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Wednesday, April 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Interesting Conflict

Here's an interesting conflict of interest question: Can you accept clients who may want to sue an industry that paid for your education?

Think of it in medical terms. Do you really want to get prescriptions from a doctor that went to Johnson & Johnson University?

Much as I love idle questions, this isn't one because I was astonished to spot a press release the other day that began with this: "Boston College Law School has announced a $3.1 million gift from Liberty Mutual Group to establish the Liberty Mutual Insurance Professorship in property and casualty insurance law."

It's brilliant!

Liberty Mutual just stopped a substantial group of potential Massachusetts lawyers from ever being able to take a case against them. In fact, if you want to get fussy about it, all those BC law students may never be able to sue anyone in the insurance industry.

And BC felt compelled to proudly announce this!

If you think that's odd, the press release gets weirder. Here's a quote from the BC law school dean: ""The professorship will allow the Law School to attract one of the nation's top teachers and scholars to direct our affairs in the area of insurance law. The prize will allow us to draw attention to research in the field, and it will make Boston College's name synonymous with the best academic thinking about insurance."

They want to attract one guy - to do "research."

Now at Johnson & Johnson University that might make a lot of sense. New drugs that don't lead to class actions are a good thing. But what kind of research do you need in the field of insurance law?

How to write policies so that no one ever gets paid?

How to structure settlements so that you make a profit before paying anything?

How to take advantage of a deflating economy after claims are made?

This is an academic program worth watching.

PROSPECTIVE LITIGATION. Here's the beginning of another interesting press release: "The Securities and Exchange Commission today voted unanimously to improve mutual fund disclosure by requiring that funds provide investors with a concise summary - in plain English - of the key information they need to make informed investment decisions."

I'm not saying this is a bad idea. In fact, it's a pretty good one.

But I'm taking bets on when we see the first lawsuit over whether the English was "plain" enough.

How plain do you have to be for those people you know out there who lose money no matter how well it's explained.

Linguists everywhere will be watching.

WELL, IT'S HISTORY ALL RIGHT. And then there was the press release that began with this: "The State Bar of Michigan will commemorate the 1981 Poletown decision (Poletown Neighborhood Council v. Detroit) on Tuesday, Dec. 2, as part of its Michigan Legal Milestones program highlighting significant legal cases in state history. A bronze marker will be unveiled at the ceremony that will take place at Polish National Alliance Council 122, located at 10211 Conant Street in Hamtramck. The plaque will be permanently installed at Zussman Park outside Hamtramck City Hall at a later date."

That sounds fine, except for the fact mentioned in the very next paragraph of the release - that the Poletown ruling got reversed in 2004 (in Wayne County v. Hathcock).

But it's still part of history.

That Zussman Park must be one heck of a tourist attraction.

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