Large firms frequently file suit—or get sued—in all sorts of litigation, such as legal malpractice claims, bill arguments with ex-clients, partnership disputes and claims by ex-employees. While the suits make headlines at the time they are filed, often they are quietly settled or dismissed.
Here’s a look at some high-profile litigation that quietly went away or at least partially resolved this year:
Corporate Counsel v. Law Firms
A legal malpractice case against Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis was settled by September, shortly after a New York appeals court issued a blockbuster decision with ramifications for all New York firms and their clients.
Keith Stock, formerly president and division head of MasterCard Advisors, sued Schnader in 2013 in Manhattan Supreme Court, claiming the law firm committed malpractice over advice it gave him when he left MasterCard. During discovery in the malpractice case, Stock sought communications between Schnader attorneys and the law firm’s internal general counsel.
After a trial judge ordered Schnader to produce to Stock internal firm communications, the Appellate Division, First Department, reversed in late June, finding that discussions between a law firm’s attorneys and the firm’s general counsel about ethical obligations in representing a client can be withheld from the client, essentially under an intra-law firm privilege.
The ruling was a blow to the Association of Corporate Counsel, which had argued against such a privilege, but a win for Schnader as well as 74 law firms that submitted an amicus brief in favor of the privilege.
About three months after the ruling, Stock and Schnader signed court documents agreeing to dismiss all claims and counterclaims.
Stock’s attorney, Jordan Kam, partner of the Roth Law Firm, said the case “was amicably resolved,” declining further comment. Schnader’s attorney, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler partner Frederick Warder, did not return a call seeking comment.
‘Churn That Bill’ Malpractice
A Baltimore judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by a former DLA Piper partner against the firm’s outside counsel law firm related to the “churn that bill, baby!” e-mail scandal.
Erich Eisenegger, a former DLA Piper partner, sued Kramon & Graham in March, alleging malpractice over the firm’s representation of DLA Piper in a fee dispute with an ex-client. In the underlying fee dispute case, Eisenegger’s email exchanges with other attorneys were obtained in discovery and then disclosed in the press. One such email that Eisenegger received from another attorney while at DLA said that “random people” were “working full time on random research projects in standard ‘churn that bill, baby!’ mode.”
In his malpractice suit, Eisenegger claimed Kramon mishandled discovery of emails in the fee dispute litigation and that the emails were “never reviewed” before being produced by Kramon. If they were, he said, Kramon would have marked the email exchanges as confidential, sought a confidentiality stipulation or moved for a protective order. Eisenegger claimed his professional reputation was destroyed and he was fired at his next firm, McDermott Will & Emery.
But in late October, Maryland Judge Cynthia Jones dismissed the suit, finding that an attorney-client relationship did not exist between Eisenegger and Kramon during the firm’s alleged misconduct and, thus, Kramon “did not owe a duty” to him. Jones also found that Eisenegger didn’t sufficiently allege that “but for” Kramon’s conduct, he wouldn’t have sustained damages.
Richard Simpson, a partner at Wiley Rein who represented Kramon in the malpractice suit, declined to comment. Eisenegger, who represented himself, could not be reached for comment.
Partner’s Emails in Bias Suit
Thompson Hine and a former legal secretary settled a high-profile discrimination case this year.
In her 2013 suit, ex-firm secretary Valerie Medcalf claimed the partner she worked with, George Walsh, forwarded confidential information about her health and pregnancy to his wife, who did not work at the firm. While she was still at the firm, Medcalf said, she found his wife’s responses to those emails, which she said were “disparaging” to her and her child.
Medcalf claimed Thompson Hine engaged in discrimination on the basis of her gender and status of a pregnant women when it denied her the opportunity to attend some medical appointments, when it denied her a clean and safe place to express breast milk and when it permitted Walsh and his wife to use the firm’s email to disparage her.
The law firm argued her claims were barred because she had earlier sued the Walshes for defamation, but Southern District Judge Edgardo Ramos refused to dismiss the suit against the firm in 2015. Ramos found that while there is some overlap between Medcalf’s separate suits, her suit against the firm alleges “institutional misconduct separate and apart from the purely private actions” by the Walshes.
About a year later, in April 2016, Ramos issued an order stating that all the claims have been settled. The case was discontinued.
Medcalf’s attorney, Stewart Lee Karlin, who leads his own employment firm, did not return a message for comment. Thompson Hine’s attorney, Robert Whitman of Seyfarth Shaw, declined to comment.
Collecting Fees From Ex-client
More than three years after Boies Schiller & Flexner sued a mother and daughter tied to the Modell’s Sporting Goods retail chain, the firm has finally obtained a judgment to collect fees, but so far it’s only a fraction of what it initially sought.
Boies Schiller represented Shelby and Leslie Modell, mother and daughter, embroiled in a dispute with Mitchell Modell over his leadership of the family’s East Coast retail chain.
After withdrawing from representation, the firm sued the two women in separate actions in Manhattan Supreme Court in 2013, claiming the firm is owed $438,206 by Shelby Modell and $156,749 by Leslie Modell.
Last year, a First Department panel said Boies Schiller was entitled to summary judgment on its account stated claim for $30,525 for bills in July, August and September 2012. It also dismissed Shelby’s counterclaim.
But court said the firm is not entitled to judgment on account stated for work performed and invoiced for October 2012 through February 2013. The court said Shelby’s oral objections to the bills are supported by at least two e-mails.
Two months ago, Boies Schiller obtained a judgment against Shelby Modell for the $30,525, plus interest, totaling $41,469.
Boies Schiller partner George Carpinello, who represents the firm in the litigation, said the cases against Shelby and Leslie remain pending. The firm is “pursuing the cases to collect the balance of the fees that are still due and owing,” he said.
Leslie and Shelby Modell could not be reached for comment.