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City or suburbs? Firms see benefits in both settings (access required)

When Smith Anderson's lease in a downtown Raleigh building came up for renewal this year, the firm had its pick. The recession had pushed rents lower, and high vacancy rates made it a tenant's market. But after a decision-making process that included looking at locations both in and out of town, North Carolina's ninth largest law firm decided to stay put, keeping its staff of over 200 in the Wachovia building on Fayetteville Street. "We looked at existing buildings in Raleigh and the Triangle," said Carl Patterson Jr., managing partner of Smith Anderson Blount Dorsett Mitchell & Jernigan, speaking from his office in the rose-slate tower that helped redefine Raleigh's skyline. "But this is right in the middle of state government, the legislature. The Department of Revenue is here. Our clients interface with them all the time, and that's where we need to be."

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Title insurers feel continued pinch of Great Recession (access required)

After a decade of rising revenue, title insurance companies operating in North Carolina saw their numbers fall for the second straight year in 2009. Direct title insurance premiums earned fell to below $115 million for the first time since 2003 after a record high in 2007 of $168 million. Direct premiums earned in 2008 totaled $145 million. Chapel Hill-based Investors Title Insurance Company had the largest market share of N.C. title insurers, with 24.1 percent. It earned $26.8 million in premiums.

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New Bar president’s career path started on a tank in Vietnam (access required)

Tony di Santi was in a tank in Vietnam wondering what he would do with his life after he returned from the war when, suddenly, a memory from childhood brought him back to his hometown of Hendersonville. He couldn't have been more than 13 on that day when he accompanied his mother to see a lawyer in town. He didn't remember the subject of the visit - it might have had something to do with his father not paying child support. "I just remembered how clearly relieved she was when we came home that this man was going to help us," di Santi said. That memory was the beginning of his ambition to become an attorney, and the start of a path that led him to be sworn in as the president of the N.C. State Bar.

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Discovery waives mandatory arbitration clause, court holds (access required)

A nursing home waived its right to compel arbitration after it used interrogatories to seek information from the plaintiff in a negligence suit, the Court of Appeals has ruled in an unpublished decision. "If you send discovery that is not necessarily going to be available in arbitration, you cannot then turn around and seek to compel arbitration," said the plaintiff's lawyer, Sam McGee (pictured). "The defense tried to distinguish [this case] from other cases by arguing that ‘this was only one little set of interrogatories.' But there is no magic number of interrogatories."

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Class action challenges LPS’ grip on foreclosures (access required)

Ever heard of LPS? Many attorneys haven't. But LPS - Lender Processing Services, Inc. - and like business entities exercise more day-to-day control over the conduct of bankruptcy, default and foreclosure cases in North Carolina and beyond than actual "clients." At least that is what several recent lawsuits allege. Shelby-based bankruptcy and foreclosure defense attorney O. Max Gardner III (pictured) said LPS and other providers are "very concerned about network lawyers discussing anything with outside entities."

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Ethics Committee nixes lawyer’s Web marketing strategy (access required)

Internet marketing is nothing new, but a few attorneys in North Carolina are trying a tactic that has caught the attention of the N.C. State Bar. It works like this: A lawyer purchases a keyword or a phrase though Google's AdWords service so that when a consumer types in that keyword or phrase, the attorney's ad pops up on the screen along with the search engine results. Attorney J. Mark Wilson (pictured) believes the marketing tactic could lead to possible trademark infringement cases.

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Reversal sends suit over $2.3 million fee back to Union County (access required)

Charlotte attorney James B. Gatehouse of Rayburn Cooper & Durham said he always hopes for an amicable result in litigation, especially in complicated construction matters. That said, "I anticipate that this one will be tried," Gatehouse said of Signature Development, LLC v. Sandler Commercial at Union, LLC (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-07-1057, 33 pp.).

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