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Contract attorneys a growing presence at firms  (access required)

Demand for contract attorneys is higher than ever and the work is expanding far beyond the menial scope of document review and electronic discovery, according to legal staffing agencies throughout the Carolinas. Over the last decade, an increasing number of law firms have turned to contract lawyers to handle temporary projects at relatively low pay rates. But the trend really accelerated during the last four or five years as the economy tanked and firms looked to cut costs and meet client expectations.

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Social media changes game in litigation  (access required)

Facebook is the new smoking gun. In Spokane, Wash., police use a thief’s posted video showing suspected stolen loot as evidence against him. In Suffolk County, N.Y., a judge admits photos and messages posted by a woman claiming to be homebound as a result of injuries from a defective office chair, showing her active and on vacation.

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It’s not easy being an expert these days  (access required)

Support firms have to readjust as tight times and tort reform alter the dynamics of litigation Tort reform and the stagnating economy have taken a toll on the expert business, though not necessarily to the extent some might expect. “With tort reform hitting hard in a lot of states, we’re seeing a big push towards mass tort work by the plaintiff’s bar,” said Eric Eckhardt, head of development and sales for Pennsylvania-based Robson Forensics. “So for example, if plaintiff’s lawyers can’t try a case effectively in Texas, they’re moving towards trying cases nationally. They’re networking with other plaintiff’s lawyers to get the payout.”

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Survey: Corporate legal spending shows upward movement  (access required)

For the first time in several years, corporate law departments appear to be loosening the purse strings when it comes to spending on both in-house staff and outside counsel, according to a recent survey. The 2011 Chief Legal Officer Survey of 176 corporate law departments throughout the country revealed that those departments, when taken as a whole, are increasing their overall budgets and spending more on outside legal services. While the survey statistics do not show dramatic spending increases, the numbers signal the start of a rebound for the legal industry, said Daniel J. DiLucchio, principal at Pennsylvania-based Altman Weil, a legal management consulting company that conducted the survey in October.

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More time, more money   (access required)

William Sanders was not yet 60 years old when the state Department of Transportation first identified his 700 acres as being in the path of the planned Fayetteville outer loop highway. This November, his lawyers, George and Stephanie Autry (pictured), finally settled the state’s claim on his property for an unprecedented $15.8 million. Sanders is now 78. Though he received a fair price, Sanders suffered from the passage of time. For close to 20 years he was deprived of the use and enjoyment of his property, prohibited by state law from selling, developing or disposing of it as he wished.

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Fertility clinic makes $3.3 million mistake   (access required)

An arbitration panel awarded more than $3 million to a married couple after a fertility clinic helped them conceive without warning the mother that she carried a deadly disease which could be passed on to her child. Reproductive Endocrinology Associates of Charlotte mishandled the results of a medical screening test that showed Sally Ware was a carrier of cystic fibrosis, and her daughter ended up inheriting the disease, according to Ware’s attorneys, William H. Elam (pictured) and David S. Rudolf of Charlotte.

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Court nixes homeowners’ association bid to buy golf courses  (access required)

A Craven County homeowners’ association cannot force its members to foot the bill for the purchase of two golf courses and other recreational amenities, the N.C. Court of Appeals has ruled. The Fairfield Harbour Property Owners Association in New Bern wanted to use the annual assessments it collects from members to buy the amenities. But several homeowners objected to the proposal, arguing that the association’s declarations barred it from using assessments to finance the deal.

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Alienation of affection not just a Carolina thing   (access required)

A Mississippi woman could not explain away 107 cell phone calls to a married man when she tried to set aside an $88,000 jury verdict against her in an alienation-of-affection lawsuit. Alienation of affection as a cause of action is a relic of the past in most states. Of the seven states that still recognize the tort, only in North Carolina and Mississippi do you see the victims of extramarital affairs pursuing such claims with any frequency. In 2009, Melissa Simmons discovered first-hand that Mississippi’s alienation-of-affection law still has some teeth when a Lowndes County Circuit Court jury awarded $88,000 in a lawsuit brought by Chrissy Strickland.

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Water authority wanted a do-over on property seizure, but didn’t get it  (access required)

There are no refunds in condemnation actions. That’s the hard lesson the Onslow County Water and Sewer Authority learned recently when it tried to back out of a deal for some 350 acres needed to expand a wastewater treatment facility. In April 2008, the authority condemned four tracts of land just outside of Richlands, owned by the Rogers and Boggs families. The authority appraised the tracts as farmland, and deposited $1.9 million as just compensation. Shortly after, the owners discovered that two of the tracts had significant limestone deposits underneath, and brought in a geologist to take samples.

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Court tells DOT to take whole parcel, not just a portion of land  (access required)

Seventeen years after the state Department of Transportation first identified her property as in the path of Raleigh’s 540 Outer Loop extension, Blanche Morris will finally get her just compensation. Morris, now almost 90, lived in the same farmhouse on Jenks Road in Apex for more than 60 years and moved out last year, after the Turnpike Authority filed its condemnation action and deposited $1,216,500. At that time, the authority took only a 27-acre parcel that fronted Jenks Road and through which the roadway passed directly.

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