Practice Area

Law Firm Defense

Premier law firms and individual attorneys call on Patterson Belknap when they need highly experienced counsel to handle their most significant and sensitive matters.

Our Law Firm Defense group defends law firms and their partners against legal malpractice, conflict of interest, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud claims in state and federal court, as well as in arbitrations and mediations.  Our team also regularly represents lawyers in disciplinary proceedings, opposes disqualification motions, and represents firms facing non-party subpoenas. The team is nationally recognized and assists the nation's largest firms, as well as regional and local firms, in defending high-stakes, complex liability claims.

The Right Experience and Strengths

Because law firm defense matters often turn on the facts and nuances of an underlying case or transaction, our clients require a firm that is well-versed in emerging legal issues as well as the law governing lawyers. Patterson Belknap attorneys have experience in many of today’s most contested areas, including complex financial and credit-crisis related litigation, criminal, civil, and regulatory investigations and enforcement proceedings, sophisticated intellectual property disputes, tax and estate planning, bankruptcy-related claims, and cybersecurity law.

As a full-service firm with a breadth of experience in a variety of practice areas, and deep expertise in defending claims of all varieties against law firms and lawyers, Patterson Belknap provides a concrete advantage to law firm clients. This includes the strength of our elite Litigation practice, which is regularly recognized in top industry publications, including recognition by Benchmark Litigation as the 2021 "New York Firm of the Year" and praise in Benchmark’s 2023 guide as being “a premier litigation firm, with a deep bench of talented first-chair trial attorneys, who are supported by the brightest associates.” Our readiness to go to trial can often lead to early case resolution, and we have a high success rate with dispositive motions.

Representative Law Firm Defense Matters

Complex Financial Transactions

  • An international law firm facing a $300 million malpractice claim arising from that firm’s involvement in a $2.5 billion acquisition transaction of clean energy generation assets.
  • A Northeastern firm facing malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty related to a planned commercial real estate project.
  • 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

  • An international law firm facing malpractice allegations based on copyright and licensing advice across multiple jurisdictions.
  • 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 law firm in an action by a receiver claims over $100 million in damages related to the law firm’s advice as to its client’s web-based advertising and potentially deceptive business practices. 
  • A New York firm in a dispute related to proofs of claims filed in a healthcare 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 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 national law firm in an arbitration brought by a former client indicted for securities fraud based on the law firm’s alleged negligent advice and conflicts of interest in and underlying SEC investigation.
  • 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

  • A global firm in malpractice claims related to the creation of a trust that became the subject of a dispute between former spouses.
  • A multi-office national firm against successor liability claims arising from estate planning work performed by a smaller firm prior to its acquisition.
  • An AmLaw 100 firm against claims of misadministration 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.
  • A mid-sized law firm and its former partner in an action for malpractice by an estate administrator arising from the looting of estate assets.

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.

Other Matters

  • 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.
  • Non-party subpoenas served on law firms in connection with litigation involving firm clients and firm lawyers.