The State of Litigation

Overlawyered today provides a link to this article in Roger Parloff's blog at Fortune

The nation's leading class-action lawyer, Bill Lerach, is currently in
an ugly scrape in federal court in Dallas, where the sole lead
plaintiff in a high-profile shareholder suit against Halliburton (HAL)
no longer wants Lerach or his firm to act as its co-lead counsel. (I've
posted about it before here and here.)
To recap, the fund has said that it is concerned about all the
distractions and the sleaze factor now surrounding Lerach and his prior
firm, Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach (which Lerach co-ran)...

The squeamish plaintiff, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee
Supporting Fund, has asked that Lerach Coughlin be replaced by David
Boies and his firm, Boies Schiller & Flexner, which firm has
indicated that it is ready, willing, and able to assume the role.

Needless to say, Lerach is fighting the uppity plaintiff to keep control of the case.

Parloff goes on to question some of Lerach's statements in the case.  However, I want to make a different point.  This points out fairly clearly that Lerach and other top litigators have adopted a whole new theory of litigation and of the relationship between lawyer and client.

It used to be that clients would suffer some sort of injury and seek redress in the courts.  To do so, they would hire an attorney to help them.  The attorney was the hired help, compensated either hourly or via a percentage of any awards.

Today, the situation is often reversed.  It is the attorney who is identifying lawsuit targets for class actions and shareholder suits, and then seeking out clients who can maximize his chances of success.  Clients, who typically make orders of magnitude less than the attorney in class actions (think 50-cent coupons and $8 million attorney fees) are selected because they are sympathetic, or give access to a particularly plaintiff-attractive jurisdiction, or, in cases such as ADA suits in California, because they have effectively become partners with the attorney in serial torts.

So if you wonder why Lerach is suing his client for not using his services, and if that makes you wonder who is working for whom, now you know.

Update: By the way, this reversal of the relationship between attorney and client is one of the recurring themes in my novel BMOC.

  • dearieme

    "co-lead", "co-ran": what's that all about?