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Androvett Blog

by Robert Tharp at 3:49:08 pm

One of Dallas' oldest law firms is moving into new digs this week. Thompson & Knight is filling up six floors totaling 180,000 square feet in One Arts Plaza in the Dallas
 
Arts District. The offices offer impressive and innovative features like a biometrics security system and a number of environmentally conscious design elements that helped the it secure registration with the U.S. Green Building Council. Lead-free glass allows better transmission of light inside the offices and a specially designed "Mother's Room" has lactation equipment and other amenities for working mothers. The firm is pursuing LEED-CI Silver Certification, which recognizes interiors that are healthy, productive places to work and that are less costly to operate and have a reduced environmental footprint. The firm's lease fills out the space at the recently completed One Arts Plaza in the heart of the city's Arts District.

by Robert Tharp at 3:48:06 pm

Those waiting for a magic bullet to solve the country's energy woes better settle in for a long wait, says Renato Bertani of Thompson & Knight Global Energy Services. In the meantime, lifting the ban on U.S. offshore drilling is one component that will lead to a diversified energy plan. Despite the promise and excitement of

 
alternative energy, Bertani says oil production will remain the backbone of the country's energy needs for the foreseeable future.  "Fossil fuels will continue as the main source of energy for at least a few more decades," he says. "Oil and gas resources in frontier exploration areas and the extra-heavy oil and tar sands are economically feasible and very attractive in light of new technologies, better environmental management and the higher energy prices. In the long term, the security of our energy supply will have to be based on a broad mix of sources and mutually beneficial interdependence between energy producers and consumers." To interview Mr. Bertani about energy issues, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 3:04:57 pm

Thompson & Knight partner Pauline E. Higgins penned a thoughtful piece for Texas Lawyer on the toll of what she calls "microinequities." Few of us work with someone whose lack of tact compares
to Simon Cowell's shtick on "American Idol." You know his trademark phrase, "...I don't mean to be rude, but..." However, Higgins maintains that practically imperceptible communication habits and mannerisms, i.e. "microinequities," can have a profound influence on workplace morale. She cites things like dismissing one employee's idea only to embrace it when it's paraphrased by another or subtly excluding some employees from social activities. It's a well-written piece that's worth a read. She ends with this profound quote from an unknown author:

Be careful of your thoughts; they become your words;
Be careful of your words; they become your actions;
Be careful of your actions; they become your habits;
Be careful of your habits; they become character;
Be careful of your character; it becomes your destiny

by Unknown at 1:31:24 pm

We told you previously here about the collosal number of defective Chinese-made tire valve stems rolling down American roads today. The estimated number of these

faulty values has jumped from 6 million to 20 million and is the subject of a nationwide safety alert. That's a chilling prospect for motorists since there's no easy way to identify the valve stems, and when the valves go bad it causes a blowout-like loss of air pressure, says attorney John Cummings of Laird & Cummings P.C. Cummings spoke with Ken Kalthoff at KXAS Ch. 5 about problems with alerting motorists to the hidden danger. Kalthoff's advanced this story with news that some tire retailers are notifying customers about the potential dangers caused by the valves.

by Robert Tharp at 1:51:12 pm

The stiff penalties that corporate America faces relating to trade secrets has led to some high-profile self-policing. Hewlett-Packard chose to turn in one of its own vice presidents 
for disseminating a confidential IBM memo that he had taken from his previous job at IBM. Atul Malhotra is now a former HP employee facing charges of theft of corporate trade secrets and faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Bill Munck of Dallas' Munck Carter says that companies wh want trade-secret protections under federal law must take reasonable measures to protect such proprietary economic information. "What constitutes ‘reasonable' is open to debate, but the territorial scope of the federal Economic Espionage Act is arguably limitless and criminalizes not only theft of trade secrets within the United States, but under certain conditions thefts made in other countries."

by Robert Tharp at 4:37:03 pm

Considering that both presumptive presidential candidates are on the record in favor of federal climate-change legislation, many U.S. corporations feel it's only a matter of

 
time before a company's "carbon footprint" will be subject to public disclosure a la Sarbanes Oxley, which requires companies to disclose business risks in public filings.  Richard O. Faulk, chair of the Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP Litigation Department, says emissions regulation of some type appears inevitable. There's even a clever name for it: Carbox. Faulk predicts a ramp up for law firm climate-change practices as corporate directors and executives work to make sure their companies' have properly disclosed emissiones risks. "Global climate change clearly presents challenges and risks for corporate governance, including Sarbanes-Oxley liability and shareholder suits," he says. "Moreover, companies that go through mergers and acquisitions must undertake due diligence to understand both their own and their negotiating partners' carbon footprints. Uncalculated risks can translate into incalculable liabilities, even criminal prosecution. Wise executives are implementing climate-change strategies now instead of waiting for the government's hammer to fall."

by Robert Tharp at 3:42:20 pm

A Boston attorney's class-action lawsuit against Google is interesting for so many reasons. Advertising with Google AdWords is an inexact science, so
 
Hal K. Levitte's complaint that his Google ads were ineffectively relegated to parked domain pages(pages that have no content except for targeted ads that viewers may inadvertantely stumble upon during keyword searches) or error pages is potentially important. Afterall, 99 percent of Google's revenue comes from ad sales, according to InformationWeek. But here's what jumped out at me in this story, Levitte complains that he got no paying clients from his Google endeavor. But his Google annual pay-per-click budget was just $136(out of a total advertising budget of $887) and he still somehow got 668 clicks to his site. His advertising strategy appears to be little more than trying to direct Internet viewers to his anemic Web site. Kinda makes you wonder what he was expecting to achieve in the first place.

by Robert Tharp at 1:40:33 pm

Budweiser and the rest of the Anheuser-Busch empire now belong to a European company few on American soil have ever heard of. The $52 billion acquisition creates

 
the fourth-largest consumer product company for Belgian brewer InBev. The purchase of this iconic American brand is the latest example of foreign consortiums taking advantage of the weak dollar and gobbling up U.S. companies, says attorney DALLAS PARKER, who focuses on complicated mergers, acquisitions, corporate governance and related matters as managing partner of Thompson & Knight's Houston office.  In this case, Parker says the deal makes good financial sense for InBev not just because of the weak dollar. "Another factor is the value of the basic product. A product such as beer typically retains consumer demand even in an unstable economy," he says. To interview Mr. Parker about M&A trends, contact Barry Pound at 800-559-4534 or barry@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:31:45 pm

Will the next Woodward and Bernstein be citizen journalists who get the news out via blogs? Bloggers at the political Web site, Room 8, have certainly gotten the

attention of New York movers and shakers. As reported by the New York Times and others, prosecutors served a grand jury subpoena to the Web site earlier this year along with a saber-rattling warning that blogging about the subpoena would amount to illegally interfering with an active investigation. The gag order was later dropped after the bloggers threatened to sue. Along the way, the tactics raised serious concerns among free-speech advocates. For Peter Vogel, who focuses on Internet law and technology at Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, the case is the latest example of how laws are not keeping pace with rapidly advancing electronic medium. "When the first Internet browser was released as a public utility, no one even dreamed of blogging. The courts simply don't have a body of law on which to base their rulings," he says. "Courts are generally slow to adapt to major social change because existing laws don't necessarily fit the new situation. These complex cases will continue to vex the courts until that body of law develops."

by Robert Tharp at 4:18:05 pm

You never know what'll get you on the cover of Texas Lawyer, and it's not always the latest windfall verdict or professional faux pas. Staff writer Jenny B. Davis dug down
 
 Future firm partner
deep for her July 14 feature, beyond the CVs of some of the state's most respected legal minds to find an interesting common denominator: fast food experience in their formative years. Her premise: that those early jobs helped make these individuals the attorneys they are today.

For Thompson & Knight associate Kevin Pennell, scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins at age 14 taught him something about teamwork in a professional context that still rings home. Every time TK partner W. Mark Bennett quickly reads a crowded room or sizes up opposing counsel across a table, he's grateful for the hours he logged at a Chuck E. Cheese in Arlington, wearing a hot and unwieldy rodent costume.

"When you're walking out and you could see the little kid whose birthday it was, you learned how to read a face really fast to know whether they were going to run and hide or run and hug," Bennett told Davis. "Now that's part of my job - to read people, to give clients the best advice we can based on instincts."

That's what I call valuable professional experience. Great journalism? I didn't spit out my Cheerios and yell `Hey Martha!' but the piece made me think a little and sparked some office conversations. And that's more than can be said for many articles that I read. Me? I'm struggling to recall any redeeming life lessons from slinging burgers at Wendy's, except that the long hot and underpaid Austin summer was powerful motivation to finish college. And don't eat the chili.

by Robert Tharp at 10:32:28 am

Just a few weeks ago, we reported here about how wildly popular LinkedIn has become among lawyers and law firms, adding roughly tens of thousands of attorneys to its roles each month in 2008. Here's further proof that LinkedIn has emerged as

 
the killer ap in the world of lawyer and law firm directories. Martindale-Hubbell, the gold standard of traditional lawyer directories and attorney ratings, has now installed LinkedIn links within its attorney and law firm listings. Every attorney or law firm in Martindale-Hubbell's directory now has a LinkedIn link right beside their name. Hitting the link transports visitors to the attorney's or firm's dynamic online profile, which offers the ability to include expansive material about expertise and background, as well as an interactive social network of connections and peer or client recommendations. Credit goes to Kevin O'Keefe at Real Lawyers Have Blogs for reporting this first. Another reason to join: LinkedIn has also proven to do a powerful job attracting search-engine optimization through Google alogorithms. It's the first of the vast array of social media networking options that has clearly demonstrated its usefullness, and thus appears to be here to stay.   

Finally, a survey of 650 lawyers released last week found that nearly half are already members of some type of online social media network, and more than 40 percent believe online professional networking has great potential. The survey, which was bankrolled by Martindale-Hubbell, concludes that a need exists for a private, online legal network. The survey reports that lawyers are primarily interested in generating client and peer referrals(big surprise there) and are generally frustrated with their ability to stay connected with peers and colleagues. Fifty-four percent of in-house counsel and 41 percent of private-practice attorneys indicated that the ability to link to other attorneys and expand their networks as the most important feature of social media networks like LinkedIn. 

 

 

by Robert Tharp at 3:56:35 pm

Attorney Kathleen Campbell Walker has long been an important voice in the national debate over immigration reform through more than 20 years working as an El Paso

 
attorney focusing on immigration law and cross-border business issues, as well as her work as immediate past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Walker, a partner in Brown McCarroll's El Paso offices, is a widely published authority on this important issue and has frequently testified before Congress and state lawmakers. She now has a new role in the policy arena serving on an independent task force on immigration policy for the distinguished Council on Foreign Relations. She's in important company, sharing membership wtih the likes of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former White House chief of staff Thomas "Mack" McLarty, among others.

by Robert Tharp at 11:23:24 am

In a potentially important victory for employee privacy, San Francisco's 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals came out with a big ruling limiting the ability of employers to
 
obtain transcripts of employee e-mail and text messages. The ruling focused on electronic communications that are stored off-site by third-party services(as most text messages are) and e-mails maintained on external servers and found that the Ontario(Calif.) Police Department violated an officer's privacy by retrieving the content of his text messages without a warrant. But Thompson & Knight attorney David Furlow cautions that the case's impact may be limited, and more-conservative courts may choose to ignore the ruling. "Anyone using an employer's e-mail should still assume that his or her boss may read even the most private text or e-mail message," Furlow says.

by Robert Tharp at 11:09:18 am

Those tiny wireless RFID chips that are revolutionizing the way shipping companies and retailers monitor inventories have also proven extremely useful for hospitals
tracking expensive medical equipment(some hospitals are even implanting chips in patients that allow medical staff to instantly view a patient's medical history). But the Journal of the American Medical Association now warns that those radio frequency identification chips are potentially hazardous to patient care by interfering with electronic medical equipment. According to the Journal report, Danish researchers conducted 123 tests and found that the chips caused interference in one out of every six tests. Two of those instances were classified as having a "significant" adverse impact. "What an irony it is turning into that something that is designed to help may actually be adversely affecting patients," says Peter S. Vogel of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP. "This revelation may lead to new personal injury litigation heretofore not identified. It is likely that courts will have trouble sorting the health benefits of RFID with the new-found risk to patients." To interview Mr. Vogel about RFID issues, contact Rhonda Reddick at 800-559-4534 or rhonda@androvett.com.  

by Robert Tharp at 2:00:37 pm

Whether you're the guy with the name on the door or the one who sorts the mail, chances are you use the Internet connection at work for personal matters, according

to a new academic study. While the report concludes what most of us expected, researchers say that this trend is not necessarily bad for business productivitiy. Labor and employment attorney Audrey Mross of Dallas-based Munck Carter PC agrees, saying workplace Internet access has changed the way employees work and handle personal matters, and employers should "pick their battles" rather than implementing restrictive policies for on-the-job Internet use. Moreover, employers who use a knee-jerk reaction rather than a consistent policy are exposing themselves to potential litigation. "Most workers will strike a balance without the need for restrictive policies," she says. "There will always be a few rogue abusers who can be addressed individually, rather than handcuffing an entire organization with overbroad policy statements." To interview Ms. Mross about workplace Internet trends and recent court decisions, contact Robert Tharp at 800-559-4534 or at robert@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 1:25:19 pm

A distinguished crowd was on hand as Thompson & Knight partner Jorge G. De Presno-Arizpe was inaugurated as President of the Inter-American Bar Association during a

 
ceremony in Lima, Peru, last month. Mr. De Presno, a partner in the firm's Mexico City offices, is only the fourth Mexican lawyer to lead the Washington D.C.-based organization, which represents lawyers and jurists from 17 nations across the Western Hemisphere. His swearing-in took place before a crowd that included Peru's vice president, the Mexican ambassador to Peru, several members of the Peruvian judiciary, and more than 500 lawyers from countries throughout North, Central, and South America; the Caribbean; and Spain.

Mr. De Presno focuses his practice on advising corporations on labor, employment, and Social Security law, including privatization procedures for public corporations. He also has broad experience in collective bargaining negotiations and strike procedures, labor litigation, and counseling at both the state and federal levels.

by Robert Tharp at 11:32:56 am

The U.S. Department of Transportation has opened an investigation into faulty replacement tire valves made in China that are now the focus of a nationwide recall. The

 
trouble could just be beginning, warns Fort Worth personal injury and wrongful death attorney Steve Laird of Laird & Cummings. More than 30 million tire valves could be affected and at risk of cracking prematurely, causing tires to lose air quickly and leading to tire failure, according to Consumer Reports. "Most drivers will have a hard time figuring out if they have a defective valve on their tires," says Laird. "That's because once the valve stem is installed, the only way to check is to take the tire off and inspect it from the inside."

According to Consumer Reports, Robert Monk of Orlando, Fla. died when the right rear tire of his 1998 Ford Explorer failed, triggering a rollover crash. The failure of the tire, which was installed in the fall of 2006, has been linked to a cracked Dill TR-413 valve stem manufactured by a subsidiary of Shanghai Baolong Industries for Dill Air Control Products. In March, the Monk family filed suit against Dill Air Control Products, alleging that the defective tire valve stem caused the crash.

To interview Mr. Laird about tire safety issues, contact Bruce Vincent at 800-559-4534 or bruce@androvett.com.

by Robert Tharp at 4:47:00 pm

An enormous ruling came out of the Rhode Island Supreme Court this week, protecting manufacturers of lead paint from liability for creating a “public nuisance.” The
Wall Street Journal praised the ruling in a lead editorial(subscription required). Beginning with the headline, “Another bogus legal theory gets the boot,” the WSJ editorial goes on to say “…the state Supreme Court stopped cold an attempt to turn lead paint into the next tobacco or asbestos." The ruling capped nine years and two jury trials and reversed a verdict that some estimated would have cost paint companies $2 billion.

Now for the Texas connection: a law review article on such public nuisance litigation co-authored by Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP partners Richard O. Faulk and John S. Gray had an enormous effect on the court’s ruling. You won’t find Alchemy in the Courtroom? The Transmutation of Public Nuisance Litigation and the Michigan State Law Review on the news rack at Barnes & Noble, but the Supreme Court justices were obviously very familiar with it. The justices referenced the paper on four different occasions in their ruling. Faulk, who chairs Gardere's Litigation Department, calls the ruling a conclusive defeat for the expansion of public nuisance torts that will likely influence a wide range of other industries. "Advocates pursuing public nuisance lawsuits in other contexts, such as climate change, should take special notice of the court's rejection of an activist approach," he says.

by Robert Tharp at 1:49:17 pm

The airline industry's woes are trickling down in ways that the mainstream media are just beginning to report. Consider WFAA-TV reporter Jason Whitely's July 1 story on
how airline cost-cutting will result in the loss of commercial service for nearly 100 airports across the country. An even greater number of airports will see significantly reduced commercial air service. All of this will surely have an impact on surrounding economies that rely on revenue from the steady stream of passengers and ancillary services, as well as economic development efforts to attract new businesses, Whitely reports. And as Dallas aviation attorney David Norton explains in the piece, the industry is experiencing a paradigm shift caused by the relentless rise of fuel prices, and the commercial air service will probably never return. "I think that's over," says Norton, a partner at Dallas-based Shackelford Melton & McKinley. "I don't really ever see that coming back, not in the form that we've had it. There might be some changed system, but not like it used to be."

by Robert Tharp at 3:25:27 pm

Who wouldn’t have pitied little Anascape Ltd. of Tyler, Texas, when it went up against Nintendo of America Inc. nearly two years
 
ago, seeking to protect its patents for technology used in Nintendo game controllers including the GameCube, Wavebird, Wii Classic and Wii Remote. Anascape’s attorneys at Dallas-based McKool Smith, PC, were unfazed by the prospect of battling an army of corporate attorneys with unlimited resources. Following a trial in the Eastern District of Texas that ended May 14, a jury awarded the small company $21 million for its patent infringement claims. And just last week, the Hon. Ron Clark of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Lufkin Division, denied the defendant's motion for a reduced verdict, finding that the jury's award is supported by the evidence. The McKool Smith team included firm principals  Doug CawleySam Baxter and Ted Stevenson, and firm associates Chris Bovenkamp, Steven Callahan, Jason Cassady, Anthony Garza, and Jamie Shouse.

by Robert Tharp at 1:25:19 pm

Even the noble act of performing volunteer work in off-time can have unintended risks for attorneys, writes attorney Jane Taber in a published piece singled out by the
 
State Bar of Texas as an example of exemplary legal writing. The reason: lawyers who volunteer their time with non-profits often find themselves mulling requests for them to sit on the organizations' boards. Taber, a founding partner of Dallas' Taber Estes Thorne & Carr PLLC, penned the 3-piece installment with attorney Chris Robison in 2007 for the Dallas Bar Association's Headnotes newsletter. Focusing on potential hidden liabilities, Taber's article offers practical tips for attorneys considering accepting a seat on a non-profit board. Among her key tips are investigating the position, exercising the duties of care and loyalty, and fully disclosing potential conflicts of interest. Taber writes from experience, having served on various non-profit boards, including the Lakewood Service League and the Developmental Learning Center at Dallas' First United Methodist Church.