Just How Scary Am I? — Wacky Big Firm Behavior

Oh, the wacky, wacky things big firms do.

My firm just took over a business litigation matter that has been going on for about eight months. It’s the usual nonsense where my client left a company and the company doesn't want him to compete, so it is claiming he took trade secrets. I've had probably 50 of these over the years, and never once has the strategy worked. They try to beat the client into the ground, and when it doesn't work, they slunk away. Shame on the attorneys who prosecute these cases.

But this one is getting entertaining very quickly. The Plaintiff company is represented by what appears to be a huge firm. I’d never heard of the firm before this action, but they list 30 offices on their letterhead, with offices all over the globe, and five here in California.

In typical fashion for some big firms, every time we've been to court, at least two attorneys have shown up from the other side.I learned that they staff every hearing with multiple attorneys when I attended the first ex parte hearing. It was on a day that there is no regular law and motion, so entering the courtroom I knew all the attorneys would be there for ex parte hearings. When I entered there were two attorneys sitting there, so I was pleased that there were only going to be two matters heard. As it turned out, they were both there from the other side on this one ex parte. As it also turned out, the judge wasn't there, and the clerk told us we could all leave and the judge would notify us of the outcome later in the day. So, they probably billed the client $2,000 to have two attorneys act as a messenger service, delivering the documents to the court.

But the fun really began when I noticed a deposition of a third party witness. First, they responded with a protective order, asking the court to prohibit me from taking the deposition. The basis? Eight months into the action, they feel like they may not have all the discovery they need, and they don’t want to have to take the deposition of this witness until they are comfortable that they have everything. This witness could have been deposed at the commencement of the action. There is no “you don’t get to take any depositions until we have everything we want” rule. I got to take the deposition (although the court did say they could take his deposition again later).

Then they went to court – twice – on a pro hac vice application. I don’t know what went on behind the scenes, but they noticed an ex parte hearing to ask for the pro hac vice application to be heard on shortened notice, took it off calendar, and then brought it again.

The basis for the application? Since I am taking the deposition of a witness, and since I am apparently very scary, there is no one in any of their five California offices who can attend the deposition, there is no one in their 25 other offices who can attend the deposition, there is not even one attorney in California from another firm who would dare defend a deposition against me. According to their application, the only appropriate attorney to sit at the table across from me is someone from another firm in New York. (As the salsa commercial says, “New York City?!”)

How embarrassing is that?

Dear client, although our office and our attorneys have been handling your matter for the past eight months, we don’t really feel comfortable sending one of our attorneys to this deposition, so we've located an attorney in New York, not from our New York office but from another firm, who we think can handle this deposition. First we’re going to bill you (twice) to bring an ex parte application to have our pro hac vice application heard, then we’ll bill you to bring the motion itself, and then this other firm will bill you to bring this New York attorney up to speed on the case, and to fly her out to California for what will probably be a two hour deposition. Best wishes.

In defense of the firm, it could be that the company has some relationship with this attorney and requested her. That seems unlikely since this is a California case, but I’m trying to attach some explanation to this inexplicable behavior. But even if that is true, isn't that still incredibly embarrassing? That just means that the client didn't feel comfortable enough to let the firm attend the deposition, and would rather spend thousands of dollars bringing in an attorney from another firm to handle a simple deposition.

Can you make any sense of this?

One thought on “Just How Scary Am I? — Wacky Big Firm Behavior

  1. When I was a waiter, we called it “building the check.” Adding on whatever you can to squeeze more money out of the mark…I mean client.

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