When it comes to the issue of legal malpractice, many people invariably conjure up thoughts of solo practitioners making critical errors in cases owing to a crippling workload, inexperience, negligence or some combination thereof.
While it’s true that solo practitioners are indeed likely to make legal errors for any of these reasons, it’s also true that attorneys who work at larger firms are in no way immune to these same sorts of legal errors. Indeed, this is true even of those attorneys working at firms that could be readily classified as “high-powered.”
To illustrate, consider a legal malpractice case filed by the celebrated rapper 50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, against a large law firm he retained to represent him in a legal dispute over headphones.
According to the facts of the case, Jackson teamed up with headphone manufacturer Sleek Audio back in 2010 to produce his own line of branded headphones. After the two parties failed to arrive at a working agreement, Jackson created his own audio company, SMS, and proceeded to make his own headphones based on assurances from the aforementioned law firm that he could do so without infringing on Sleek’s intellectual property.
Fast forward to 2014 and Jackson was sued by Sleek for just this reason and ultimately ordered to pay $16 million after the court found the design of SMS headphones to be “basically the same designs” as Sleek’s headphone line.
In his subsequent legal malpractice suit, Jackson accused the law firm he originally retained of failing to “represent his interests in licensing negotiations and arbitration disputes,” and cited its “inexplicable decision not to call technical and damages experts to rebut expert testimony offered by Sleek.”
Just last month, the two sides reached a settlement with the law firm agreeing to pay Jackson $14.5 million, the bulk of which will likely be applied to the rapper’s $23 million bankruptcy settlement reached this past summer.
To reiterate, this case serves to underscore that no law firm, no matter how many attorneys they employ or how many offices they have, is immune to mistakes, and that clients do have options when these mistakes cause undue harm.