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Androvett Blog

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