VARYING VARIANT VIEWS - This was supposed to be the year law firms dragged everyone back into the office kicking and screaming so that they could resume being one big happy family again. But, so far at least, those dreams remain out of reach. Omicron, the highly contagious COVID-19 variant now raging across the U.S., is reportedly less lethal. But that doesn’t mean the debate over the future of office work has gotten any less intense. Quite the contrary, in fact, Law.com’s Patrick Smith reports. Law firms, as well as the attorneys and business professionals who comprise them, are now, as consultant Kent Zimmermann put it, “all over the place” in terms of their views on how to proceed (or not) with office returns. “There is a diversity of views in this country about how to move through this surge, and most law firms are a microcosm of those diversity of views,” Zimmermann said. “Within the same firm you have some people questioning the need for hand sanitizers and masks while others are hard set against even coming into the office.”
FEE FIGHTERS - It’s a crazy, mixed-up world we’re living in, but there’s one thing you can always count on: plaintiffs lawyers fighting with each other over settlement fees in mass litigation. The latest example of the plaintiffs bar’s favorite pastime came in the multidistrict litigation over Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder. As Law.com’s Amanda Bronstad reports, a Miami plaintiffs firm that settled two dozen lawsuits over J&J’s baby powder has accused lead counsel in the MDL of a “money grab” by collecting potential fees for work it never did on the cases. The Ferraro Law Firm, which settled 24 talc cases, all but two of which were pending in the MDL, claims that J&J held back 12% of the settlement proceeds for common benefit fees to be paid to lead counsel. That’s despite The Ferraro Law Firm handling its cases on its own, and after co-lead counsel allegedly refused to provide the firm with two expert witnesses earlier in the year, according to a motion for relief from the common benefit fee assessments. As Bronstad notes, the dispute comes as plaintiffs lawyers increasingly are sparring over common benefit fees. In the recent Roundup MDL, for instance, Beasley Allen was one of several law firms that objected to a potential $800 million in common benefit fees—an amount that U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria called “an example of MDLs gone wild.”
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