Comments on: The hardship of pro bono clients, Steven Simkin edition A slice of lime in the soda Sun, 26 Oct 2014 19:05:02 +0000 hourly 1 By: EricVincent Tue, 31 May 2011 22:36:49 +0000 It will be really shocking if the court does not summarily dismiss this suit. Typically courts treat contracts seriously, and are alive to attempts to utilize obscure logic such as the one in this suit in order to game a financial payday from a ruling. Maybe Simkin’s partners are just trying to make their dilapidated colleague feel better. But contracts don’t get all rubbery when one of the parties loses all his savings at a casino, even if that casino happened to rent a swanky office in the Lipstick building.

By: ErnieD Tue, 31 May 2011 19:58:50 +0000 Since Mr. Weiss is undergoing “extreme hardship”, then it is obvious that he would qualify for the pro bono guidelines.

After all, “limited means” is as undefined as “extreme hardship”. It is quite clear that Mr. Weiss could not make a buy out offer today for, say Berkshire Hathaway or Google, ergo he is clearly of limited means.

By: jbernar Tue, 31 May 2011 19:51:55 +0000 Can’t/Won’t comment on the specifics, but simply as a point of information, asking the lawyers among FS’s readers….

Wouldn’t ANY profits from a Madoff investment be taken back by the trustee to be divided among the entire body of those who lost money (including the husband, and the wife’s proportion of the pre-divorce investment)? Quite apart from the divorce settlement?

By: jomiku Tue, 31 May 2011 19:41:12 +0000 This might be a novel legal question: is an agreement reached voidable because the parties were defrauded by an outsider after the fact. There is no doubt an agreement was reached; they got divorced and the settlement was done. There was no fraud by either party. There was no misunderstanding by one party about what was agreed. The idea seems to be that one can treat the Madoff fraud as different from say a hurricane. To explain, let’s say you divide the property and one gets the beach house and then after the divorce a hurricane destroys the house. One can say one took on the risk, but is that enough of a difference to matter? What if there had never been hurricane damage there? What if it was a once in a million tsunami? What if a giant squid came out of the ocean and squashed the house with an arm? Is the unforseeability of Madoff’s fraud enough of a difference to allow reopening a closed case in which everyone would acknowledge an agreement was reached? I used “unforeseeable” because the law deals in what is and is not forseeable. I don’t see how one can reward a party for the unforeseeable.

By: klhoughton Tue, 31 May 2011 19:07:34 +0000 alkali’s spot on for tradition: do the work for the partner, but don’t count it toward official reckoning of pro bono work. (Would not at all be surprised if such were a Contractual Obligation of the Firm to its partners.)

That said, arguing that asset values you accepted at time(0) have declined at time(1) is a question of investment, not divorce. This is not a case where expenses or lifestyles had to change; it’s a case where Simkin said, “Yes, honey, I’ll keep the Madoff investment, you get the home in Amagansett (or similar).”

The precedent of being able to renegotiate a divorce settlement because you’re an idiot as an investor is not one we should expect the courts to look on favorably.

By: alkali Tue, 31 May 2011 16:33:49 +0000 “Do you represent all your partners for free when they get into litigation with their exes?”

I don’t know anything specifically about Paul Weiss, but it is actually pretty common for law firms to represent their partners without charge if they can conveniently do so. Law firms are, after all, owned by their partners, so it’s not like they are diverting profits from third party shareholders.

(Likewise, I would guess that architectural firms do home design work for their partners without charge, and that accounting firms do their partners’ tax returns without charge.)

“Does the work you’re doing on the Simkin case count towards the total pro bono hours that you’re reporting to the New York City bar?”

Again, I don’t know anything specifically about Paul Weiss, but I assume not. The Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Challenge has a standard definition of pro bono that focuses on representation of the indigent and entities that serve the indigent, and law firms generally use that standard or something similar when reporting their pro bono activity.