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John Parker, a paralegal in Hempstead, NY, has been facing tough times since paid with a fraudulent check when he worked as a security guard for what he thought was a friend. This story caught my eye and I had to share it. 

John took a part-time job during the Summer of 2010 to help supplement his income as a paralegal when his new son was born. Seems the check he received was fraudulent, unbeknownst to him. He used the $4,600 paycheck earned over the summer to pay bills and school supplies for his daughter from another relationship.

The bank contacted him about the check but he was unable to pay it back right away and then the police showed up at his work to arrest him. His then employer helped him out by paying the money back to the bank and John paid semi-monthly payments to his boss to pay back the loan. John’s luck continued in a downward spiral and he eventually fell behind on his rent due to the high payments to his boss and eventually received an eviction notice. John managed to find another part-time job, but still was not able to catch up.

John eventually found F.E.G.S. Health and Human Services System, a beneficiary of UJA-Federation of New York, one of the seven agencies supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. This agency, along with his annual bonus from his paralegal job, helped John catch up on his rent and paid of the loan to his boss and then his landlord raised his rent.

When John received a rent increase he moved to a cheaper apartment and he learned in September that he and two co-workers were going to be laid off. Despite all of this, with the determination of all of us in this legal profession, John is determined to care for his children during these tough challenges even it it means he goes without food so that they do not.

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On June 24, 2010, a New York federal court resolved a fee dispute in a  pending securities fraud class action against Comverse Technology.  The company agreed last year to pay $225 million to settle the litigation.

Pomerantz Haudek, the lead plaintiffs’ firm in the case, sought 25 percent of the settlement, or a fee of about $56 million. A one-third contingency fee, of course, has long been the industry benchmark, but plaintiffs’ lawyers in big-dollar securities fraud settlements sometimes request fees of 15 percent or less. (Lawyers can have a hard time convincing judges to award counsel one-third of settlements that reach into the many billions of dollars.)

In the Comverse case, the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System, which owned shares in the company, claimed in court papers that the 25% fee request was “unreasonable,” the New York Law Journal reports.  But a Pomerantz Haudek lawyer told the New York Law Journal that the the firm’s client had agreed to a 25% fee and that such an amount is “well within the normative range of these types of cases.”

In his ruling, Brooklyn federal judge Nichoals Garaufis agreed that a 25 percent fee was within the norm for “megafund” securities fraud cases.  “While it may be that a lower percentage would also be sufficient, this court will not pretend that it has the expertise necessary to divine the ideal percentage,” the judge added. “This court is particularly unwilling to undertake an endeavor in a case where the fee award was set on the open market, and where an improperly calibrated fee would provide a disincentive to future counsel to take risks and pursue large class settlements that the SEC cannot.”

So, what are attorneys worth?  In this case, they are worth $56 million total and for the 25 attorneys at Pomerantz, this means they are each worth $2.24 million.  Not a bad day for this firm at all!

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Catherine McKenzie began her legal career as a legal secretary in 1972, at the age of 20, for a Federal non-profit law services committee on Long Island, New York. In her capacity as legal secretary she was part of the team that propelled a case to the United States Supreme Court. She then was employed by many and varied law departments and firms in New York City, San Francisco, Augusta (GA), Tallahassee, and, finally, in her present residence, Vero Beach, Florida. All of these opportunities trained her in areas such as tax litigation, union/labor law, estate planning, probate, real estate, family and criminal law.

What an amazing career she has had and in various legal arenas!  Be sure and check out more about Catherine at the link to Paralegal Gateway.

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