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Androvett Blog

by Robert Tharp at 11:30:41 am

Revelations of the f'ight club' atmosphere within the Corpus Christi State School have certainly been one of the most disturbing letdowns of public trust in some time. According to police reports and news accounts, supervisors at the school for the mentally disabled routinely organized fights among disabled residents and filmed the violence for their own entertainment.

The mother of one of the victims, Inez Hernandez, has filed a negligence claim on behalf of her 21-year-old mentally disabled son, Armando Hernandez Jr., who was among those forced to battle. The lawsuit filed by Corpus Christi-based Hilliard Muńoz Guerra against the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services charges that Mr. Hernandez suffered physical injuries and continues to suffer emotional trauma including severe humiliation, degradation and mental anguish as a result of the experience.

"These special-needs residents are some of the most vulnerable and fragile members of our community," says attorney Robert Hilliard. "To think that the protectors of their welfare were turning them into tools for their own sick entertainment makes my blood boil. I put this at the feet of the agency itself, an agency that, time and time again, throughout this state has allowed systematic abuse of every kind to go mostly unchecked."

For more information, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 (office), 214-293-0860 (mobile) or barry@androvett.com.

 

by Robert Tharp at 11:49:09 am

With $80 billion in incentives in the stimulus package reserved for promoting energy efficiency and investment in alternative sources like solar, wind, geothermal and
biofuels, "green collar" entrepreneurs are poised for growth, says environmental attorney Scott Deatherage, who leads climate change and renewable energy projects at Dallas' Thompson & Knight. Emerging companies providing services in renewable energy like wind and solar power projects, greenhouse gas reductions and energy efficiency are becoming better positioned with lenders, who until recently have been holding onto funds as a result of the credit squeeze. "We're working with a number of companies that are now better positioned with lenders, investors and purchasers," Deatherage says. "These ‘green collar' entrepreneurs are gaining funding and looking at the best means to market the stimulus plan's incentives, just as their potential customers are looking at the tax credits and loan guarantees available to them." The stimulus package includes $80 billion in incentives that promote improvements in energy efficiency and investment in alternative sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biofuels. To interview Mr. Deatherage, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 10:55:57 am

The approaching April 3 anniversary of the raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch provides a convenient opportunity to step back and assess what, if anything, was learned
from the sweeping law enforcement action on the polygamist sect in a West Texas commune. Based on an anonymous outcry and opinions about the sect's belief system, authorities seized hundreds of children and placed them in the state foster care system. The unprecidented action overloaded the state's child welfare system and cost an estimated $14 million. The Texas Supreme Court later reversed after action, and accusations that the bulk of the children were in danger were never substantiated. Family attorney Betsy Branch of McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing says that while some of the teenage girls were abused and have been rightly removed from the environment, the rush to seize all of the children was premature. "The State had maintained that the ‘pervasive belief system' at the Ranch presented a danger to the children," says Branch, who represented several of the children on a pro bono basis. "The Supreme Court, however, concluded that the rush to remove all of the children was unwarranted based upon the evidence presented at the emergency hearing. In order to ensure the welfare of the children during the investigation, the Court instead directed the trial court to available statutory protections in lieu of placing them in foster care." To interview Ms. Branch, contact Scott Holcomb at 800-559-4534 or scott@androvett.com.  

by Robert Tharp at 4:40:46 pm

Pity all the bosses out there trying to clamp down on employees surreptitiously watching the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament. No longer a cable TV phenomenon, March Madness tournament coverage is now just a mouse click away on computer screens or streaming from any smart phone. Audrey Mross, who
heads the Labor & Employment section at Dallas' Munck Carter, reports that companies taking a hard line on employees tuning into the coverage should consider they may be fighting a losing battle. "Some employers have tried to ban web-watching, labeling it as a nonproductive activity," she says. "Increasingly, however, many employers are subscribing to the ‘If you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em,' theory, and are using the tournament to promote team spirit and to have some fun at work." To interview Ms. Mross about March Madness in the workplace, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:31:13 pm

Immigration attorney Irina Plumlee of Dallas' Gardere Wynne Sewell reports an interesting byproduct of the economic crisis related to educated immigrants with college-level or higher degrees. Immigration authorities are reporting that a growing number of these highly skilled workers are choosing to leave the country during this
downturn. Plumlee says the exodus is indeed troubling. "Many of those who are leaving are U.S.-educated professionals with college-level, or higher, degrees, often in the fields that we are most likely going to have to rely upon to get over the current economic hump," she says. "Add to this the fact that every immigrant contributes significantly to the tax pool and the line at the departure gate is suddenly a cause for serious concern." To interview Ms. Plumlee about immigration issues, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.   

by Robert Tharp at 4:17:09 pm

It's no small accomplishment to be listed in The National Law Journal's annual roundup of top 100 trial verdicts. There's not much gray area involved in these rankings; researchers simply scour the previous year's top verdicts and list the 100 largest.

One firm really stands out on this year's list. With four cases making the 2008 list, Dallas-based McKool Smith claims more Top 100 verdicts than any other firm of any size anywhere. This is just the latest indication that something's really going on at this lawfirm, which only recently expanded Washington, D.C., and New York. The four verdicts highlighted on the Top 100 list include:

At No. 12: Medtronic Vascular Inc. v. Boston Scientific Scimed Inc. In this May 2008 verdict, McKool Smith won a $250 million award for Medtronic, successfully arguing that Boston Scientific infringed on a patent for a series of Medtronic catheters used in surgical procedures to treat heart disease.

At No.36: Pioneer Corp. v. Samsung SDI Co. Ltd. McKool Smith and co-counsel from Morrison & Foerster secured a $59 million verdict in October 2008 in a patent infringement trial against Samsung. The case centered around technology used in plasma televisions.

At No. 74: Adderley v. National Football League Players Association. Back in November 2008, the firm and co-counsel from Manatt, Phelps & Phillips obtained a $28 million jury award for more than 2,000 former NFL players alleging breach of contract and breach of fiduciary responsibility. The retired players argued that they were not adequately compensated for licensing and marketing proceeds from NFL-themed video games, jerseys and other merchandise.

At No. 100:  Anascape Ltd. v. Microsoft Corp. Representing Anascape Ltd. against Nintendo of America Inc., McKool Smith attorney successfully argued that Nintendo had infringed on Anascape's patents for various video game controllers sold by Nintendo. The jury awarded Anascape $21 million.

Additionally, McKool Smith is featured in a companion article in The National Law Journal, "Minding their manners; McKool Smith finds that politeness is the way to a jury's heart," which highlighted each of the firm's four major victories. For more information, please visit www.mckoolsmith.com or contact Bruce Vincent at 800-559-4534 or bruce@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:28:16 pm

There's still lots to glean from the Obama stimulus package, but one potentially important tax break for business centers around the onerous tax implications when
lenders cancel a borrower's bad debt, says David Wheat, a tax attorney with Dallas' Thompson & Knight. Previously, the borrowers still faced significant tax hickies based on the outstanding amount owed on the loan. Under the stimulus package, the tax liability of having debt cancelled could be deferred. "Because of this, many struggling companies that have not yet reached insolvency or bankruptcy faced hefty tax consequences when they could least afford it," Wheat says. "Now businesses can elect to push back taxation of that income to a five-year period between 2014 and 2018. If eligible, this can help a company work out loans and negotiate discounted payoffs without facing short-term tax obligations." To interview Mr. Wheat about Cancellation of Debt issues, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:13:43 pm

Foreclosure is more complicated than it sounds. Before a lender can foreclose and evict a mortgage holder in arrears, some very specific steps have to be taken.
Property owners seeking to avoid home foreclosure also have a protocol that must be followed. Too clarify the process, real estate attorney Robert Miller of Dallas' Prager & Miller has created a foreclosure checklist that outlines the do's and don't's for lenders and homeowners in Texas. For example, lenders must state in their foreclose notices a specific reason for foreclosure - such as failure to pay mortgage, taxes etc. They also must outline steps that the property owner can take during a 20-day period to avoid being put out. Homeowners can stop a foreclosure by paying the amount owed, filing for bankruptcy or going to state court. "Foreclosures don't just happen," Miller says. "The banks have to follow the law, and if you want to stop one, so do you." For a copy of Mr. Miller's foreclosure checklist, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 11:44:25 am

Who knew retractable dog leashes were so controversial? Dog training purists despise them. Entire countries have banned them, and Worldise Inc.'s SlyDog leash is
the subject of a nationwide recall by the Consumer Product Safety Commission because of injuries caused by the defective device.

A 12-year-old Arlington girl suffered serious eye damage when the clasp on her SlyDog leash broke while she was walking her puppy in April 2008, causing the line to recoil rapidly and strike her in the eye. The CPSC recall notes that the defective leash is responsible for broken teeth, facial lacerations, eye damage and other injuries. Stephen Drinnon from Dallas' The Drinnon Law Firm represents the girl and her family and has filed the first known federal lawsuit against Worldwise Inc., as well as Dollar General stores which sold more than 200,000 of the leashes across the country. Read more here

by Robert Tharp at 4:32:48 pm

McKool Smith expanding white-collar practice in growing New York office.
While law firms everywhere are contracting, some are finding opportunity in the downturn. Look at  McKool Smith, which is already adding to its New York offices that

opened just a year ago in a bold move to stake out its IP practice area claim. Responding to the white collar and financial fraud cases and corresponding government regulatory and enforcement actions, the firm has added veteran white-collar litigation attorneys Jack Cooney and Thomas E. Engel.

Both attorneys are former standout federal prosecutors who served together in the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, and each has gone on to successful careers in private practice representing corporate, multinational and individual clients. The two are close friends who each serve as godfathers to the daughter of the other. Additionally, each was in direct talks with McKool Smith when they realized that the other was also in talks about beefing up the firm's white-collar practice.

"Jack Cooney and Tom Engel give our clients access to the very top tier of white-collar and commercial representation at a time when these matters are not merely proliferating, but growing more complex and absolutely crucial to our clients' future," said Mike McKool, the firm's co-founder. He added that a special benefit to the new partners is the relative absence of client conflicts which often inhibit flexibility in representing important clients at larger traditional firms.

Said New York office head Robert A. Cote, "We're growing fast in IP and commercial litigation, as are all our offices, but we expect robust growth in our business and our roster of attorneys over the next year, and the white collar practice is part of the bedrock of our expansion strategy here."

by Robert Tharp at 4:35:00 pm

The music industry had poor results going after illegal file sharers with a big stick, threatening big civil penalties for those downloading music without paying royalties. As
Apple wrestles with the growing popularity of unauthorized iPhone applications, the company has fewer options for going after scofflaws since the civil penalty for the process known as "jailbreaking" may only be $2,500. But John Mockler, an intellectual property attorney at Munck Carter, says iPhone owners may be less likely to risk downloading unauthorized software of dubious origin that could damage their phones. "People may be less willing to take a chance with their iPhones, especially if downloading software someone literally made in their garage." To interview Mr. Mockler about iPhone jailbreaking, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:21:54 pm

The Obama stimulus package stands to have a dramatic impact on health care in the U.S., from health care subsidies for unemployed workers to incentives to promote

the use of health information technology and encourage the use of the most-effective medical treatments. Kathy Poppitt, a healthcare attorney with Thompson & Knight in Austin, says security and privacy rules known as HIPAA also get a shot in the arm from the stimulus package. Language in the stimulus broadens the reach of criminal penalties while establishing a tiered system of civil money penalties, she says. "State attorneys general now will have the authority to bring suit in federal district court against providers and business associates who violate the regulations. To date, there has not been a cause of action allowing an individual to receive damages for a HIPAA violation." To interview Ms. Poppitt about the plan's provisions or HIPAA, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 1:56:29 pm

As if mortgage problems couldn't get any more complicated, consider for a moment something called "Option ARMs." These adjustable-rate lending vehicles are often
sought by savvy borrowers with higher credit scores for a variety of specific purposes. Now there are real concerns that even these borrowers are at risk of defaulting. At stake is nearly $750 billion in such Option ARM mortgages, says  attorney Kenneth Johnston of Dallas' Kane Russell Coleman & Logan. "As this economy stalls further, and more adjustable rate loans recast during 2009 and 2010, we could see a re-do of the subprime problem," Johnston says. "The shock factor for most lenders and consumers may be gone as reality sets in. We'll have to see how the new foreclosure prevention plan will work as banks attempt to shore-up their balance sheets," he says. To interview Mr. Johnston, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 1:41:07 pm

White-collar defense lawyer Dan Cogdell says get ready for string of half-cocked probes
Stung by well-deserved criticism that the Securities and Exchange Commission was far too slow to act on the $50 billion collapse of Bernard Madoff's investment funds,
Houston white-collar defense attorney Dan Cogdell says get ready for the pendulum to swing the other way in terms of SEC probes. Cogdell expects overreactions and half-cocked investigations from the SEC as the agency tries to repair its reputation. The civil charges against Houston-based Stanford Financial Group show such signs, he says. "Like any bureaucracy that has been criticized for inaction, it is now far more likely that the SEC will overreact and be quick to presume misconduct," he says. Like Madoff but on a smaller scale, federal investigators say that Stanford misled investors with fabricated historical investment data and false promises. "Whether its actions were truly malignant or in fact benign, Stanford almost certainly will receive an initial diagnosis of cancer. Anyone who expects objectivity on the part of an investigating agency will be sorely disappointed." To interview Mr. Cogdell about the defense of financial fraud claims, contact Alan Bentrup at 800-559-4534 or alan@androvett.com.

 

by Robert Tharp at 3:46:14 pm

Over at Lynn Tillotson Pinker & Cox, Trey Cox has penned an interesting piece for the National Law Journal that focuses on the increasing challenge that trial lawyers
face communicating with distracted and zoned-out jurors. While Trey's article focuses on the attention economy in the courtroom setting, the analysis offers something for everyone. Let's face it as wireless bandwidth has increased, human bandwidth has narrowed dramatically. Trey borrows from leading business-world thinkers like Made to Stick authors Chip and Dan Heath and Thomas Davenport and John Beck's influential book, The Attention Economy to offer some great takeaways for communicating to distracted jurors.

Juror 12 is adrift. It's not that he doesn't care about the contract dispute tediously unfolding in the courtroom. Who knows -- he might be the kind of natural leader who can rally 11 wafflers behind closed doors during deliberations. The real problem with this hopelessly distracted juror is his irrepressible urge to grab his BlackBerry, manage his bloated e-mail folder and cram as much business as possible into each recess.

Meet today's juror, so overloaded with information that he can barely focus on the important things in his own life. Chances are, more than half the jurors on any given panel belong to Generation X or, even worse, Generation Y -- raised with a television in every room, surfing the Internet, cell phones in their pockets and iPods in their ears. MORE

The piece has already gotten picked up on Twitter and the Interwebs.

by Robert Tharp at 1:33:39 pm

Family law attorney Mary Jo McCurley says key is to neither overblow nor ignore special day
The expectations of Valentine's Day can be a minefield for struggling couples who may be heading for divorce. Ignoring the special day can make a bad situation

unbearable. But going to the opposite extreme be an even bigger mistake, says family law attorney Mary Jo McCurley of McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing. "If you receive roses with a sentimental card filled with commitment, then three weeks later receive divorce papers, the entire process is going to start on a heightened emotional level that might be hard to temper," she says. "Not only might the divorce itself be more contentious, but it could play a role in the proceedings as the court will hear about it and draw its own conclusions as well." To interview Ms. McCurley regarding family law issues, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com .

by Robert Tharp at 2:40:59 pm

Thompson & Knight attorneys orchestrate one of the biggest oil-and-gas deals in Peruvian history
So investors in Korea and Columbia put together a mammoth $900 million deal to purchase a Peruvian energy company. What's that got to do with Texas, you ask?

Well, Attorneys in Thompson & Knight's Houston office helped orchestrate the deal as outside counsel for the two buyers, Korea National Oil Corporation and Ecopetrol SA of Columbia. The two firms now each have 50 percent interest in Offshore International Group Inc and its subsidiary, Petro-Tech. Petro-Tech is engaged in the exploration, development, production, and processing of hydrocarbons and is Peru's third-largest crude-oil producer at 12,000 barrels per day.

This acquisition represents one of the largest Peruvian oil and gas deals in recent history and allows KNOC and Ecopetrol to greatly increase their production capabilities. The Thompson & Knight team advising on this project was led by Partner Jerry L. Metcalf and Associate Todd Chen, both from the Firm's Houston office. The team which assisted on this transaction included Sarah E. McLean, Louis J. Davis, Ben H. Welmaker Jr., Pablo C. Ferrante, John R. Cohn, Janet P. Jardin, C. Stoddard (Todd) Lowther II, Nicholas F. Tsai, Mayuca V. Salazar, and Iván Pérez-Arteche. The agreement between the companies was finalized on February 5, 2009.
KNOC is the national oil and gas company of South Korea and one of the most important industrial companies in the country. The company operates oil and gas fields around the globe and had a reported oil production of more than 860.2 million barrels in 2008.
Ecopetrol, the Colombian national oil company, is an integrated oil and gas company ranked among the world's 40 largest energy companies. It is also the largest corporation in Colombia as well as the principal oil and gas company in that country.

by Robert Tharp at 1:54:03 pm

Computer forensics expert Erin Nealy Cox of Stroz Friedberg says companies should have a plan, use common sense when dealing with spam e-mail and electronic threats
Those spam e-mails that bloat your Outlook inboxes aren't just annoying, they also threaten to propagate dangerous computer viruses. Even spammers know that love
can make people do crazy things, so it's not surprising that they've latched onto Valentine's Day to spread e-mail viruses. As snopes.com confirms, spammers are using e-mails with syrupy Valentine's messages in the subject heading to spread the "storm worm," just like they did in 2007. The same virus has been adapted for e-mail messages about the Obama inauguration and a range of other current events. It's not an elaborate ruse, but it's effective.

Erin Nealy Cox, a deputy general counsel and managing director at computer forensic firm Stroz Friedberg's Dallas office, says the potential for such e-mail viruses should serve as a reminder for businesses and individuals to bone up on computer security practices and review e-mail habits. "Computer viruses and electronic security pose enormous financial risks," she says. "Every company should have an information security plan, from defending against viruses to preventing data breaches and responding to litigation." The virus behind the Valentine's Day e-mails has subject lines including "With all my love" and "Me and you." To speak with Ms. Cox about computer forensics, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or robert@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:40:02 pm

As if we needed proof that worldwide financial markets are inexorably entangled, consider the collapse of the Madoff Ponzi scheme. The vaporization of as much as $50
billion invested in Madoff funds extends around the globe with concentrations of victims in unexpected places including Austria and South America. An international probe by New York-based Zwerling, Schachter & Zwerling, LLP, is focusing on whether major Austrian banks used financial funds to fraudulently funnel billions into Bernard L. Madoff's bogus investment enterprises. The New York-based law firm already is working with nearly a dozen individuals, partnerships and companies whose funds with Bank Austria and Bank Medici may have been improperly channeled to Madoff's firm. The firm also has been contacted by potential victims in Mexico, Argentina, Austria, Spain, Switzerland and Ireland.

"The auditors of these funds allowed this financial disaster to occur, and we think they have responsibility along with the banks and the feeder funds through which the banks invested in Madoff's firm," says attorney  Robert S. Schachter. "Our investigation has revealed that if financial advisors had performed basic due diligence, they could have spotted the ruse that Madoff was perpetuating with his scheme." To speak with Mr. Schachter about the Madoff investigation, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 11:42:32 am

Pity the junior attorney. Before the economic crash, recent grads with the right pedigree were woo'd by major law firms offering increasingly escalating salaries.
Associate compensation became a benchmark of success that big firms fought to keep up with. No more, says Stacy Humphries of Houston's MS Legal Search. Instead, salaries are mostly flat while associates are hunkering down, focusing on keeping their jobs rather than looking for greener pastures. Meanwhile, it's the experienced attorneys with loyal clients that are doing the job-hopping in this climate, Humprhies says. "Junior attorneys are keeping their heads down and hoping to ride out the economic downturn while more senior attorneys, particularly those with portable business, are more proactive about trying to improve their situations." To interview Ms. Humphries about law firm compensation issues, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com. .

by Robert Tharp at 10:45:25 am

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has filed suit against Houston's Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, charging that the hospital has violated state antitrust laws

by conspiring to restrain competition from a competing hospital. Attorneys Rusty Hardin of Houston's Rusty Hardin & Associates and Richard Zook of Houston's Thompson & Knight are representing  representing the doctors and physician partnership that started Houston Town & Country Hospital. The litigation contends that Memorial Hermann engaged in improper acts against the doctors and the hospital by coercing insurance companies to boycott the smaller, start-up hospital and, as a result, depriving many patients and their doctors from using the hospital.

The two attorney's praised the AG's action. "This is a huge victory for the doctors who built Town & Country Hospital, and for the general public seeking quality health care at competitive prices. The AG's office should be congratulated for taking such a bold, non-political action on behalf of consumers," says Hardin. 

Mr. Zook agrees, "Although the AG's findings validate our claims of unlawful conduct by Memorial Hermann, the doctors' civil case against Memorial Hermann is set for a jury trial in late March 2009," says Zook. "We look forward to showing the jury the entire story of Memorial Hermann's improper actions that damaged these doctors, their patients and the public at large." 

A copy of the final judgment and news release from the Attorney General's Office can be found at http://www.oag.state.tx.us/oagNews/release.php?print=1&id=2812. For more information, contact Barry Pound 800-559-4534 at barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 10:01:24 am

There's a plot for a crime-thriller in here somewhere...Behemoth banks secretly taking out life insurance policies on their employees and collecting benefits upon their deaths. The practice is so common in the international high-finance world that there's even an acronym to describe it: BOLI, for "bank-owned life insurance."
The way banks are falling like dominoes lately, the conspiracy theorist in me wonders if current and former bank employees who have BOLIs are looking twice when they cross the street these days.

Attorneys from Houston's The Clearman Law Firm have begun a nationwide investigation into the practice. "It is ironic that thousands of bank employees have been laid off, yet banks still stand to benefit financially when those employees die," says class-action attorney Scott Clearman.  "These types of policies benefit only the banks, not their employees."

Many of the world's largest banks have taken out life insurance policies on their workers, including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Bear Stearns, Citigroup, Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Wells Fargo and many others. Nearly half of all U.S. banks have reported owning BOLI policies at an estimated value of $120 billion. Ethics aside, the practice raises serious questions about unauthorized use of personal information. A bank purchasing a BOLI policy must provide the insurer with personal information belonging to each covered employee, including his or her name, sex, age and Social Security number. Employees' Social Security numbers are then used to conduct "death sweeps" where banks typically hire outside brokers to sweep public records in order to learn if an employee or former employee has died. A person whose life a bank insured without consent may have a right to sue for the bank's misappropriation of their identity, and may be able to recover profits made by the bank, broker and insurer. To interview Mr. Clearman about the BOLI investigation, contact Bruce Vincent at 800-559-4534 or bruce@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 1:51:56 pm

Weeks after stepping down as United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, attorney Richard B. Roper, III, says he expects 2009 to bring a renewed emphasis on white-collar prosecutions and securities law violations. "To the extent that our current financial crisis can be tied to these types of crimes, the Justice
Department will likely have more resources and a broader mandate to pursue them," he says. "As a result, investigators and prosecutors will be able to move more quickly in detailing evidence of corporate fraud and seeking criminal penalties."  Roper previously served as United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas from 2004-2008, and directed some of the most high-profile prosecutions in the country, including cases targeting international terrorism financing and exportation of sensitive technologies, public corruption, insider trading, tax, securities, mortgage, corporate and health care fraud, human trafficking, and international drug trafficking. He served on six Attorney General Advisory Committees, including White Collar Fraud, Cyber/Intellectual Property, Controlled Substances, Office of Management and Budget, Violent and Organized Crime, and Child Exploitation and Obscenity. In addition, he served as Co-Chair of the Department of Justice's Internet Pharmacy Working Group. As a Trial Partner in the Dallas office of Thompson & Knight, Mr. Roper will focus his practice on white collar criminal litigation. To interview Mr. Roper about the DOJ's focus on white-collar crime, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:19:08 pm

Economic bad news often feeds on itself, especially in the real estate world. Consider all those underwater homeowners out there(those who owe more on their house than its current market value). Beleagured homeowners may be motivated to sell for a variety of reasons, but they are often stonewalled from selling because mortgage
companies can't agree to sell a property at a loss. Even when mortgage lenders agree to such short sales, it's not an easy process, says real estate attorney, Jerome Prager of Dallas-based Prager & Miller. In the meantime, the market stagnates.

Enter the Texas Real Estate Commission, which is working to reduce the number of residential foreclosures by providing some much-needed uniformity for homeowners and mortgage lenders in these situations. Until now, mortgage agents often altered sales contracts to address the need to sell a home at a loss, but this created a new set of problems because the contract language was often inaccurate or exposed agents to allegations of practicing law without a license. Newly adopted contract language simplifies the process and could lead to more such short sales and fewer foreclosures.

"Essentially there have been situations in which these edits and insertions by a real estate agent in contracts may lead to disputes and could be deemed to be the unauthorized practice of the law" says real estate attorney Jerome Prager, of Dallas' Prager & Miller

"These are obviously difficult times for the real estate industry, as well as for homeowners and prospective buyers," says Mr. Prager, who as co-chair of the Commission's Broker-Lawyer Committee helped draft the language. "It's more important than ever that unambiguous closing documents are legally binding, enforceable and drafted to cover virtually any contingency."

To speak with Jerome Prager about the contract addendum concerning short sales of homes, please contact Mark Annick at 214-559-4630 or mark@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:45:21 pm

Interesting perspective on the state of the legal industry from the Law360 Litigation Almanac: shrinking legal budgets have so far had no impact on case volume. In fact, litigation rose 9 percent last year. According to a news release on the findings:

Class actions hit a new peak in 2008, rising 8% from the previous year on the back of an increase in antitrust - and employment - related filings. -- The economic crisis sparked a surge in corporate bankruptcy filings in 2008, while credit conditions also forced more companies to resort to quick, nontraditional bankruptcies -- trends that attorneys predict will continue until at least 2010.

Other highlights from Law360:

  • Antitrust filings grew at a rate of 27%, extending a multiyear trend of dramatic increases as private plaintiffs firms closely track government investigations and prosecutions. A look at the dockets just for 2008 shows a slew of cases against chocolate makers, egg product processors, packaged ice distributors and many others, all filed soon after a government investigation was disclosed.
  • The number of federal environmental lawsuits filed in 2008 rose for the first time since 2005, suggesting that the Bush administration's drop in enforcement actions, growing state activism and the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on greenhouse gas regulation have worked to drive litigation upward.
  • Employment litigation rose 6% in 2008, marking a reversal in the gradual decline in employment litigation seen over the previous four years.
  • Meanwhile, the number of intellectual property lawsuits declined 11% in 2008, thanks largely to a dropoff in copyright litigation instigated by the recording industry. The trend reflects the success of the recording industry in protecting its copyrights, leading the industry to bring fewer lawsuits in the past few years.

by Robert Tharp at 4:20:20 pm

A gloves-off legal fight questioning legal fees charged by a Boston-based law firm is headed for a Collin County jury trial. In an opinion released
New Year's Day, a Texas appeals court refused to dismiss fraud allegations that attorneys for Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Door LLP submitted millions in questionable legal fees and expenses for its defense of a former executive of software company. Attorneys for Dallas-based  Rose•Walker, L.L.P., filed the lawsuit on behalf of software maker McAfee Inc., charging that dozens of different WilmerHale attorneys submitted millions of dollars in unjustifiable fees, including luxury hotel rooms, lavish meals and bar tabs in their defense of former CFO Prabhat Goyal. "This ruling says that if you defraud someone in Texas, you're going to be brought before a Texas court and held accountable," says Rose•Walker co-founder Marty Rose. To speak with Mr. Rose about the WilmerHale litigation, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:34:14 pm

Residential mortgage industry was one of the first dominoes to fall in the economic downturn. Now many believe the commercial real estate market is teetering. With
more than 500,000 U.S. jobs lost in December, the steep job losses are causing office vacancy rates to spike in cities across the country. As businesses shed workers and office space, fears that a wave of commercial property foreclosures is about to occur.  Real estate attorney Kathleen Wu of Dallas-based Andrews Kurth LLP predicts an industry shakeup that will affect everyone from office tenants to far-flung investors of securitized commercial real estate mortgages. "We are in the midst of a significant market correction," Wu says. "If there is a silver lining to this trend it's that the industry will experience some rightsizing and a greater focus on corporate responsibility. During this cycle, there are buying opportunities for those waiting on the sidelines with access to capital or credit." To speak with Ms. Wu about commercial real estate trends, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or robert@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:03:40 pm

Deep down in last summer's housing rescue bill lies a provision that is already causing heartburn among credit card payment processors and individuals who do a lot of
selling on eBay. According to the legislation, beginning in 2011 payment card processors like PayPal must keep tabs on online transactions and notify the IRS when individuals earn more than $20,000. Sure, individuals who use eBay to clean out their garage have little to worry about, and you could argue that eBay Power Sellers should be paying taxes already, but the changes will have major privacy implications and cause regulatory headaches for card processors. "This won't affect people cleaning out their garage, but if you're an eBay Power Seller making more than $20,000 annually, the tax man will know about it," says attorney Zahara Alarakhia of Dallas' Munck Carter. According to the Wall Street Journal, it also applies to intermediary banks that process card payments for restaurants and brick-and-mortar retailers. Congressional tax estimators predict the reporting change will help the IRS collect an additional $9.5 billion in taxes owed by online and traditional businesses over the next 10 years. The payment processors will be required to file a 1099 form for each merchant to the IRS and to the merchant. To speak with Ms. Alarakhia about payment card processing issues, contact Alan Bentrup at 800-559-4534 or alan@androvett.com.  

 

by Robert Tharp at 5:07:05 pm

A company drying to dig out of Chapter 11 might not seem like a good bet for lenders, especially in this tight credit market. But as the number of companies in Chapter 11 bankruptcy spikes, their prospects for digging out often depend on having access to operating cash. That's where debtor-in-possession financing comes in. Such loans to struggling companies in Chapter 11 provide struggling businesses with a chance to get back in the black rather than liquidating. "Debtor-In-Possession' financing is fairly common, and a good number of Chapter 11 cases would probably be impossible without access to capital through this framework," says Robert Paddock of Houston's Thompson & Knight. "A debtor company may have cash flow, but that revenue stream may be pledged to other secured creditors. Structured correctly, DIP or post-petition financing can be an attractive means for both a debtor and lender to fund the business through the bankruptcy proceeding." Such financing is harder to find in the existing tight credit market but it is still available, particularly for large-scale debtors willing to pay premium interest rates. To speak with Mr. Paddock about DIP financing, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 11:13:36 am

A handringing judge who popped OJ Simpson for nine to 33 years in prison last month described the former pro as "arrogant, ignorant or both." Sports Attorney Daryl K. Washington of Dallas' Shackelford, Melton & McKinley doesn't disagree with that assessment but adds that Simpson's' runaway ego and those of tainted sports stars like Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress and Pacman Jones were not created without some help from others.  "Agents, fans, groupies, owners and even family members treat them as gods. That can turn an athlete into a monster," Washington says. "Athletes should be treated the same as any other person and the arrogance will come down several levels. When they are no longer put upon that lofty pedestal they will begin to realize they have received a blessing from God that is not to be taken for granted. Only then, will we see a change."

As ESPN.com writer Howard Bryant put the Simpson affair: No athlete in American history has ever suffered such a spectacular fall. Why Simpson chose such a clearly losing path -- in his remarks to the judge, Yale Galanter, one of Simpson's own attorneys, used the term "stupid" at least a dozen times for Simpson's dangerous, ill-conceived plan to recover items from former associates -- might always be an unanswerable question to anyone but him. Another unanswerable question is whether athletes will ever realize that accountability applies to them. 

Judging by the Plaxico Burress affair, it appears some still don't. Simpson should have provided the cautionary tale 13 years ago, and again today. As Glass pointed out so powerfully, Simpson could have killed someone, "an innocent tourist or worker." But O.J. Simpson believed in the protection that the hero always seems to get. "At Mr. Simpson's initial bail hearing, I didn't know if he was arrogant or ignorant or both," Glass said. "During this trial, I got my answer. It was both."

 To interview Mr. Washington about issues facing professional athletes, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 10:33:59 am

As lawmakers head to Austin in January, labor and employment attorney Audrey Mross says several important bills affecting businesses and workers alike will be up for

consideration. One proposed bill would help victims of crime by providing job-protected time off to seek medical, financial, legal and emotional support. Fortune has an excellent article about the complexites of domestic violence and its effects on the workplace in its November issue.

Another bill would put businesses on the hook for knowingly employing illegal aliens. Lawmakers will also consider whether to extend previous efforts to improve participation in jury duty by requiring employers to pay workers for the first day of jury service(the state already pays for subsequent jury duty days). Finally, the Lege will likely consider a bill that would prohibit businesses from requiring workers to donate to charities like the United Way. "Depending on how they vote, the Legislature has the power to change the way you do business. It's always in your interest to monitor what they do," says Mross, a shareholder at Munck Carter in Dallas. To speak with Ms. Mross about labor and employment issues, contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 or mark@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 2:45:16 pm

A couple of recent studies confirm what many of us already suspected about the reach and heft of the Internet as a news and communication medium.

First off, the influence of online news spiked sharply in 2008. According to the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, the percentage of Americans getting their news online jumped from 24 percent to 40 percent in this year. And for the first time, more Americans are relying on the Internet for their information needs than

traditional print media.

For the under 30 crowd, the Internet now rivals TV as an information source. Nearly 60 percent of respondents under 30 use the Internet as a primary information source. In September 2007, twice as many young people said they relied mostly on television for news than mentioned the internet (68% vs. 34%).

In an unrelated study by MS&L, researchers polled consumers worldwide with the question, "what defines a leading company?" More than half of the respondents in the U.S. indicated that they could judge a company's values by its online presence. Another finding: while price and quality are important, consumers believe that a company's values matter most in the long run. The findings are further proof that businesses of all types should be focusing on their on-line presence AND communicating their values in the digital medium. As Sally Falkow at The Leading Edge puts it: "If more than half of [consumers] judge you by your online presence, it's time to make that a PR priority."

by Robert Tharp at 1:24:33 pm

It's that time of year when people start talking about resolutions for the new year. So what's wrong with a little hope for 2009? Nothing, says life coach Mike McCurley,

but there's some strategies worth taking to make resolutions stickier.
McCurley, co-founder of Personal Enhancement Coaching, suggests taking a slightly different approach in increase the odds of staying focused on the really important goals. Among McCurley's advice:
Let the holiday season pass before committing to making an important change. With so much resolution-making during the holidays, it's too easy to commit and forget.
Take it slow. Trying to do too much too quickly is a prescription for failure. Instead, make a list of priorities and concentrate on what's most important first. Whether it's job, marriage or something else, it's not uncommon that improving one area has a positive spill-over into other aspects of your life.
Don't do it alone. Find someone to help, whether it's a coach, mentor or loved-one. Seek out people who you trust and respect.

These are just a few suggestions. More information is available at http://www.personalenhancementcoaching.com. To speak with Mike McCurley about personal enhancement coaching, please contact Alan Bentrup at 214-559-4630 (office), 713-553-3358 (cell) or alan@androvett.com

by Robert Tharp at 11:02:32 am

Dallas-based  Shackelford, Melton & McKinley, LLP, is making a move into Austin, tapping two public policy/finance and commercial litigation veterans -  Brian T. McCabe and Keith Ward. Mr. McCabe knows his way around the intricacies of public finance law and has advised state, county and local governments of all types on such matters. For more than two decades, Mr. McCabe has built a practice providing legislative consulting for governmental and private-sector clients in governmental affairs including finance, construction, procurement, housing and health care law.

Mr. Ward, meanwhile, handles general commercial litigation and transactional law on behalf of real estate developers, business owners and individuals. He is a licensed CPA who has worked with municipalities in areas such as code enforcement and bulding standards, as well as litigation related to sales transactions, tenant complaints, construction disputes and fiduciary matters.

The firm has grown steadily in size and expertise, and the Austin expansion provides a significant boost in the areas of public policy and public finance, says founding partner John C. Shackelford. Shackelford, Melton & McKinley, LLP, is a business and commercial law firm representing financial institutions, real estate owners and developers, automobile dealerships, and businesses in legal matters across the nation. For more information, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:22:01 pm

Between the demands of two long and protracted wars, the increasing reliance on private military contractors and the legal controversies involving treatment of wartime

detaines at Guantanamo, military defense lawyer Colby Vokey says the military justice system is experiencing a period of transformation. Vokey, A former lead Marine defense attorney now in private practice at Dallas' Fitzpatrick Hagood Smith & Uhl, has been involved in some of the highest profile military justice cases involving U.S. soldiers, as well as Guantanamo detainees. "Historically, we've seen the greatest stresses on military justice during times of armed conflict, and our experience right now is no different," says Vokey, who has a nationwide military justice practice and also represents clients in white-collar crimes, criminal defense and grand jury investigations. To speak with Mr. Vokey about military justice issues, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or robert@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 3:34:41 pm

The Bernard Madoff financial fraud has been called the largest Ponzi scheme in history. Whatever you call it, this complex and rapidly evolving story has presented challenges for the mainstream and financial media around the globe. Securities fraud attorneys Jeffrey Zwerling and Robert Schachter at the New York securities c
lass-action law firm Zwerling Schachter & Zwerling quickly became part of the reporting and have been involved in much of the expert commentary, providing the kind of intelligent and nuanced insight needed to cover this amazing and complicated financial story. The two attorneys, who have extensive experience in such complex securities cases, have been quoted in reports by the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, The Independent, The Financial Post and Reuters, among many others. The two firm partners have used their expertise in complex securities class-actions to describe the regulatory landscape, current investigations and possible recourse that Madoff's victims may have.

by Robert Tharp at 4:32:50 pm

There's an interesting balancing act occurring among directors of corporations that are teetering on insolvency right now. For companies operating in the black, corporate
directors are beholdened to shareholders. Rick Tulli of Gardere Wynne Sewell says such fiduciary duties don't disappear when a company goes insolvent - instead creditors replace shareholders as the beneficiary of the directors' fiduciary duties. But determining the exact point at which a company becomes insolvent is not so easy, creating the prospect for directors to have to simultaneously answer to shareholders and creditors. “Although that shift happens only upon insolvency, it is often difficult to determine when the insolvency occurred, and may really be determined only in retrospect. Because of this, directors seeing significant concerns with the business need to start balancing the interests of the creditors along with the shareholders, because they will face increased scrutiny of their activities.” To interview Mr. Tulli about fiduciary duty issues, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 10:32:28 am

Attorneys at New York-based financial securities and commercial litigation firm Zwerling, Schacter & Zwerling are representing at least four clients who may have lost hundreds of millions in Bernard L. Madoff's massive and still-unfolding Wall Street investment fraud. Attorneys Jeffrey Zwerling, Robert S. Schacter and their firm are actively

representing partnerships, individuals and companies that may have lost significant amounts of money in Mr. Madoff's scheme. The clients are based in Palm Beach County, Florida, and Long Island, New York. While focusing on Mr. Madoff's scheme and the losses he caused, the firm is probing how third parties, including financial firms and other institutions, may have played a role in the scheme.

"If this were a traditional bank robbery, the eyewitness reports would say that Mr. Madoff walked out with billions of dollars as someone held the door open for him," says Jeffrey Zwerling, a founding partner of Zwerling, Schachter & Zwerling. "If it's true, it's just amazing in terms of the audacity, if nothing else."

For more information or to speak with Jeffrey Zwerling or Robert S. Schachter about the Madoff case, please contact Mark Annick at 800-559-4534 (office), 214-213-1754 (mobile) or mark@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 3:30:52 pm

There's no argument that Lori Drew's behavior was despicable. The Missouri mom created a fictitious MySpace account and "cyberbullied" her daughter's former friend before the heartbroken girl committed suicide in 2006. But there are real questions about whether federal prosecutors got it right when they used the Computer Fraud
and Abuse Act to win a conviction. The successful prosecution hinged on the argument that the woman violated the Myspace terms of service, which obligates users to provide "truthful and accurate" registration information. If role playing on the Internet is a crime, then our federal prisons will soon be overflowing. "A law that was created to protect federal and bank computers has now been expanded to include most computers and the Internet," says technology attorney Peter S. Vogel of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP. "Most courts accept a Web site's Terms of Service as a binding agreement even though few individuals ever read them, but this will be the first time that is tested in this type of criminal case." To interview Mr. Vogel about cyber contracts, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 3:02:26 pm

Zzzzz. Young doctors who work 16 hours straight should be allowed at least five hours of uninterrupted rest, according to new recommendations by the prestigious Institute of Medicine designed to improve safety in hospitals. The institute's recommendations come on top of 2003 reforms that limit workloads by doctors-in-training to
no more than 80 hours per week. But Ken Braxton of Dallas' Stewart Stimmel says the proposals would have little effect on medical errors. "We haven't seen an increase in legal claims or error reports associated with resident physicians during the past five years. We have seen a decrease in the number of cases they handle during residency, so hospitals have to more thoroughly screen these physicians for their specific abilities when applying for credentials." To interview Mr. Braxton about physician workplace issues, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:20:30 pm

While an increasing number of oil and gas companies are suffering in the tightening credit market, the industry's outlook remains robust, says Rhett Campbell of
Houston's Thompson & Knight. There are ready buyers for high-quality exploration and production assets that end up in Chapter 11 liquidation, Campbell says. "There are well-capitalized companies out there that are actively seeking bargains in oil and gas properties," he says."They view the current reality as temporary and are actively evaluating opportunities, particularly for United States and North American holdings, such as the Gulf of Mexico, the Rocky Mountain region, Texas and Canada." To interview with Mr. Campbell about energy industry bankruptcies, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 3:53:35 pm

Dallas attorney Darrell Cook says even in the best business climate,
submitting bills and collecting payments is a part of doing business that few enjoy. In the current economic downturn and credit crisis, business is brisk for law firms that handle collections for businesses.

Cook knows from experience that sending invoices and collecting from venders and customers can be so unpleasant that many businesses develop bad habits that actually increase the likelihood of bills becoming delinquent. Cook says a few basic habits can make the process much easier for all sides. One of the worst habits is simply procrastinating - failing to submit envoices in a fair and timely manner, sometimes waiting as long as three to six months after the delivery of services or goods before sending a bill. With such a delay between a provided service and bill, the customer will not likely even remember the service for which they're being asked to pay. Darrell offers the following tips on his Web site regarding the process of collecting on debts.

"Just because the economy is bad for everyone doesn't mean that the bills don't have to be paid," says Cook. "Companies are more focused than ever on making sure they collect what they're owed, whether it's a single mom with a sky-high credit card balance or a construction company that's behind on paying its suppliers." As evidence, Cook notes a recent published report showing that North Texas subcontractors and suppliers have filed 45 percent more legal claims against general contractors over unpaid invoices this year compared to 2007. To interview Mr. Cook about collections issues, contact Bruce Vincent at 800-559-4534 or bruce@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:14:38 pm

The Mumbai terrorist attacks were not just a wake-up call the Indian government. The brazen assault on Mumbai's tourist centers showed that high-end hotels can be high-value terrorist targets, says
hospitality industry attorney Richard Barrett Cuetara, Esq., of Dallas' Cowles & Thompson. If they haven't done so already, hotels must step up their security measures. "They must be vigilant and continue to require proper identification of all guests. It's a red flag if a guest cannot produce adequate identification or gets flustered at check-in," he says. To interview Mr. Barrett Cuetara about hotel security issues, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 11:57:36 am

Who isn’t conflicted by all of the lawyer rankings out there? There’s so many of these lists now that it’s just about impossible to keep up with them all. At the end

of the day, Super Lawyers has emerged as one of the most respected of the gang, in part because the staff does a good job of articulating its selection criteria and takes pains to make the list more than a popularity contest. With the Texas Super Lawyers balloting set to begin in February, we soldiered through a recent Super Lawyers webinar and 64-slide PowerPoint presentation so you don’t have to. Below are some of the highlights of the webinar, which was designed to demystify the selection process a little. For 2009, Texas Super Lawyers balloting starts February 6 and closes March 10.

I  Peer Nominations: As we know, the research staff monitors to make sure there’s not too much mutual backscratching. Additionally, to keep everything on a level playing field between big and small firms, the staff stops counting after a single attorney obtains 15 nominations(i.e. it’s pointless to get more than 15 votes). Additionally: Nominations should be based on first-hand observation. Self-nominations are not allowed. In-firm nominations count only if an equal or greater number of out-of-firm nominations are cast. Out-of-firm nominations carry a higher point value.
Informal nominations: The staff also welcomes informal nominations from people like us. These nominations have no point value, but it puts the candidate on the Super Lawyers radar.
Managing partner survey: Every managing partner of a law firm that’s on the SL data base receives an e-mail survey asking them to nominate the top 10 percent within their firm. The results of these surveys are not publicized.
Somebody in the audience asked whether the managing partners should bother nominating attorneys who have previously been named Super Lawyers, or instead use this as a vehicle to help others get on this list. The answer was that you should not assume that previous winners will automatically be on their radar, so nominate attorneys who most deserve to be on the list.
Other ways to get in the candidate pool: Besides peer nominations, informal nominations and the managing partner survey: SL researchers conduct a `star search’ designed to identify lawyers who might be overlooked by the balloting, such as lawyers with national litigation practices, lawyers in smaller firms or lawyers in less visible practice areas. For this reason, it pays to have a strong internet presence.
II  Once the candidate pool has been established: The SL research department begins culling through the candidate pool. This step is designed to keep the rankings from being solely a popularity contest. Evaluation is based on: verdicts and settlements, transactions, representative clients, experience, honors and awards, special licenses and certifications, position within law firm, bar or other professional activities, pro bono and community service, scholarly lectures and writings, education and employment background and other outstanding achievements.
SL database links directly with law firm Web site biographies and to lawyers’ records compiled by Westlaw’s `Profiler’ system, such as verdicts, dockets etc… For this reason, it’s crucial that law firm Web site bios are complete and up-to-date.
My.superlawyers.com: This Web site provides attorneys an opportunity to update their professional profiles and describe their practice. Make sure this profile page is complete and current.
Blue-ribbon evaluation: Peer evaluation is conducted in nearly 70 practice areas. The groups assign a 1-to-10 score to each candidate. Candidates are then assembled by firm size so that small, medium and large firms compete against themselves.
Vetting: Finalists are researched to make sure they are in good standing with no disciplinary problems. Candidates are also asked to personally verify their disciplinary history.
From there, Super Lawyers finalists are selected equally among small, medium and large firms until the list reaches 5 percent of practicing attorneys.

Super Lawyers contacts:
Research: Cindy Larson clarson@superlawyers.com
Editorial: Steve Kaplan skaplan@superlawyers.com

 

by Robert Tharp at 1:23:40 pm

We've all heard about how CEO's identify with sports coaches and borrow sports clichés ad nauseam. Here's an example of a big-time college program taking a page from the business world playbook.

University of Texas football coach Mack Brown apparently has no plans to leave any time soon. Obviously happy with Brown at the helm, the dilemma for UT has been how to retain highly regarded defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. The result was a page right out of the business school playbook and something called `succession planning," says labor & employment attorney Audrey Mross of Dallas' Munck Carter, P.C. To keep Muschamp, the university named him `head coach in waiting' and also gave him a hefty raise. In return, the school keeps a valuable coaching talent and provides peace of mind that the program is in good hands long-term. "The promise given to Coach Muschamp demonstrates what businesses will need to do to remain competitive -- attract and keep the best talent," Mross says. "It's no secret that the baby boomer generation is retiring in droves, so employers need to get creative to keep key players in place. However, the last thing an employer, or athletic director, wants to do is make these promises only to see employees get complacent, or lose ballgames, and be stuck with them or pay exorbitant buy-outs." For more information, contact Alan Bentrup at 800-559-4534 or at alan@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 12:10:17 pm

For Barack Obama, the road to the White House was punctuated with lots of talk about shaking up the federal tax law. You know, things like socking it to the bloated oil
companies. But a funny thing has happened as inauguration day approaches and all eyes are on the new president's first 100 days: namely, seismic changes to the playing field.

Attorney Robert Van Amburgh of Dallas' Hiersche, Hayward, Drakeley & Urbach says history shows that a canddiate's plans can undergo significant changes both before and after being presented to Congress.  "Making predictions about tax law changes is even more difficult based on our volatile economic climate," he says. "For example, during the campaign Mr. Obama expressed support for a windfall profits tax on oil companies. But with the steady decline in oil prices since the summer, there may not be the pressure for this type of tax."

And by the way, any changes made will not apply until the 2009 tax year. For more information, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

 

by Robert Tharp at 4:47:40 pm

File this one under: painful medicine. The struggling domestic automakers are in such poor shape in competitive terms that filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy just might be
what it takes to make them more viable operations, says attorney attorney William L. Siegel of Dallas' Cowles & Thompson. We've all heard the staggering statistics about how much the automakers pay on healthcare and other benefits. Under Chapter 11, the companies could reject or revise collective bargaining agreements, retiree benefits and other unprofitable contracts. "No amount of money is going to change the fact that, as things stand now, the Big Three simply cannot compete with the foreign-owned automakers," he says. "They need to take the same medicine that some of our domestic airlines took in filing bankruptcy, and in doing so will come out leaner and more competitive." While the automakers might emerge a little leaner, they'll still have to work on building cars that people want to buy. For more information, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or at rhonda@androvett.com

by Robert Tharp at 3:21:30 pm

The technology behind U.S. Patent No. 7,292,151 is pretty complicated stuff, but for Houston attorney W. Mark Lanier the issue at the core of a lawsuit he filed on behalf of the small patent holder against Nintendo is simple.

"Using someone else's technology without permission is theft," says The Lanier Law Firm founder. "Nintendo makes video games where you get to play a thief, but that doesn't give them the right to be one."

The patent in question, held by Ohio tech company Motiva, involves technology used to create a "Human Movement Measurement System" based on a handheld device. The Motiva lawsuit charges that Nintendo used the patented technology in the Nintendo Wii to reproduce users' movements on display screens. If previous cases are any indication, Nintendo may have a big target on its chest in this area. In May, the game maker was hit with a $21 million verdict in a similar patent infringement case. In that case, jurors found that Nintendo infringed several patents to produce the Wii remote control device.

by Robert Tharp at 11:56:56 am

Attorneys at Dallas-based Heygood, Orr, Reyes, Pearson & Bartolomei secured $16.5 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries Monday after arguing that drugmaker ignored serious risks assocated with the painkiller patch in order to reap profits.

Days after a 38-year-old mother of three died in 2004 while using a defective Durogexic painkiller patch, the woman's family received a letter in the mail from the pharmacy that

filled her prescription, warning that the drug had been recalled out of safety concerns. On Monday, a Chicago jury awarded more than $16 million to the family of Janice Dicosolo, who used the Duragesic patch for chronic pain associated with a neurological condition called reflex sympathetic dystrophy. The patch is designed to give a slow, constant dose of the drug fentanyl, a powerful pain killer 100-times stronger than morphine.

Attorneys Jim Orr and Michael Heygood argued that Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc. and ALZA Corporation(both Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries) knew about problems associated with the patches, which are known to leak fentanyl in amounts large enough to kill. "They knew this patch was dangerous and defective but they continued to seel it and make money, and that's the only reason Janice DiCosolo is dead," says Orr. Last year, attorneys with Heygood, Orr, Reyes, Pearson & Bartolomei secured a $5.5 million verdict for the family of a 28-year-old Florida man who died while using the patch for hip pain. As reported by Bloomberg today, the patches generated more than $1.1 billion in sales for Johnson & Johnson last year. 

by Robert Tharp at 2:04:44 pm

Can a lawyer inflate fees for obtaining an extraorindary result? What's the latest CLE event for appellate lawyers? These are just some of the topics up for discussion on a new blog about Texas appellate law by attorneys at Dallas-based Cowles & Thompson, P.C.. The firm's distinguished appellate practice group started the Reverse & Render blog to provide timely information and insight on significant appellate cases and other useful information. The blogging team was created by Byron Henry, certified as an appellate specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Contributers include Mike Northrup, head of the firm's appellate practice and chair of the Dallas Bar Association's Appellate Law Section, and attorney David Oliveros.


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