are also speaking at different engagements to further promote the task force and educate people about the credit crisis.

“The principal goal of our task force is to educate clients and prospective clients on the current landscape as it relates to the credit crisis, not just in the subprime mortgage asset class, but in all asset types,” Bhatt said. “The foundation for understanding any complex issue is education. Our hope is that our clients and prospective clients can achieve such education from our diverse task force membership, in a straightforward practical manner.”

“I hope that [clients and potential clients] are able to prevent litigation, and have any questions that they have answered,” O’Donnell said.

Katten’s Consumer Class Action Practice

Each week I will highlight a different case or legal happening, and solicit your thoughts on the impact of it in the legal community.

Katten Muchin Rosenman recently formed a national Consumer Class Action Practice to protect its clients from the potential for increased liability brought by these types of lawsuits. The practice will focus on defending the full range of consumer class actions, from consumer fraud through alleged violations of federal or state statutory schemes.

Katten’s Consumer Class Action Practice provides assessments of its clients’ prospects for success as well as the potential for liability in any class-action lawsuit, according to the firm. Its attorneys have defended numerous consumer class-action suits at all levels of state and federal courts.

In addition, Katten has implemented a system that tracks new class-action filings nationally, enabling it to monitor developments and evaluate trends that may impact its clients.

Stuart M. Richter, a partner in Katten’s Los Angeles office, will chair the group; and Stewart T. Kusper, a partner in the Chicago office is among the practice’s leaders.

Kusper said this practice represents a concerted effort among the experienced litigators in the firm’s various offices. It gives them an opportunity to pull resources and ideas to best serve their clients, he said.

“What we want our clients and prospective clients to understand is that this doesn’t signify something brand-new,” he said. “We have done this work and always will do this work …Going forward, it’s an attempt to really harness the resources and experiences we have in order to best serve our clients.”

Brinks lawyer writes a novel

Each week I will highlight a different case or legal happening, and solicit your thoughts on the impact of it in the legal community.

Jerry Jacover has lived in Chicago most of his life.

He grew up on the North Side and has lived and breathed the Chicago Cubs. He attended countless games with his father, and then with his own sons. He even attended the unforgettable Cubs game in 2003 when Steve Bartman interfered with a ball that Moises Alou was trying to catch. That situation, in part, led to the end of the Cubs’ road to the World Series.

Jacover, a partner at Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione, said that when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series the next year, and seemed jubilant about the removal of the team curse, he thought they had no clue what it would be like to really have a curse on them.

This thought process led to him writing the novel, “Merkle’s Curse – why the Chicago Cubs have not won a world series since 1908.”

“During the summer of 2003, two life-long fans of the Chicago Cubs realize that their favorite team is really cursed. They become obsessed with undoing the curse lest it undermine their team’s march to its first World Series in almost 60 years and its first Major League Championship since 1908.

“Unbeknownst to them, the curse has its origins in an Old Testament prophesy that has had a profound effect on both the history of the world and the game of baseball. In the process, it traces a dark, forbidding path from the Holy Land, through the Roman Empire, medieval Europe, West Africa, and pre-Columbian America, before leaving an imprint on the United States and its national pastime.”

Jacover said he wrote and revised the book over about two years. He typically wrote on weekends, often in his sunroom on his laptop computer. He tried to write a chapter or two each week, and the evenings were often spent revising those chapters.

He has plans for other books, but right now he’s trying to get used to the whirlwind that occurs when promoting a new book.

“I’m sort of a very family-oriented person, and all of this other stuff is just not me,” he said. “[The publicity] is very embarrassing to me, but I know I have to do it. I’m eager to have people read it and I hope people enjoy it.”

Jacover said there is an underlining message that baseball is like life.

“Sometimes you get bad calls and sometimes you make errors and sometimes you just strike out,” he said. “But you have to pick yourself up and get back in the game.

“A more obvious message in reading the book is, you have to learn what to take from the past and what not to. If you forget the past you will be a fool, but if you don’t let go of certain things you will be a victim. Wisdom is really knowing the difference between the two.”

For more information about “Merkle’s Curse,” visit www.merklescurse.com.

Q & A with Steve McCormick

Each week we will pose these three questions to different lawyers in the legal community.

This week we talk with Steve McCormick, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis. He has been with his firm for 37 years, and is a commercial trial lawyer.

— What do you find most interesting about your practice?

Without a doubt, the courtroom is the most interesting and challenging part of my job — the be-all-and-end-all of my professional life. Everything I do is in preparation to stand up in some courtroom somewhere as the champion of my client.

— What makes a good lawyer?

Beyond the most obvious, there are two related things that stand out in my mind.

First, the best lawyers are those who are willing to drill down to bedrock — to the nth degree, where it’s called for — in order to produce the best work product in support of the client’s case that can possibly be produced. This means making a lot of sacrifices. If you read about the lives of the great trial lawyers throughout the ages, you always see this willingness to drain yourself dry when it’s necessary. (Obviously, not every situation calls for this, and not every client can afford it, but where it matters most, the best lawyers put aside whatever they have to put aside to get the job done.)

Second, the best lawyers are those with the best imaginations. Out of a thousand lawyers who will produce a decent piece of work product — whether it’s a brief or a closing argument — there will be one who will take the same facts and the same law and figure out a way to present it that really sparkles and catches everyone’s attention. This is related to the first point, because sometimes a lot of imagination is the result of a lot of perspiration.

— What is the biggest legal news right now, and what is its impact? 

I don’t know if it’s exactly a “right now” thing, but the globalization of business presents dramatically new challenges to the trial lawyer. So many disputes now involve multinational, multicultural issues that we all have to struggle to keep up.

Markham case

Each week I will highlight a different case or legal happening, and solicit your thoughts on the impact of it in the legal community.

Senior Federal District Judge Milton Shadur entered an agreed order April 1 confirming what is believed to be the largest private settlement of a fair housing/ disability discrimination suit of its kind in Illinois history, according to Ungaretti & Harris.

Under the order, Markham will pay $400,000 to settle disability and housing discrimination claims brought in January against the city, its mayor, David Webb, Jr., and other municipal officials by a developmentally disabled resident and the non-profit operator of his group home, St. Coletta’s of Illinois.

The order obligates the city to comply with all applicable fair housing laws and to exempt St. Coletta’s from any future ordinances, regulations or licensing requirements for group homes for the developmentally disabled. It also provides that the court will maintain supervisory jurisdiction to enforce its requirements for five years.

The case alleged that Markham city officials systematically blocked St. Coletta’s establishment of a group home for developmentally disabled residents from November 2007 to January 2008.

The settlement came after the city was forced to admit that its mayor personally took the unprecedented step of ordering the water service to the residence cut off in January. The suit also alleged that Markham’s efforts to exclude St. Coletta’s came while the city and mayor were under a conciliation agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development resolving a prior housing and disability discrimination complaint by another operator of a separate Markham group home for the developmentally disabled — Karriem’s Developmental Services, Inc.

Nicholas Anaclerio, one of the lawyers who represented St. Coletta’s and a partner at Ungaretti & Harris, said the case sends a strong message to other municipalities that they must understand the fair housing laws and comply with them.

“We’ve got a lot of years between us and the institution of these laws,” Anaclerio said. “Yet people with disabilities and those who are advocates, like St. Coletta’s, do encounter some staunch opposition. I don’t think any elected office services their constituents well who isn’t aware of or who doesn’t comply with these laws.”

One of the challenges of this case was trying to avoid a lawsuit, he said. His client tried to work with the other side to address any concerns, unfortunately, litigation could not be avoided.

He also said it was a challenge to find both monetary and non-monetary relief – but they did.

“It would be wise for any municipality, small or large, particularly those that don’t have employed legal counsel to make sure they understand the [law],” Anaclerio said. “Probably the majority of towns and cities and villages are anxious to comply with the law and if they understand what the requirements are, they are going to do their best to meet them.”

Levenfeld Pearlstein and the Chicago Sky

Each week I will highlight a different case or legal happening, and solicit your thoughts on the impact of it in the legal community.

Levenfeld Pearlstein announced that it recently represented, in a pro bono capacity, the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Chicago Sky franchise in the recent formation of Chicago Sky Cares, a tax-exempt charity intended to help disadvantaged women and girls.

Chicago Sky Cares is a not-for-profit corporation that serves as the charitable arm of the Chicago Sky. Chicago Sky Cares seeks to raise funds to invest in programs that assist in building self-esteem, leadership and independence among women and girls.

The goal is to provide girls-in-need with role models, mentors, educators and coaches who model and teach positive life habits that they may carry into their adult lives and into their schools and communities, enabling them to become forces for positive social change. Chicago Sky Cares will engage in activities and experiences that give women and girls the confidence to follow their dreams via independence, leadership, teamwork and healthy lifestyles.

In advising the Chicago Sky in the formation of Chicago Sky Cares, Levenfeld Pearlstein set up the charity as a not-for-profit organization with the state, coordinated the process of applying for the organization’s tax-exempt status with the IRS, and worked with team management to formulate the charity’s business plan.

Michael Tuchman, partner and head of the firm’s taxation service group, acted as counsel to the Chicago Sky on this matter.

Tuchman said Levenfeld Pearlestein has represented the Alter family for more than 30 years. The family, which is in the national real estate development business, owns the WNBA team. And they asked whether the firm would handle this matter on a pro bono basis, he said.

The whole process took about three months and was relatively straightforward, from a legal perspective, he said.

“We viewed this as a real opportunity to do something that was both meaningful for the client, and meaningful for the community as well,” Tuchman said. “It fit in very nicely with the sort of community pro bono work we like to do.”

Q & A with Ethan Trull

Each week we will pose these three questions to different lawyers in the legal community.

This week we talk with Ethan Trull, a litigation partner at Ungaretti & Harris who has been practicing for 19 years. His practice is mostly commercial litigation with an emphasis on securities, antitrust, products liability, and intellectual property litigation.

— What do you find most interesting about your practice?

Especially in litigation, technological change is a constant element. For example, remarkable advances in medical science have simultaneously resulted in brand-new causes of action, brand-new defenses and brand-new methods of proving both.

Similarly, the development of mass electronic storage of data revolutionized business, but now exists as one of the easiest litigation pitfalls for the unwary business (or its counsel who fails to give suitable advice on electronic data preservation and production). As technology becomes more advanced, affordable, and pervasive, legal professionals necessarily also have to become even more technologically proficient. Maintaining technical expertise in areas that affect my clients’ business is one of the most interesting and challenging aspects of my practice.

— What makes a good lawyer?

We’ve all worked with lawyers whom we consider to be “good,” and our positive assessment can spring from any number of quality traits. For example, many lawyers are good because they are exceptionally quick on their feet. Others seem to write effortlessly. Some lawyers have sufficient charisma to charm even the most jaded jurors and clients. Perhaps a tougher question is how to predict which lawyers may possess any of these good qualities.

Many employers heavily rely on academic credentials as their primary predictive tool, whether they are seeking in-house counsel or a prospective legal partner. Unfortunately, the same qualities that guarantee academic success do not always translate into real world ability. The better answer, I think, is to expect future success based upon practical track history and positive outcomes. In other words, in the practice of law, experience still matters.

— What is the biggest legal news, and what is its impact?

There is so much legal news nearly every day that it is nearly impossible to point to one or two things. Obviously the trend toward nationalizing firms continues which impacted, and in fact reinforces, my decision to rejoin private practice in one of the very few truly mid-sized firms left in the city. I read last week that in England an investor group has actually purchased a law firm and, in essence took it public.

I can’t imagine that happening here, but then again I never thought that a lawyer could get away with charging $1,000 per hour (and I suspect that in fact they won’t get away with it). It used to be the rare firm that had office outside of the United States. Now apparently every firm needs an office in Prague. Is that really what we need?