Issue February 2012

February 2012

The beginning of the end of Chapter 93A claims against Massachusetts and its subdivisions

For decades, plaintiffs have sought to charge Massachusetts public entities with violations of the Regulation of Business Practice and Consumer Protection Act (the act)1 and obtain the enhanced damages, including multiple damages and attorneys' fees, provided under the act.

In so doing, plaintiffs have relied upon the statutory definition of a "person" as "natural persons, corporations, trusts, partnerships, incorporated or unincorporated associations, and any other legal entity,"2 and argued that public entities, such as the commonwealth itself, fit within this definition. The sweepingly broad definition of a "person" against whom suit may be brought has created confusion and invited much litigation against the commonwealth and its subdivisions.

Despite the significant volume of such claims against the commonwealth and its subdivisions, the question of whether the private causes of action created by the act are barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity has evaded definitive review, until recently.

Taking exception: The universal demand requirement and close corporations

INTRODUCTION

The current law governing corporations, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 156D, significantly altered the longstanding prerequisites to filing a derivative suit by instituting a "universal demand" requirement and eliminating the longstanding futility exception.

While this change appears to have been intended to protect the interests of the corporation, it does not serve that goal in cases involving so-called "close corporations." By subjecting aggrieved minority shareholders in close corporations to the demand requirement and lengthy waiting period, Chapter 156D presents a significant risk that these shareholders will lose the opportunity to obtain meaningful relief.

Considerations in creating, maintaining a paperless office

Running and maintaining a paperless law office may seem like a daunting task. However, there are many potential benefits of getting rid of the paper in your law practice, including increased workflow efficiency, environmental benefits and cost savings. Unconvinced? Is the thought of running into court without a banker's box of client documents giving you goose bumps?

I often speak with attorneys regarding my experiences in running a paperless office and I hear many of the same concerns or doubts repeated. "How could I possibly scan the volume of documents I receive on a daily or weekly basis?" "How will I ever find the document I need?" "What if I arrive for a hearing and I am missing something?" "What about security?" "Isn't my current system of manila folders and binders good enough?" "Why change now?"

Generating leads with the “right” questions

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing … Never lose a holy curiosity.
-Albert Einstein

We are all familiar with the image of the fast talking and overly gregarious used car salesman. It is a stereotype that lawyers generally want to avoid emulating at all costs. Most of us became attorneys because, on some level, we wanted to steer clear of business.

Selling, however, is a very important skill if you want to succeed in private practice. Competition for legal work has never been greater.

The good news is that selling legal services is not like selling used cars. Clients hire lawyers they trust. Since building that trust generally happens over time, smooth talking and high pressure tactics are unlikely to be effective in convincing an individual to retain you as their lawyer.

Instead, you must invest time and effort in building your relationships with target clients or with referral sources.

Natural disaster recovery: Lessons learned on the local level

On June 1, 2011, from approximately 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., severe thunderstorms and tornadoes touched down in Western Massachusetts, leaving a 39-mile path of destruction across nine local communities in Hampden and Worcester counties.1