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Articles Posted in Law- General

Md-reporterLitigation is a deadline-centric business. There are deadlines for just about everything lawyers must do in a court case. The statute of limitations sets a deadline for filing the complaint. There are deadlines for filing expert witness designations, for the close of discovery, and for filing pleadings, motions, and appellate briefs. Nearly everything a trial lawyer does has a deadline imposed by the law, the rules of court, or a by court order.

You know who is in the litigation business but is not constrained by deadlines? Judges.

I think every lawyer has had the experience of filing something and it vanishes into the abyss, only to be heard from again when somebody finally gets around to it.

The Legal Profession Blog has a post linking to a lawyer discipline case from New York where an attorney was suspended for two years after being sanctioned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Even after the two years is up, he can only practice again after the entry of a court order allowing it.

This is a pretty serious sanction. What did he do? Steal from a client? Miss a filing deadline? Get a criminal conviction? Was he a tax cheat? Nope. He got suspended for being a terrible lawyer. The court noted that on multiple occasions he had submitted briefs of “shockingly poor quality.” Things like getting the names of his clients wrong, including irrelevant boilerplate, referencing evidence that was never submitted, and filing the work of a paralegal without reviewing it.

I am so happy to see a court take a stand like this. My practice is 100% litigation, and you would not believe the astonishingly poor quality of some of the written material I see submitted to both trial and appellate courts. I’m not talking about proofreading or citation errors. Everybody makes a mistake sometimes. I mean stuff so appalling that it is clear that no attempt was made to edit or even read it before filing.

If you have been injured in a car or truck accident in Maryland, it is easy to find a lawyer to take your case. Just about every general practice lawyer in the state handles auto accident cases to some extent, and can usually do a good job. But sometimes these lawyers get involved in cases that can’t be settled, and they may not have the experience or resources to take the case to trial.

That’s where we come in. We get involved in a lot of cases as referrals from other lawyers under Rule 1.5 fee-sharing agreements. The referring lawyer can stay as involved in the case as they wish- it can be a straight referral, or they can stay in the case through trial.

The best way for you to find out about what co-counseling with M&Z is like is directly from one of our referring lawyers. Here’s what one of our referring lawyers had to say about a case that we got involved in about 60 days before trial:

I’m writing from a hotel in Wicomico County (on Maryland’s Eastern Shore), where I will begin a two-day jury trial tomorrow morning.

Here’s a great tip for staying organized during trials, especially the ones that keep you away from the office for several days. I always bring a set of portable office supplies. I keep them in a black nylon case that fits right inside my laptop bag. Inside I have:

  • A travel-sized stapler

I just ran across an article in the ABA Journal that points out that only one state, Oregon, requires attorneys to be covered by malpractice insurance. There, lawyers must purchase at least $300,000 of coverage through a state fund.

Maryland Does Not Require Legal Malpractice Insurance

My state, Maryland, does not require it and never has. I know there are many, many lawyers “running bare”. I think this is colossally stupid. If the economics of your practice do not allow for the purchase of malpractice insurance, you might be in the wrong game.  If you are a personal injury lawyer handling large cases, it is particularly insane.

Emergency Personnel Need to Know Who to Call

When it comes to being hurt in an accident, we all think that it will never happen to us. It’s always the “other guy.” Nobody wants to prepare for when the unthinkable happens.

But if you are seriously injured or incapacitated in an accident, you want to make sure that the authorities are able to quickly contact your loved ones. Nobody wants to sit alone in a hospital or have a stranger making medical decisions because the authorities didn’t know who to notify. Now the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration allows you to add three emergency contacts to your personal information using your driver’s license number.

I am representing a client who has been deaf from birth. Unfortunately, he also suffers from a brain injury. The combination of the two makes communicating with him challenging under the best circumstances.

Most of us are familiar with the process of using an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter to communicate with deaf clients. However, I just became aware of another sort of interpreter that is invaluable for communicating with deaf clients who also have diminished or different communication skills. This is a Certified Deaf Interpreter or CDI.

ASL interpreters are hearing individuals who translate the spoken word into sign language. However, they cannot communicate with deaf people as effectively as another deaf person can. This is because every person signs differently, and because sign is often augmented by gestures and expressions. A CDI is another deaf person who is certified as an interpreter. They assist the deaf client in understanding and responding to the translation of the ASL interpreter. This is particularly helpful for people who have communication difficulties beyond deafness, like a diminished mental capacity.

Yesterday I spent some time doing a little year-end trimming of my internet favorites list.

Like most people, I keep a fairly extensive favorites list of websites that I use (or think I will). Some sites turn out to be extremely valuable, and I use them all the time. Others seem promising, but end up only being sporadically useful. I make cuts at the end of the year, taking sites that are rarely used off the list.

Here are some sites that made it onto my keeper list:

The Court of Appeals of Maryland has recently enacted a state-wide rule on the use and possession of cell phones and other electronic devices in courthouses.

Previously, possession and use of electronic devices was governed on a county-by-county basis and each court had its own rule. Some courts allowed everyone to have mobile devices, some restricted mobile devices to lawyers only, and some prohibited mobile devices entirely.

For lawyers with statewide practices (like me), this could be pretty confusing in terms of keeping track of whether I could have and use my own mobile device, and in terms of advising my clients about what they would be permitted to take into the courthouse. Sure there were signs, but they didn’t help much when you saw the sign on your way into the courthouse for a pre-trial conference and found out you would need to schedule a trial date without the calendar you stored electronically on your Blackberry. Yes, I am talking about you, Howard County.

Maryland has an increasingly diverse population. This means that our court system needs to keep pace with the needs of our residents. By law, this includes providing interpreter services to those who cannot communicate effectively in English.

Here is an article from the Baltimore Sun about how courts in Baltimore City and Baltimore County are addressing this issue.

Because my personal injury practice is statewide, I have noticed that some courts deal with the issue of providing interpreters more effectively than others. I have found Montgomery County to be most effective and best able to provide interpreters in many languages on short notice. I think this is because Montgomery County has long been one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the state, so they have developed substantial experience serving a variety of non-English speaking populations. There are generally Spanish interpreters available on a few minutes’ notice, and there is an established procedure for quickly and simply requesting interpreters in most languages, who actually show up when they are supposed to be there.