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Jurisdiction finally decided in LegalZoom suit (access required)

A judge has ruled that LegalZoom’s lawsuit against the N.C. State Bar belongs in the Business Court and the do-it-yourself legal website will not appeal the order, ending months of legal jousting over the proper venue for the closely watched case. Business Court Chief Justice John R. Jolly concluded in a Jan. 9 order that the suit qualifies as a mandatory complex business case because it involves issues of antitrust and anti-competition. The designation “is consistent with the spirit of the Removal Statute and the concept of the North Carolina Business Court,” Jolly wrote.

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ABA study focuses new attention on legislation to allow nonlawyer firm ownership in NC (access required)

The American Bar Association is poised to endorse nonlawyer ownership of law firms, which could jump-start stalled legislation in North Carolina that calls for allowing alternative practice structures. The ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 announced in early December that it was mulling tweaks to its model rules of professional conduct in response to U.S. firms increasingly doing business in countries that allow blended law firms. The District of Columbia is the only jurisdiction in the nation that permits nonlawyer ownership.

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New NLRB brings even more uncertainty for labor lawyers (access required)

WASHINGTON – One of the most contentious years in the National Labor Relations Board’s history ended amid controversy, and now 2012 has begun with a brand new political maelstrom that could spell more confusion and uncertainty for labor attorneys. When member Craig Becker’s term expired at the start of the year, it left the board with only two members: Chairman Mark G. Pearce and Brian Hayes. That put the board in peril, because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 2010 decision New Process Steel v. NLRB that the NLRB does not have the statutory authority to act with fewer than three members.

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Divided duties in oversight of lobbying prompts move to combine functions (access required)

North Carolina’s lobbying law authorizes the Secretary of State to administer its requirements, but interpretation of the law rests with the N.C. Ethics Commission. That division of labor gave Judge Paul C. Ridgeway an additional reason to set aside penalties levied against Don Beason, finding that the Secretary of State Elaine Marshall had exceeded her authority by determining that Beason had engaged in “lobbying” and assessing fines.

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Insurance rates are about to skyrocket, study says  (access required)

Insurance industry executives across the country are making a concerted effort to raise coverage rates and boost profits, and they plan to use natural disasters and sue-happy lawyers as scapegoats, according to a Dec. 15 study. Americans for Insurance Reform, a coalition of nearly 100 consumer and public interest groups, concludes in its study, “Repeat Offenders: How the Insurance Industry Manufactures Crises and Harms America,” that insurers periodically cry wolf not only to fatten their wallets but also bolster calls for tort reform.

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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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