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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.
Legal terms are defined, concepts and principles explained, and notable judges and jurists portrayed from the origins of the Western legal tradition in ancient Greece and Rome to the present
Risks, Reputations, and Rewards looks at a variety of interrelated questions about contingency fee legal practice: What is the nature of the contingency fees that lawyers charge? How do lawyers get and screen potential cases? How do contingency fee lawyers interact with their clients and opponents? What is involved in settling these cases? What types of returns do contingency fee cases produce? And what role does reputation play in contingency fee practice? The author argues that to be successful, contingency fee lawyers must generate a portfolio of cases, similar to an investment portfolio with its associated risk. This has a significant impact on how contingency fee lawyers obtain and select cases, manage their work, and deal with the pressures that arise in settling cases. More important, understanding the work of contingency fee lawyers in terms of an ongoing practice rather than in terms of individual cases mitigates some of the significant conflicts that may exist between lawyers and clients.
Agent Orange, the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, the Virginia Tech massacre, the 2008 financial crisis, and the Deep Horizon gulf oil spill: each was a disaster in its own right. What they had in common was their aftermath—each required compensation for lives lost, bodies maimed, livelihoods wrecked, economies and ecosystems upended. In each instance, an objective third party had to step up and dole out allocated funds: in each instance, Presidents, Attorneys General, and other public officials have asked Kenneth R. Feinberg to get the job done. In Who Gets What?, Feinberg reveals the deep thought that must go into each decision, not to mention the most important question that arises after a tragedy: why compensate at all? The result is a remarkably accessible discussion of the practical and philosophical problems of using money as a way to address wrongs and reflect individual worth.