Lawyer forgets to tell client he is acting for another

By Lawyers Weekly|03 March 2012

A Dallas based lawyer has taken the mantra of listening to both sides of an argument to its extreme.Joel Held, a special counsel with Baker & McKenzie in the areas of litigation, arbitration…

A Dallas based lawyer has taken the mantra of listening to both sides of an argument to its extreme.

Joel Held, a special counsel with Baker & McKenzie in the areas of litigation, arbitration and corporates and securities, found himself at the centre of a US $150 million lawsuit from a disgruntled client, who realised that Held was acting for the other side in a business relationship that turned sour.

The client, S. Lavon Evans Jr, was the owner of a drilling company based in Mississippi. In 1999, he entered into commercial arrangements with Reed Cagle, a similarly impressively named businessman, who was represented by Held and Baker & McKenzie. It seems that Held and Evans Jr hit it off, and Evans retained him as his attorney.

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While things between Evans and Cagle were initially hunky dory, with commercial arrangements to drill wells struck-up with the help of Held, Cagle was later declared insolvent, and with Held's assistance, secured loans worth millions of dollars by using Evans' assets.

The Jones County court heard this was despite an agreement between the two men prohibiting such action, and poor Evans Jr being kept out of the loop when it came to knowledge of Cagle's financial difficulties.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Cagle and his lawyers even had the cheek to try and claim ownership of oil rigs where he refused to pay Evans for their construction or ownership. Now that is innovative legal advice.

Evans found out Cagle was insolvent in 2007 and sought to dissolve their business relationship. Cagle then counter-sued, with his attorneys advising he pursue a strategy that would "Bring Evans to his knees".

Evans instead chose to sue his former lawyer, with Bakers and Held on the end of a $103 million verdict against them.

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In a statement, Baker & McKenzie said it "strongly disagreed with the verdict" and that the firm "acted in a manner that was entirely consistent with our professional obligations".

Folklaw is very impressed by Baker's homepage, which proudly hits the reader with the slogan; "Like you, we value open and collaborative relationships with each other and clients".

Folklaw can only guess that Held was too busy working (we know he had a heavy client load) to have noted such sage advice.

Lawyer forgets to tell client he is acting for another
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