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In-house counsel hate surprises but love communication

Building rapport and maintaining constant communication are the keys to sustaining a healthy business relationship between in-house and outside counsel, panelists said at Lawyers Weekly's Business and Law Breakfast Wednesday. About 40 people gathered at the Marriott City Center hotel in downtown Raleigh as panelists Jay Campbell, executive director of the N.C. Board of Pharmacy; Ken Hammer, general counsel and vice president of corporate governance at DataFlux Corp.; and Jeff Miller, vice president, general counsel and secretary of Highwoods Properties discussed the most effective ways for outside firms to attract in-house business.

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Repeat DWI offenders may face enhanced penalties (access required)

A bill that Shelby attorney and state Rep. Tim Moore is sponsoring would enhance penalties for certain DWI offenders, but some attorneys say the bill ties the hands of judges and won't cut down on drunk driving in the state. Moore, R-Cleveland, was joined by Michelle Armstrong (pictured) at a press conference to unveil the bill on Feb. 8. Armstrong's 17-year-old daughter, Laura Fortenberry, was killed July 25 when a vehicle driven by Howard Clay Pasour allegedly crossed the centerline and struck Fortenberry's car head-on in Gaston County.

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Push for ban on cell phone use while driving is on (access required)

With texting behind the wheel already outlawed in North Carolina for more than a year, two new bills have been introduced in the legislature this year to ban cell phone use while driving. H. 31, titled "An act to make using a mobile phone unlawful while driving a motor vehicle on a public street or highway or public vehicular area," sponsored by Reps. Garland E. Pierce, D-Hoke, and Charles Graham, D-Robeson, was filed in the house on Feb. 2 and passed first reading on Feb. 3. It was referred to the committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House.

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Fear of cuts leads to early departures from courts (access required)

In a pre-emptive move to soften the blow of expected budget cuts, the Administrative Office of the Courts implemented a voluntary reduction-in-force earlier this month, directing hiring managers - judges, clerks and district attorneys - to offer severance packages to employees who might benefit. Mary Beth Grady (pictured), civil division chief for the Wake County Clerk of Superior Court, is among those who accepted. She said that in some ways, it wasn't a tough decision to make since she had planned on retiring soon.

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Case on Miranda warnings in schools goes to highest court (access required)

A case out of North Carolina about to go before the U.S. Supreme Court could set a precedent on whether a juvenile's age should be considered in a Miranda custody analysis. Marsha Levick (pictured), deputy director and chief counsel of the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Justice Center, said that although the question before the court is limited to age, her organization was also interested in the fact that the case involved an interrogation on school property. Levick said it was important to raise the issue of the school setting to help give the justices a context in which to view the case.

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No liability for device makers in Buncombe distracted driver crash (access required)

Two companies that manufacture communications devices for truck drivers have been dismissed from a lawsuit brought by plaintiffs injured in a 2008 accident on Interstate 40 in Buncombe County. U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Howell had recommended that Geologic Solutions, Inc.'s and Xata Corporation's 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss be allowed because the plaintiffs failed to state a recognized cause of action, and a U.S. district judge recently adopted that view. Asheville attorney Brady J. Fulton (pictured) said the ruling could be used as precedent by attorneys representing manufacturers in all manner of distracted driver injury cases.

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Web-based technology setting next stage for trial prep (access required)

Technology has revolutionized many parts of the legal industry, and trial presentation is no exception. Not long ago, hiring a trial presentation company was necessary for even the simplest needs due to high costs and the expertise required to operate software programs. Times have certainly changed. Now, myriad do-it-yourself solutions have hit the market, Microsoft PowerPoint is widely popular and hardware costs continue to shrink, all making it more feasible for law firms and corporate counsel to craft homespun solutions for their trial presentation needs.

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Experts for hire: Womble Carlyle’s litigation support team is not just in-house (access required)

When Cris Windham arrived at Womble Carlyle 25 years ago, he got involved in the firm's tobacco litigation and quickly began to see the need for in-house medical experts. A litigation support team that included nurses and other experts to assist the firm's attorneys in developing medical defenses was assembled. Over the years, it grew. And grew. Today, Womble Carlyle's litigation support team is not only an in-house function. It is a subsidiary of the law firm in the form of FirmLogic, with services available not only to Womble Carlyle but also to other lawyers and firms. It's an unusual set-up. Womble Carlyle is one of only a few large law firms in the nation that offers their own in-house support services to other lawyers.

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Iraqi plaintiffs in Blackwater case may get trial in Wake County (access required)

By PAUL THARP, Staff Writer paul.tharp@nc.lawyersweekly.com Foreign plaintiffs suing the N.C.-based company formerly known as Blackwater Security Consulting are prepared to return to Wake County Superior Court after a federal judge remanded the case from the U.S. District Court for ...

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4th Circuit: Offer letter didn’t moot overtime case (access required)

The "junior asset managers" of a Charlotte mortgage-servicing firm answered phones and collected payments. They didn't supervise others, didn't make final decisions on how to process accounts - and at one point they were asked to fill out time cards to document their hours. Yet the workers at United Mortgage and Loan Investment routinely were asked to work more than 40 hours a week and were deemed exempt from federal wage and hour laws that require overtime pay.

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