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Arbitrator’s past The American Arbitration Association billed its arbitrator Edward J. Costello Jr. as a specialist in law firm partnership disputes. In fact, he secretly knew too much about such disputes, alleges an April 6 lawsuit for fraudulent concealment filed against Costello and the New York-based association. The plaintiffs accuse the defendants of hiding the fact that Costello’s own career in private practice had been derailed by a dispute similar to the one they brought to him. The issue is the right of the law firm to oust a name partner. The plaintiffs are former partners of O’Flaherty & Belgum, a litigation boutique with 70 lawyers at its height. They expelled Steven Belgum, who sued them. The parties ended up before Costello not knowing the parallel in his past: that the partners of Costello, Manfredi & Thorpe had voted to expel him, and he sued them. In the arbitration, Costello ruled that the plaintiffs violated their partnership agreement by removing Belgum without his consent, and had awarded Belgum $7.2 million. In January, the California Court of Appeal vacated the award because the partnership agreement did not give Costello jurisdiction. While not addressing the fraudulent concealment issue, the court noted that the name of Costello Manfredi was not on his r�sum�, and that Costello had indicated there were no circumstances that kept him from being neutral in the case. Costello was not available for comment. Reality partner How does reality TV follow last season’s sagas of lust and greed among well-toned bodies on sun-kissed beaches? Would you believe with lawyers in courtrooms? Fox Broadcasting’s publicity department has released news of a series tentatively called The Partner, in which young lawyers compete for a partnership in a “major law firm.” The series is from Rocket Science Laboratories, creator of Joe Millionaire and Temptation Island. The series isn’t scheduled to air until late summer or fall at the earliest. Credit for the idea goes to Mike Darnell, Fox’s chief of alternative programming. He is quoted as saying it’s a chance to show the dog-eat-dog dynamics of not only the courtroom, but of career-building within a firm. The prize goes to who argues best, he noted. “Lawyers are so verbose, so opinionated and want to be on camera. And the form here is so clean: You have a trial with a beginning, middle and end.” Fox said the lawyers will be assigned to two teams, pitting those with Ivy League credentials against those from lesser-known law schools. They’ll then stage mock trials. The contestants select the jury. Before losers are eliminated, they’ll appeal to a judge who-we are promised-will be a big celebrity lawyer. Citing the dog-eat-dog competition of their own industry, the people at Rocket Science say it’s too early to confirm any detail, which leaves unanswered the question of whether any major law firm has agreed to promote to partnership a youth who’s won a game show. And if so, do they define “partner” as someone with an equity share? Rocket Science’s supervising casting producer, Tyler Rimsey, did say he’d like to hear from potential contestants. To be eligible, you must have passed the bar since April 2003. Fun and games 2.0 The Atlanta Bar Association is planning its second annual Lawyers for Literacy Trivia Challenge on May 19. The defending champs are a four-lawyer team from Kirkpatrick Stockton, with challenging teams so far from Sutherland Asbill & Brennan and Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy. It’s a game show format, with proceeds going to “Everybody Wins,” a group that tutors school children. Terry Beck of Everybody Wins said that last year’s games showed that, indeed, everyone can benefit. When one trophy was unveiled, she recalls, the word “Literacy” was misspelled.

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