Thursday, March 01, 2007

Sea Lawyers

TechnoOcean is a project dear to my heart, which I have been unable to work on for some weeks due to excessive demands on my time from other quarters. My three reviewers are missing in action - and one of 'em had been working on lots of great stuff so I'm not best pleased with that. I think he's got financial difficulties due to family problems, but still it'd be nice if he'd communicate with me once in a while.

But, while the various departments of TechnoOcean haven't been worked on in a while, I did pick up a copy today, for the first time, of Professional Mariner: Journal of the Maritime Industry.

Opened it up, and the first thing that catches my eye is an ad for the SOS Legal Network and Hoffman & Associates - lawyers who specialize in marine law - "getting injured at sea."

"Some lawyers charge 40% maritime contingency fee rate, we only charge 33%!"
No recovery, no fee!
And yet, at the very bottom of the ad: "Fees computed after deduction of costs, disbursements and litigation expenses. If no recovery, ethics rules require clients to remain liable for litigation expenses, costs and dispursements. In NJ, the fee on the first $500,000 of recovery is 33 1/3%, 30% on the next $500,000, 25% on the next $500,000, 20% on the next $500,000, and for greater amounts, as set by the court."

So that's a bit of a contradiction. What does "no recovery, no fee" mean except that if the bloodsucking lawyers don't get you any money, you don't have to pay them. Yet at the bottom it does say you'll be responsible for expenses, costs and disbursements. Apparently because those aren't "fees," but just normal charges.

So plaintiffs who think they're going to be getting legal services for nothing - don't. And yet the ads are so designed to make them think they will. This goes I'm sure for the bloodsucking lawyers on land as well...

Other lawyer firms advertising in this magazine are Latti & Anderson LLP (they're proctors in admiralty, too!), Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris (no recovery, no fee, they speak Spanish and, I *think*, Vietnamese.

Also advertising was an insuranbce company: MOPS: Marine Maritime License Insurance, and WQIS - advertising Marine Pollution Liability Insurance. Great American. Captain's Coverage: Maritime Officer's Liability Insurance. Smitheick & Mariners Marine Insurance.

Don't get me wrong. Obviously working on barges and tugs and ships is a dangerous occupation, and if someone is injured through someone else's *negligence*, compensation should be made. But why should lawyers get 33% or even 40% of the 'recovery'? Why shouldn't they get paid an hourly wage for the work they do and have done with it.

Of course their hourly wage is probably between $200-500 an hour, charged in 5-minute increments....

Anyway, interesting reading. I need to do more research into the safety of 'some-third-world-country-flagged' ships. I wonder how many shouldn't even be at sea...

Lots of food for thought. (And withal, an excellent magazine.)

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