Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kim Bick Becomes Senior Counsel at Irell & Manella

Montage Legal Group is thrilled to announce that freelance environmental attorney Kimberly Bick has accepted a position as Senior Counsel with Irell & Manella, LLP in Newport Beach.

Before attending law school, Kim worked as an environmental engineer for aerospace company McDonnell Douglas Corp., developing and implementing compliance programs for air, water and hazardous waste. She also represented the company, which merged with Boeing in 2007, in Superfund cleanup projects in California.  

Bick earned her law degree from Stanford University in 1990, and clerked for Judge Patricia Wald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia before joining Covington & Burling LLP.  Kim then practiced environmental law at Morrison & Foerster and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, in Orange County, before taking a hiatus from law firm life to focus on her family.  Kim joined Montage Legal Group in early 2011 for support as she continued to build her environmental practice.

“Montage Legal Group was instrumental in helping me manage and grow my practice and eventually transition back to a full-time law firm position.  Montage Legal is an excellent resource for attorneys, law firms, and their clients.  I fully support Montage’s outstanding and innovative business model,” says Bick.

As Irell's senior environmental attorney, Kim will focus on environmental compliance issues and environmental litigation, as well as advising real estate and corporate clients on risk allocation in their transactions.  Her goal is to build the firm's environmental practice and take the firm into the next decade representing clients in cutting edge areas of environmental law.

To read more about Kim’s exciting new position at Irell & Manella, see the August 30, 2011 article in Law360.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Malpractice Action Against McDermott, Will & Emery Highlights Need for Experienced Contract Attorneys

By Isabelle Smith and Erin Giglia

Due to the rising expense of E-Discovery, as well as the pressure put on by clients to keep costs down, law firms have turned to contract attorneys to conduct document review in large, document-intensive litigation.  In the course of a single document request, attorneys may have to review hundreds of thousands of documents for relevance and privilege.  Many clients simply refuse to pay law firm associate rates to conduct such a review.  To minimize costs to their clients, law firms often hire contract attorneys, who typically charge significantly lower hourly rates than law firms charge for associate time.  

There are risks associated with outsourcing what may seem like a mundane task to contract attorneys, who may not be as experienced or supervised as closely as associates.  Any attorney who has been involved in a privilege review understands the stakes -- a client's confidential, proprietary documents, as well as documents subject to the attorney-client privilege.  It is imperative that privileged documents remain so due to the danger that waiver in one case can lead to indefinite waiver.  J-M Manufacturing alleges exactly that in a lawsuit filed against McDermott, Will & Emery. 

According to a well-publicized lawsuit J-M filed June 2 in a state court in Los Angeles, McDermott improperly produced privileged and other documents -- all because it did not thoroughly supervise and review the work of the contract attorneys who conducted the privilege review.  The Wall Street Journal reports that the lawsuit alleges that McDermott's outside contract attorneys "negligently performed their duties" while screening documents.  The newspaper states the suit, "is seen in the industry as an important case concerning the quality of work performed by a growing cadre of temp lawyers who are paid as little as $25 to $30 an hour to review documents." 

This case is currently active, so the facts have not played out.  But the lawsuit itself provides take-away lessons.  First, it is crucial to properly direct and supervise lower level attorneys, contract or otherwise.  Supervision will vary depending on the task and the attorneys involved.  Several legal ethics opinions have articulated that the hiring attorney is ultimately responsible for, and adopts the contract attorney's work product as their own.  See COPRAC Formal Opinion 1992-126.  

Second, firms need to be aware of their contract attorneys' backgrounds, experience, education, and training, and must meet it's ethical duty to perform all legal services competently.   See California Rule of Professional Conduct 3-110 (A), which states, " A member shall not intentionally, recklessly, or repeatedly fail to perform legal services with competence."  Rule 3-110 (B) defines "competence" as the "diligence, learning and skill, and mental, emotional, and physical ability reasonably necessary for the performance of such service."  See also,  ABA Model Rule 1.1, which states, "A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client.  Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation; and COPRAC Formal Opinion 1992-126.  The ABA has commented on the importance of using only skilled contract attorneys in Formal Ethics Opinion 08-451, "There is nothing unethical about outsourcing legal...services, provided the outsourcing lawyer renders legal services to the client with the 'legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation,' as required by Model Rule 1.1."   

While law firms and clients may be tempted by inexpensive hourly rates, the adage - "Buyer Beware" certainly applies.  So where does that leave clients and law firms who simply cannot afford the costs of associate time, but are concerned about using inexperienced, cheap contract attorneys?  The risk associated with hiring contract attorneys can be greatly diminished by hiring experienced freelance attorneys who have the background and skill set to perform the tasks, but whose rates are well under that of law firm associates.  Experienced freelance attorneys may be more expensive than contract/temp attorneys, but are a worthwhile investment to assist law firms with large-scale legal work.

It would be a mistake for law firms and clients to close the door on outsourcing legal work.  The lesson learned at this early stage of the McDermott lawsuit is to hire experienced freelance attorneys, and as always, to properly direct and supervise attorneys.

Isabelle Carrillo Smith

Isabelle Smith, the first former partner to join Montage Legal Group, obtained her law degree from University of California, Hastings in 1998 and served as the Executive Editor of the Hastings Law Journal.   She was a partner in the Global Litigation Group of Howrey,  specializing in complex business litigation, with a particular focus on professional liability disputes and securities matters.  Isabelle has represented and counseled law firms in legal malpractice disputes, and Fortune 500 companies and start-ups in securities class actions, derivative suits, corporate governance, antitrust, merger and acquisition disputes, unfair business practices, and trade secrets.   In 2006 and 2007, Isabelle was named a Southern California Super Lawyer Rising Star by Law & Politics Magazine.  She was also named Pro Bono Partner of the Year by Howrey, LLP's Irvine office.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Montage Attorneys Help Law Students Become Effective Appellate Advocates

On August 3, Montage’s appellate attorneys, Kate Mayer Mangan and Heather Arambarri, served as justices in a moot court at California Western School of Law in San Diego.  The moot court was the final project for the school’s Appellate Advocacy class, a summer program for first year students.  In an effort to simulate the appellate court environment, the attorneys posed tough questions to the students throughout the presentations and challenged the students to make policy-based arguments to the panel.  Kate and Heather gave individualized feedback to the students, providing guidance on ways to improve the presentation and tailor it for the appellate court. 

Kate and Heather were thoroughly impressed with the skill level demonstrated by the students.  At the end of the evening, both women commented that the students’ advocacy skills were so developed that it was difficult to believe the advocates were first year law students!

Heather Arambarri graduated from the University of Southern California, and obtained her J.D. from Loyola Law School.  Heather previously practiced appellate law for the California Attorney General's Office, eventually leading and supervising a specialized team designed to work on writs and appeals.  Heather has argued many times before the Second and Fourth Districts of the California Court of Appeal, and the California Supreme Court. 
Kate Mangan graduated summa cum laude from Pomona College, and was in the top 1% of her class at Georgetown University Law Center.  At Georgetown, Kate was an executive editor of, and was published in, Georgetown Law Journal.  After law school, Kate clerked for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 2004-2005, and was a trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice in the Environmental Enforcement Section from 2005-2006.  Kate previously practiced appellate law at Latham & Watkins San Diego office.  Kate also founded the Appellate Legal Clinic at the University of San Diego School of Law.