New Jersey Ethics Committee: Beware Marketers that “Lead” to Ethics Violations

Increasingly popular online “lead generation” services offering to connect attorneys with potential mass tort plaintiffs may expose counsel to ethics violations, the New Jersey Advisory Committee on Professional Conduct cautioned in two recent advisory opinions.

New Jersey attorneys are charged with the affirmative responsibility to “question whether the marketing company is improperly labeling its services,” the committee stated in a June 21, 2021 joint opinion with the Committee on Attorney Advertising.  On the same date, the Advisory Committee issued another joint opinion with the Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law offering further insight on the circumstances in which a permissible client lead becomes an improper for-profit referral.

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Summary of HB1125: Deceptive Lead Generation

Lawsuit advertisements—specifically ones that target prescription drugs and medical devices—can be dangerous.  Nationwide, dramatized and exaggerated legal ads have flooded both televisions and the internet, often masquerading as “medical alerts.”  Some estimates have total spending on legal advertisements at around $1 billion annually.  As a result, state legislatures are beginning to take action to combat deceptive advertising and come up with solutions, including in Indiana, which recently passed House Bill 1125.  House Bill 1125 places several limitations on the practice of lead generation – the use of commercial communications to initiate consumer interest or inquiry into legal services intended to redress an alleged injury from a medical device or legend drug – and provides a private right of action for manufacturers and sellers of medical devices and legend drugs against deceptive lead generators.

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Considerations from the ABA’s Best Practices for Litigation Funding

The exact dollar amount that third-party investors infuse in U.S. lawsuits every year is unknown, but conservative estimates begin around $2.3 billion, with agreement that the industry has room to grow. With the ongoing pandemic stretching litigation timelines and straining budgets, the litigation funding industry remains highly active. Despite the importance of litigation funding to all parties involved (lawyers, plaintiffs, and defendants), regulation varies by state, and litigation funders are largely left to self-regulate.

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Witness Coaching by Whisper Leads to Sanctions for Defense Witness and Attorney

As noted in two prior posts, one on May 15, 2020, and the other on May 29, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting explosion in the use of remote depositions present a number of novel issues for lawyers to consider, whether taking or defending depositions. Regardless of these “unprecedented times,” some things remain the same, including that it is improper for a witness to be coached about answers while the deposition is occurring.

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New Jury Selection Procedure in California: Is This the End of Peremptory Challenges? Is This the End of Batson?

Jury selection in California is undergoing significant change. In August 2020, the California legislature passed AB 3070, which was signed by Governor Gavin Newsome on September 30. Beginning in 2022, objections to peremptory challenges in criminal cases will have more teeth, including a list of presumptively invalid reasons for striking a prospective juror and a new standard of review for appellate review of a trial court’s decision. While AB 3070 does not apply officially to civil jury trials until 2026, the significant overhaul in procedure effectuated by this new law is likely to influence a court’s analysis of the civil jury selection process before that time. The new law’s aim is noble: to bring an end to discrimination in jury selection. However, critics, including many within the California judiciary, say the new procedure is “unworkable.”

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