Fenway Park

Hmmm.  This place looks strangely familiar. 

Today we journey to the land of Blawgletter's legal schooling — the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  We do so not to visit the question of same-sex marriages, nor the issue of banning class actions in arbitration clauses.  We travel thither instead to look at how well law firms do vis-a-vis clients that take bankruptcy without paying.

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts last week ruled that Ropes & Gray LLP held a valid statutory lien on an insolvent client's patent and could collect on the lien out of proceeds from the sale of the patent.  The Bay State statute — General Laws ch. 221, § 50 — granted "the attorney who appears for a client . . . a lien for his reasonable fees and expenses upon his client's . . . claim".  It also stated that the lien arose "[f]rom the [attorney's] authorized . . . appearance in any proceeding before any state or federal department". 

The Court read the statute:

  • to create a lawyer's lien from the moment the "attorney" (Ropes & Gray) appeared before a "federal department" (the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) to press the client's "claim" (the patent application),
  • to fix the lien on the result of pressing the claim (the patent), and
  • to apply the lien to the funds resulting from pre-bankruptcy sale of the patent.

Ropes & Gray LLP v. Jalbert, No. SJC-10333 (Mass. July 28, 2009) (answering questions that First Circuit certified in In re Engage, Inc., 544 F.3d 50, 58 (1st Cir.2008)).

Feed-icon-14x14 Yes, they do call Boston the Hub of the Universe.