Practice Area

Law Firm Defense

Patterson Belknap – considered lawyers’ lawyers – is called upon when firms and individual attorneys need highly experienced counsel to handle their most significant and sensitive matters.

Our practice is nationally recognized and the National Law Journal notes that our group is “a major player in defending law firms against complex liability claims”. We assist the nation's largest firms, as well as regional and local firms, in defending high-stakes, complex liability claims.

The firm has defended legal malpractice, conflict of interest, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud claims, represented lawyers in disciplinary proceedings, untangled disputes over partnership compensation, opposed disqualification motions, and represented firms facing non-party subpoenas.

The Right Experience and Strengths

Because law firm defense matters generally involve an underlying case or transaction giving rise to the dispute, clients require a firm that is well versed in today's emerging legal issues. Patterson Belknap is engaged in many of today’s most contested areas, ranging from complex financial and credit-crisis related litigation and criminal, civil, and regulatory enforcement proceedings to sophisticated intellectual property disputes, bankruptcy-related issues and cybersecurity law.

As a full-service firm with depth and breadth in a variety of practice areas, Patterson Belknap provides a real advantage to law firm clients. This includes the strength of our more than 125-member litigation practice, which is regularly recognized in top industry publications. Our readiness to go to trial when necessary can often lead to early case resolution, and we have an exceptional success rate with dispositive motions.

Representative Law Firm Defense Matters

Patterson Belknap has successfully represented clients in a variety of matters, including the following recent examples:

Complex Financial Transactions

  • An international AmLaw 100 firm in a malpractice action arising from advice regarding debt instruments, which was dismissed on our motion and upheld on appeal.
  • An AmLaw 100 firm accused of malpractice in connection with the sale of its client’s closely-held business.
  • A mid-sized New York City firm in a malpractice action brought by former labor union clients and related funds.
  • A global firm in a fraud action by investors in a client’s failed hedge fund, which was dismissed on our motion.
  • An international AmLaw 100 firm in connection with claims arising from a legal opinion on usury statutes.
  • A large Southeastern firm against malpractice claims in connection with cable television carriage license agreements.
  • An AmLaw 100 firm sued by shareholders of a former client in connection with the sale of the former client to a rival company.

Patents and Intellectual Property

  • A prominent international firm and one of its partners against malpractice claims arising from patent drafting errors.
  • A regional firm in a malpractice action involving copyright and other interests in song and performance rights and royalties, which was dismissed on appeal.
  • An AmLaw 100 firm in a malpractice suit involving diverse issues of patents, cell phone technology and attorney disclosure obligations.

Litigation

  • A national firm accused of negligence in arbitrating trade dress and trade secret claims.
  • A New York City-based firm accused of malpractice in connection with litigation arising from a breached call option contract.
  • A prominent regional firm in a fraud and malpractice suit involving dissolution of its client’s partnership, in which we obtained summary judgment.
  • A mid-Atlantic firm charged by a former client with trial errors after an adverse patent infringement judgment.
  • A large national firm accused of malpractice in a high-profile gender discrimination class action.
  • A Southeastern firm’s New York trial team charged with evidentiary and privilege errors during a radiological device patent trial.

Bankruptcy

  • A national firm sued by a bankruptcy debtor for malpractice, in which we obtained withdrawal of the reference and transfer to a district court in another jurisdiction.
  • An AmLaw 100 firm against claims by a bankruptcy trustee alleging malpractice, which claims were dismissed with prejudice by the bankruptcy court.
  • A New York City firm accused of malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty by banking regulators acting as receivers of a failed bank.
  • A national firm against claims that the firm’s work as counsel for an Examiner breached its duly of loyalty to a former client who was identified in the Examiner’s report.
  • An AmLaw 100 firm charged with malpractice by the bankruptcy estate of a failed biotech company.
  • A New York regional firm sued by a former client for malpractice and fraud during reorganization proceedings, in which we obtained a dismissal on res judicata grounds which was affirmed on appeal.
  • A prominent international firm against claims arising from its representation of a high-profile hospital system in Chapter 11 proceedings.

Conflicts of Interest, Fraud and Other Allegations

  • A global firm in a fraud action brought by an overseas borrower, which was dismissed on our 12(b)(6) motion.
  • A Northeastern firm against claims of malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty in connection with employment and executive compensation advice.
  • An international firm in a suit by a Texas energy company in New York federal court claiming fraud and malpractice, which was dismissed on our 12(b)(6) motion.
  • A prominent New York litigator sued for malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud, in which we obtained a dismissal on the pleadings which was affirmed on appeal.
  • A Southeastern firm in connection with third party fraud claims arising out of a failed real estate transaction, in which we obtained a dismissal on the pleadings which was upheld on appeal.
  • A prominent international firm in defense of claims of conflict of interest and malpractice stemming from its representation of a closely-held financial advisory business.

Trusts and Estates

  • An AmLaw 100 firm against claims of mis-administration of a $90 million estate, in which we obtained summary judgment which was affirmed on appeal.
  • A large Northeastern firm against claims of fraud and tortious interference arising out of its work for the trustee of a multi-million dollar family trust, which was dismissed with prejudice and without any payment.
  • A mid-sized firm against claims that it failed to protect a group of family trusts against Madoff-related losses.
  • The regional office of an international firm in defense of a “scrivener’s error” claim by a trust grantor.

Real Estate

  • A New York City-based firm accused of malpractice in drafting hold/ownership and management transactional documents.
  • An AmLaw 100 firm in pursuing rights against its landlord in connection with its New York City office space.
  • A small regional firm in connection with claims relating to a series of real estate transactions.

Internal Partnership and Firm Matters

  • A national firm accused by a former partner of breach of fiduciary duty and wrongful termination.
  • A Chicago-based AmLaw 100 firm in a multi-million dollar compensation dispute with a senior partner, in which we obtained summary judgment.
  • Two large national firms in compensation disputes with groups of departing high-profile partners.
  • Individual attorney lateral moves giving rise to ethical and financial issues.
  • In-house counsel of a large public company against malpractice and related claims brought by a former officer of the company.
  • Individual attorneys in disciplinary proceedings, all of which were dismissed without any disciplinary action.