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Lawyer Barons
What Their Contingency Fees Really Cost America


  • Date Published: March 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107001220

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About the Authors
  • This book is a broad and deep inquiry into how contingency fees distort our civil justice system, influence our political system and endanger democratic governance. Contingency fees are the way personal injury lawyers finance access to the courts for those wrongfully injured. Although the public senses that lawyers manipulate the justice system to serve their own ends, few are aware of the high costs that come with contingency fees. This book sets out to change that, providing a window into the seamy underworld of contingency fees that the bar and the courts not only tolerate but even protect and nurture. Contrary to a broad academic consensus, the book argues that the financial incentives for lawyers to litigate are so inordinately high that they perversely impact our civil justice system and impose other unconscionable costs. It thus presents the intellectual architecture that underpins all tort reform efforts.

    • Offers an exposé of the underworld of contingency fees which the bar and the courts not only tolerate but nurture
    • Examines how lawyers and judges collaborate to raise the incentives to litigate to levels that distort the civil justice system
    • Examines how the contingency-fee driven class action gives lawyers the power to extract ransoms and print money
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Around … interesting and sometimes telling tales of poor conduct, Brickman pieces together a wealth of critical claims about the tort system. The Cambridge Law Journal

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2011
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107001220
    • length: 574 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 30 mm
    • weight: 0.9kg
    • contains: 1 table
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The origin of the contingency fee
    2. How profitable are contingency fees?
    3. Are contingency fee profits 'reasonable'?
    4. How tort lawyers have increased their profits by restraining competition
    5. Why the market has failed to correct the absence of price competition
    6. Impediments imposed by the bar to price competition
    7. The effects of incentives created by contingency fees
    8. How the quest for profits influenced the development of the tort system
    9. Lawyers' role in the expansion of tort liability
    10. The role of the judiciary in tort system expansion
    11. Current and future expansions of tort liability
    12. The litigation explosion: 'fact or fiction'?
    13. Measures of the rate of expansion of tort liability
    14. The relationship between injury rates and tort system costs
    15. The impacts of substantial increases in tort lawyers' effective hourly rates
    16. Class actions
    17. Fees in class actions
    18. How class action lawyers game fee setting
    19. Securities class actions
    20. Regulation through litigation
    21. A new role for punitive damages: policy-making as a profit center
    22. For-profit partnerships between state attorneys general and contingency fee lawyers
    Appendix A. A critique of Alex Tabarrok, the problem of contingent fees for waiters
    Appendix B. Calculating tort lawyers' effective hourly rates in 1960
    Appendix C. Electronic discovery and the use of contract lawyers
    Appendix D. The HMO litigation
    Appendix E. The GM 'side saddle' truck litigation: the (short lived) triumph of litigation over the regulatory process
    Appendix F. Modern class actions undermine democratic precepts
    Appendix G. Other ways lawyers game class action fees
    Appendix H. Non-recourse financing of tort litigation
    Appendix I. Political contributions by tort lawyers and the U.S. chamber of commerce
    Appendix J. Special rules favoring lawyers
    Appendix K. The ultimate medical expense 'build-up': whiplash
    Appendix L. The effect of punitive damages on compensatory awards.

  • Author

    Lester Brickman, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
    Lester Brickman is a Professor of Law and former Acting Dean at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, where he teaches contracts and legal ethics. He has written extensively on legal ethics and his writings have been widely cited in treatises, casebooks, scholarly journals and judicial opinions. Brickman is a leading authority on contingency fees and his writings on that subject are the basis for a proposal to realign the contingency fee system with its policy roots and ethical mandates.

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