Litigating against Goliath PLLC

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 15, 2014 in The After-3L Life | Subscribe

Samson and I get a lot of law-related magazines each month at the TDot Household.

From the American Bar Association there’s the ABA Journal, GPSolo, and The Young Lawyer (now restyled “tyl”). The Federal Bar Association sends me The Federal Lawyer. With the NC Bar Association there’s the quarterly NC Lawyer and the NCBA YLD’s The Advocate. The State Bar itself sends the quarterly State Bar Journal. Then of course there’s the must-read NC Lawyers Weekly that comes every Monday.

(And that’s just the stuff that arrives in the mailbox. There are a half-dozen more e-newsletters I get in my inbox, whether I’ve signed up for them or not :beatup: )

So with all that stuff to read — stuff that takes time away from reading case law and client-focused things — it’s not unusual for me to be a few days/weeks/months behind. Then one day over breakfast or lunch or dinner I’ll randomly decide I’m actually going to try and read something from the backlog.

Yesterday was one of those days. I’m eating a sausage biscuit for breakfast, open up the latest copy of the ABA Journal, get to the Letters to the Editor section, and notice one of the letters is about an attorney “Hunoval” touting Lean Six Sigma as a way to run a law firm.

He just happened to share the last name of a firm I’ve got a case against in US District Court for the Middle District of NC.1 And, given how uncommon the name is, I say aloud to myself “I wonder if this is the same firm?”, go digging for my March edition of the ABA Journal,2 and find this multi-page firm profile confirming it’s the same firm and going into detail on their process.

Now there’s nothing I can really say about the Hunoval Law Firm itself that wouldn’t get misconstrued.3 So this post isn’t about them per se, but rather about the ABA Journal’s fawning coverage of using Lean Six Sigma in a litigation-heavy law firm.

Is this really the recipe we want for running future firms, especially ones who regularly use the courts?

The thing about statistical processing is that, by definition, it ignores the individual in favor of the group. Cases get transformed from individual people with individual problems to cookie cutter file batches subjected to cookie cutter solutions.

And while I have -0- doubt that certainly does improve speed and efficiency, I’m not convinced it necessarily also yields quality or ethical litigation.

Take my client’s case as an example. Without getting into too much detail about the merits, it’s self-evident from the exhibits attached to our injunction request (and our reply to the Defendants’ response to that request) that something is very clearly “off” with the mortgagee’s accounting. The same mortgagee likely handles hundreds, if not thousands, of accounts; this one account happens to have a problem.

In a situation like that, one would hope an individual person could recognize the individual account has an individual problem and then tailor an individual solution.

Instead — no doubt from using the same principles of statistics-driven efficiency touted by the ABA Journal’s fluff piece — the mortgagee still can’t get things right years later, the account has been the subject of litigation since 2010 across multiple state and federal courts,4 and it will continue at least until we get to trial in April 2015.

The individual has been lost in the shuffle, even though “the individual” is ultimately what any given lawsuit revolves around.

Look, I’m all for saving my clients money and being more efficient.

But I’m also in favor of being an excellent lawyer. And that comes first on my hierarchy of career-related aspirations.

  1. If you’ve got a PACER account, take a look when you get bored — the case name is Annette M. Hayes v. Self-Help Credit Union, RoundPoint Mortgage Servicing Corporation, Five Brothers Mortgage Company Services and Securing Inc, and Douglas Allan Stuart a/k/a “D.A. Stuart”. The file number is 1:13-cv-880 (MDNC). []
  2. Which at that point I still hadn’t read :beatup: []
  3. Praise them and I’m just buttering them up to settle; criticize them and I’m just sharing sour grapes over them not settling. Either way we lose. []
  4. A foreclosure case in Wilson County Superior Court, a federal bankruptcy filing in EDNC, our tort suit in Durham County Superior Court removed to MDNC, and a new foreclosure case in Wilson County Superior Court (filed to pressure us to settle). There’s no telling how many trees have died over just this one account… :crack: []

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