Web week 05/06/06

The Lawyer‘s Web Week is a weekly commentary on legal activity on the web. This includes an overview of the best of the week’s blogs. If you want to direct us to useful links, email webweek@thelawyer. com.

Secrets of their success

MyShingle.com claims to be “inspiring solo and small firm lawyers”. There is promise, with articles on ‘The Ethics of Leaving a Law Firm’ and ‘What GCs Don’t Like About Their Lawyers’, but revelations such as “unpopular practices include surprising clients with large bills; failing to call; raising rates (or not cutting back on costs) during economic downturns; and sending a large document without some kind of summary” disappointed somewhat.

Advice for high-flyers

Blogging star geeklawyer has some more amusing career advancement advice this week. Here’s some things one should not do: piss off one’s secretary (Bakers’ ketchup incident); beware of email (Claire Swire); and don’t lose documents.

Most important was geeklawyer’s advice to “Beware substances”. He writes: “Geeklawyer reckons that most things are acceptable in moderation: half a dozen whiskeys at lunch, a bottle of shampoo in the evening, a couple of lines of coke before an application hearing… Some people go too far and their careers spontaneously ignite as a result. While no one cares much when this happens to nurses, doctors, charity workers, war heroes… substance abuse writes its most poignant epitaph on the tombs of those heroes of the modern age: the lawyers.”

Enron goes on and on…

The blogosphere won’t let Enron go. Real Voice calls former chairman Ken Lay the “Al Capone of electricity”. While the Chronicle of Education’s news blog wonders: “Now that Ken Lay has been convicted in the Enron scandal, the question for the University of Missouri at Columbia is: what should it do with the $1.1m-plus he donated in 1999 to endow a ‘Kenneth L. Lay Chair in International Economics’- Not surprisingly, the university has found it difficult to fill the post in the years since the company went bankrupt, in 2001… The board had previously received – and rejected – requests from Mr Lay to donate the money to Hurricane Katrina relief and to his own legal defence fund.”

More ripples from the Enron trial turned up on The Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) law blog. “A Houston jury has convicted the former finance chief of Enron’s broadband unit Kevin Howard and acquitted Michael Krautz, the unit’s accountant, in the duo’s fraud and conspiracy retrial,” it wrote.

Meanwhile, theconglomer ate.org hosted a symposium to explore issues relating to the use of criminal law as a corporate governance mechanism.

Sullivan embroiled in asbestos scam

WSJ’s blog notes trouble for Sullivan & Cromwell. A California lawsuit has been filed against Sullivan “accusing the firm of improperly helping a client wiggle its way out of asbestos liabilities”. It goes on: “The lawsuit revolves around Flinkote Co, a floor-tile manufacturer spun off by its parent Imperial Tobacco Canada in 2003. Flinkote collapsed under the weight of asbestos liability of some $2.2bn. Now, its creditors claim that Imperial Tobacco siphoned at least $500m in funds that should have gone to pay asbestos victims. And they accuse Sullivan of helping Imperial Tobacco orchestrate the scheme.” Sullivan reckons the claim is baseless.

Lerach’s contingency plan

And one final word on Enron. Overlawyered is “chronicling the high cost of our legal system”. His former firm Milberg Weiss may be in trouble with federal prosecutors, but Bill Lerach could soon be enjoying $1bn (£532.92m) in Enron-related fees. “It seems Lerach has a sliding-scale contingency-fee arrangement with lead plaintiff the University of California, starting at 8 per cent and going upward from there. And it seems there’s a good chance courts will extend the percentage rates to apply to other investors in the plaintiff class, even though they never signed up to be Lerach clients or were given a chance to negotiate fees. No wonder class-action lawyers are so concerned to butter up the big institutional plaintiffs who serve as their stalking horses in these actions.”