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Private college organization watches campus police case (access required)

It started out as a simple DWI arrest on the campus of Davidson College. Five years later, it's turned into a First Amendment case that could put into jeopardy the ability of many of North Carolina's private colleges and universities to have their own police forces. The case of State v. Yencer received coverage in the Chronicle of Higher Education, considered the paper of record in the world of higher education. Private college and university campuses in other states "are watching it very closely," said Hope Williams (pictured), president of the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, an advocacy group for the state's 36 private post-secondary schools.

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Ethics Committee grapples with pop-ups, Groupon and Google (access required)

Watch the pop-ups. That's the word from the N.C. State Bar's Ethics Committee, which is looking into the use of live-chat services on attorney websites - specifically, whether the use of a live-chat button would violate Rule 7.3(a), which provides that an attorney may not solicit business by "in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact." A staff opinion discussed at Thursday's Ethics Committee meeting says that it's fine for a lawyer to use a live-chat support service, the kind that typically features a button accompanied by "Click here to chat live online."

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Ruling: Trial courts may take judicial notice of customary rates (access required)

In what may be a first for North Carolina appellate courts, the Court of Appeals has held that trial courts weighing attorney's fee applications under G.S. § 50-13.6 may take judicial notice of "the customary hourly rates of local attorneys performing the same services and having the same experience." Writing for the court in Simpson v. Simpson, Judge Martha Geer cautioned that trial courts are not required to take judicial notice of customary hourly rates. Concord attorney James R. DeMay (pictured) said that the holding "brings North Carolina in line with what's been the rule of law in nearly every other state that has considered this issue."

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Firm outfits lounge to lift morale, build staff cohesiveness (access required)

Your eyes are fatigued from fluorescent lighting. Clients have been making tough demands all day long. You need to get away. Next stop, the No Work Zone. By month's end, that's where attorneys and staff at Smith Moore Leatherwood in Raleigh will be able to go in order to take a breather. The firm is in the process of converting an old supply room into an employee lounge replete with a sofa, rugs, TV, soft lighting from lamps, a computer and an aquarium. It's all part of an effort by an office group that is responsible for coming up with creative, out-of-the-box activities for lawyers and staff to do together.

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LegalZoom now partnering with lawyers and firms (access required)

LegalZoom has launched a partnership with lawyers and law firms that could make it the largest law firm in the United States, according to one observer. Florida attorney Richard Granat wrote in his e-lawyering blog on Jan. 5 that LegalZoom may be seeking to link "its marketing capabilities to a network of law firms that offer legal services under the LegalZoom brand." LegalZoom Vice President and General Counsel Chas Rampenthal (pictured) confirmed that LegalZoom is "testing concepts that would connect our marketing strength with a network of law firms."

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Injuries from wreck triggered by yellow jacket stings compensable (access required)

First the yellow jackets attacked. But that wasn't the worst part. A city of Raleigh employee who was stung 30 times while in the course of his work duties became lightheaded after the stings, and when he left work, he drove off the road and into a tree. The employee didn't remember the accident, and a police investigation found no skid marks and said he had not even applied the brakes before impact. So is the injury from the car crash - a fractured ankle - compensable? The N.C. Industrial Commission said yes, and in an unpublished opinion filed Jan. 4, the N.C. Court of Appeals upheld the ruling.

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Age claim that beat summary judgment gets noticed nationwide (access required)

A 46-year-old Alexander County emergency medical services supervisor who was demoted when his team failed to meet a targeted response time has a triable case of age discrimination, a federal judge ruled late last month. The case, Fox v. Alexander County, has drawn national attention among labor lawyers because the plaintiff survived a summary-judgment motion from the employer - an unusual event in federal court. "It's pretty noteworthy," said the plaintiff's attorney, Joshua Van Kampen (pictured). "The employer-discrimination firms are very adept at getting these cases dismissed."

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New lawyers face required first-time CLEs (access required)

Out of concern that more and more new attorneys don't know the basics of how to set up a practice and serve their clients, the N.C. State Bar is requiring new lawyers who have just passed the bar exam to take 12 hours of specialized CLE courses designed to teach them the fundamentals of practicing law and professionalism. "Back in the day, they got out of law school, were hired at a firm and had someone to mentor them," said Debra Holland, assistant director of the N.C. State Bar's CLE Board. "But with the economy, more new lawyers are hanging out their own shingle."

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Legal career path adds intersections, off ramps (access required)

Charlotte attorney Gene Pridgen graduated from law school in 1978 with a clear-cut career path in front of him. He'd clerked for the large firm of Kennedy Covington - now K&L Gates - the previous summer and received a subsequent offer for a position as an associate. Five years later, he made partner. Pridgen called his longevity at the firm typical for lawyers of his generation. But times have changed. New lawyers who aspire to ascend the ranks at large firms may not follow the straight-arrow path to partnership that attorneys once did, opting instead for lateral moves or taking experimental detours into government or in-house work.

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Feds want to study feasibility of national land recordation system (access required)

The Department of Housing and Urban Development may be ordered to conduct a study of the feasibility of establishing a federal land recordation system in response to concerns over the performance of the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems. The proposed study is tacked on the end of the outgoing Congress' H.R. 6460, the Transparency and Security in Mortgage Registration Act of 2010, a bill sponsored by Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio.

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