January 30, 2013

New Court of Special Appeals Opinion on Piercing the Corporate Veil and a Lawyer Strking Her Appearance on the Day of Trial

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals issued an opinion in Seriou V. Baystate Properties last week that discusses some interesting issues with respect to piercing the corporate veil and Maryland, and when a court can allow a lawyer to strike an appearance.

Under Maryland law, LLCs are normally protected from personal liability. There are, however, instances when a Maryland court will find that members can be personally liable in order to “prevent fraud or enforce a paramount equity.” This is called “piercing the corporate veil.”

In this case, the builder and the owner of the LLC entered into a contract. The builder was to build two houses on the owner’s property. Although the builder completed building the two houses, the builder was not paid for services.

The builder sued both the owner personally and the LLC. Of course the problem with LLCs is that they can disappear like the wind as this one did. The LLC filed for bankruptcy. So right there, the Plaintiff has a real problem. So you have to go after the defendant personally.

To make matters worse, the defendant's lawyer informed him that she could no longer represent him because she was taking a federal government job. On the date of trial, the court granted the attorney’s motion to withdraw from representation. The court then ruled that the corporate veil should be pierced and entered judgment against the owner for $141,000.

Lawyers back out of cases all of the time, usually because they have not been paid. Here, the lawyer bailed to take another job. And then the guy got popped with a big verdict. It certainly does not feel right, does it?

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July 18, 2011

Maryland Bar Exam July 2011

The Maryland Bar Exam is coming around the corner once again for July 2011. You know what this means? Lots of traffic for this blog from people looking for information - any information - on the July exam.

Folks, I don't have much. But I have a theory. If you Googled something to the effect of "Maryland bar exam July 2011" you are more likely to pass the bar exam than someone who has not. Why? Because just the fact that you care so much to be looking for information, probably puts you in the category of law students that care more than most. You are 10% more likely to pass the bar exam if you read this post then those who don't (standard deviation: 10%).

My advice: relax. Easier said than done. But the chances are strong - statistically - you will pass the bar exam. If you don't? Seriously, seriously, the world will not come to an end. I can honestly say I only remember one person who didn't pass the bar. A lot of people I came out with didn't but I really only remember one person. No one remembers. There is a long career ahead for you even in the unlikely event you don't pass.

July 13, 2011

Maryland Statute of Limitations and Legal Malpractice

The general statute of limitations in Maryland is three years, as set forth in Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 5-101. This is the "default" statute of limitations that applies unless another limitations period is applicable. Master Fin., Inc. v. Crowder, 409 Md. 51, 70, 972 A.2d 864, 875 (2009).

I've seen statistics that nearly a third of all legal malpractice claims arise out of personal injury lawyers blowing the statute of limitations. How is that? Some lawyers are so disorganized they just miss the statute. But I suspect this is the minority of cases. The main culprits are the most notable exceptions for Maryland personal injury lawyers of these general rules which either apply a different statute of limitations or require notice to bring a claim:

  • Maryland Local Government Tort Claims Act
  • Maryland Tort Claims Act
  • Federal Tort Claims Act
  • Error in which states' procedural rules apply

March 17, 2011

Maximizing Auto Negligence Damages at Mediation, Arbitration and District Court Trials

MAJ is putting on a auto negligence seminar called "Maximizing Auto Negligence Damages at
Mediation, Arbitration and District Court Trials" on April 29th in Columbia.

John B. Bratt, Miller & Zois, LLC
Eric N. Schloss, Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander, LLC

Judge Clifton J. Gordy, retired, Mediation
John Sandbower, The McCammon Group
Judge Carol E. Smith, retired, Creative Dispute Resolution
W. Scott Sonntag,The Law Office of W. Scott Sonntag, PA
Judge Philip N. Tirabassi, Baltimore County District Court

You don't need to be a member of the Maryland Association of Justice to attend. Get more information here.

March 16, 2011

Requesting a Hearing

The Maryland Rules Committee has proposed an amendment to Maryland Rule 2-311 that will require that when a hearing is requested on a motion, that the heading or title of the motion must indicate that a hearing is requested.

I would love to understand the rationale for this. If you file a Notice of Hearing in your motion, you would think that would be good enough.

November 1, 2010

Maryland Bar Exam: Are You Sure You Want to Pass?

This Slate article points out the paradox of rising law school applications and students in a shrinking job market for lawyers which has to make some question, the Maryland bar results coming out soon, whether it would a be good a long term career move to fail the bar.

October 15, 2010

Maryland Bar Exam Results 2010

Okay, Maryland's bar exam results for 2010 are not out yet. And you know they are not out yet. So why are you Googling it? It is a little obsessive, don't you think?

Here's the deal. First of all, you probably passed. Last July, 81% of the applicants passed the Maryland bar. The Maryland bar exam, relatively speaking, does not set the bar very high. I think you are in that top 81%. Yes, you. In fact, your chances are better than 81% because a small percentage of the 19% who will fail are trying to Google when the exam results are coming out.

Second, if by some crazy off chance you failed the bar, it will be a blow and an embarrassment to you. That would be awful, I totally get that. But in the years to come, no one will know or care. The list of people who have failed the bar exam in the past include a lot of people smarter than both of us. Above the Law provides a partial list of smart people who failed the bar and went on to do great things.

July 6, 2010

Computing Time Under the Federal Rules

This is a great article that sets out the changes in the Federal Rules on computing time. The new rules make more sense. You just have to know what they are.

May 5, 2010

Fantasy Supreme Court Pick

What do you make of the much circulated rumor that President Obama will nominate Alan Dershowitz to the Supreme Court this week? Of course, I'm completely making this up. The Internet is great. If you say something crazy enough, someone will pick it up and it will become the next hot rumor. Could modern society function without Snopes?

This leads me to another "we would not have conceived of this even 5 years ago" tidbit: there is a fantasy Supreme Court website where you can go and make your fantasy pick for Supreme Court justice. On his site, Josh Blackmon has photoshopped Elena Kagan into a picture with the other Supreme Court justices.

In other Supreme Court news, the court has closed the main entrance to the Supreme Court for security reasons. Two justices dissented from the decision. That sounds like another joke. But it is not. There really was a dissenting opinion.

One more big Supreme Court issue out there is televising Supreme Court oral arguments. Is there any chance Supreme Court arguments won't be televised in 2030? Obviously, keeping cameras out is the wrong side of history. We now know what Tiger Woods is eating for breakfast. Americans now demand more information. We want to see how the sausage is being made, particularly when it is our sausage. So without a compelling reason for keeping cameras out, I think it is time to make the people's court the people's court.

March 8, 2010

Good Monday Morning Maryland Legal Story

Great story in the Maryland Daily Record on a lawyer at Thomas & Libowitz P.A. in Baltimore, who is pursuing a master’s degree in theology while maintaining his law practice, hoping to serve as a pastoral life director or pastoral associate after he retires from practicing law.

March 3, 2010

Legal Job Market Still in the Tank

Newsflash: the legal job market is a jungle. According to the National Association of Law Placement, 2010 summer associate positions are at at least 17 year low (the NALP has only been collecting data for 17 years).

It is tough job market for new lawyers. But law students and young lawyers should keep in mind that the legal market has had peeks and valleys as long as anyone can remember. The market is going to change again and people scrambling for jobs are going to have their pick of good jobs. It is just hard to imagine right now if you have never seen the highs and lows.

November 16, 2009

Lawyer Marketing 2009

Above the Law has a post (with a picture) of an advertisement in a Minnesota airport where a law firm markets itself mimicking a nutritional ingredients label.

This law firm has apparently coined a new term to describe itself: an "expertique." Above the Law says this increases their "Obnoxious Lawyer Schtick" content from 0% to 15%.

I hate to attack anyone for going outside of the box in legal marketing. Outside the box can be a great thing. Every innovator when outside of the box. But it is important to keep in mind: they made the box for a reason. When you jump out of it, do so with great care.

October 21, 2009

Moronic Ranking of Law School

Hysterically, the Princeton Review has ranked how much out of class time law students at different schools spend studying. The hardest school to get into in the country might be Yale. Its students ranked last. Apparently, lazy pills are given at orientation.

Top ranked? Villanova. As Above the Law points out, its students cannot possibly average 7.5 hours of studying a day unless they are (a) skipping class or (b) really dumb.

These rankings are so useless I think even printing them is going to mislead the impressionable.

October 8, 2009

Cell Phone Rule Shot Down

The Maryland Daily Record reports that the state courts’ Rules Committee has rejected a proposed ban on cell phones in Maryland courthouses. I wrote about this proposed rule last week.

Good call. Not having cell phones at trial would have been a logistical disaster for trial lawyers.

This is the proposed rule that got shot down.

September 28, 2009

Maryland Association for Justice Case Evaluation Clinic

The Maryland Association of Justice is conducting a case evaluation clinic on Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association in Columbia. Maryland lawyers with personal injury cases may bring their case to a panel of seasoned Maryland personal injury lawyers for a case evaluation.

As you might expect, there are relatively inexperienced lawyers at the clinic looking for insight on their cases. But here is what you might not intuitively expect: often the most experienced lawyer at the table when a case is being evaluated is the lawyer who is getting the evaluation. Why? Because many of the top personal injury lawyers in Maryland are smart enough to know that you can get a great deal of benefit from discussing your case with other seasoned personal injury lawyers (at a fraction of what such a service should really cost).

September 28, 2009

Cell Phones and Court in Maryland: A New Proposed Rule

As long as the Internet has now been with us - a lifetime for all practical purposes for my law students today - everyone was caught flatfooted by the social media boom. (We were all foolish not to think of it sooner - we would be rich.) Like other jurisdictions, Maryland courts are looking at controlling the ramifications of Internet usage and social media interactions of jurors.

This is a draft of a new proposed Maryland Rule that will be on the agenda at the next Rules Committee meeting on October 2, 2009 in Annapolis.

August 31, 2009

Skadden Associate Can Sing

Am Law Litigation Daily has announced a winner to the "love anthem to your firm" competition. The winner was an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meager & Flom who wrote the unforgettable diddy "Skadden, You Gladden My Heart." Moments after winning the award, Skadden fired the associate because she "should be able to find something else to do" with her time.

Okay, not really. But that would have been a good big firm story that would be believed if you told it straight faced in a bar filled with big firm lawyers.

August 6, 2009

Starving a Horse to Death

Should you get disbarred for starving a horse to death and having no remorse for it? I vote yes.

In a related topic, the ABA Animal Law Section is putting out a very nice publication.

August 5, 2009

Brainwashed Associate

I think this guy is completely insane. I think you want associates that are completely dedicated to your firm. I just don't think the best associates are Patty Hearst brainwashed. But the article is full of great advice you could not think up on your own. "Associates should always strive to provide the partner with perfect work." Cutting edge stuff.

This blogger agrees with me. Yet I really don't agree with his post, either.

There's less risk involved in not sticking to the conventional MO at the firm. After all, it's unlikely you will last long there. It's even more unlikely you will become partner. What is likely if you are a shrewd player is that you will learn about practicing law and career strategy/tactics to make it just about anywhere in law. That could range from a solo practice to a top government position.

There has to be a middle ground between working 16 hours a week and assuming your big law job will fail so you should start angling for a "solo practice or a top government position." I'm certain I'm right about this.

July 31, 2009

Maryland Patents on the Rise

The Maryland Intellectual Property Law Blog reports that Marylanders seeking patents have increased by 1%. Let's just hope we are getting 1% smarter.