Thursday, July 22, 2021

Balch & Bingham sees 27 percent of local attorneys -- and millions in fees -- hit the exits as inexperience and dubious lawyering envelop the embattled firm

Balch & Bingham (Washington Post)

Birmingham's Balch & Bingham law firm, embroiled in race- and environment-related controversy for roughly seven years, is losing attorneys -- and fees -- at a rapid rate, according to a report at Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes, under the headline "Balch Loses 27% of Local Attorneys, Millions in Fees; Alleged Inexperience Plagues Embattled Firm":

After Balch & Bingham partner Joel I. Gilbert was convicted on all six federal criminal counts three years ago, Balch & Bingham clients fled. Top money-making partners jumped ship. Through our efforts, 18 of 18 top lobbying clients dumped the embattled firm.

Balch not only lost millions in lobbying fees, they also lost numerous clients to competitors.

The hemorrhaging was significant. Even Balch legacy partner Jesse S. Vogtle, Jr. after 31 years said adios y hasta la vista amigos!

Now data from the Birmingham Business Journal shows that Balch has lost 27 percent of its local attorneys since 2016.

In 2021, Balch & Bingham lost more than 1 in 4 attorneys in Birmingham as compared to 2016. In 2016, according to the Birmingham Business Journal, Balch had 147 local attorneys in Birmingham. This year, the number has dropped to 108 local attorneys.

Also, Balch has dropped to fourth place in the ranking of the largest law firms in Birmingham.

Where has all of that money and legal talent gone? One answer can be found right in Balch's neighborhood, downtown Birmingham:

As we reported in 2019, the big winner has been Maynard Cooper which has absorbed many of Balch’s former lobbying clients. Now data confirms this: Maynard Cooper saw a 21 percent increase of local attorneys between 2016 and 2021, going from 172 local attorneys to 209.

The death spiral for many law firms is when seasoned, veteran, and experienced partners leave and are replaced with inexperienced, barely-out-of-law-school replacements.

And the media reports about Balch’s alleged inexperience and screw-ups are stunning.

As a TV talking head might say, the "optics" for Balch & Bingham are bad:

Domain Main Wire, a publication that focuses on the fights over domain names and ICANN rulings, wrote on June 28th this stunner about Balch & Bingham which tried to obtain a website for a client, Brime, LLC, with the blaring headline, “Another Bad UDRP Filing”

Brime, LLC filed the UDRP [Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution] against the owner of The company was founded last year and the domain owner registered the domain in 2001. So the case was dead on arrival, and panelist Terry Peppard ruled that the domain wasn’t registered in bad faith. Beyond the dates that doomed this case to failure, the domain is owned by someone named Robert Brime.

A week later Domain Main Wire had a follow-up story:

Brime is a new streaming video platform launching this summer. For some reason, the company thinks it should get domain names registered before it existed. The company uses the domain and tried to secure and through UDRP.

Last week [Domain Main Wire] wrote about how the company lost a cybersquatting dispute against, which was registered twenty years ago. Now it has also lost a challenge against, registered nearly a decade ago.

In this case, the panel found that the Complainant didn’t even show the domain is confusingly similar to a mark in which it has rights. It only has a pending trademark application.

The majority of the panel found that this is a case of reverse domain name hijacking.

Balch & Bingham LLP represented Brime, LLC in both of the UDRPs.

                    Reverse domain name hijacking? Pending trademark application? What                     idiots!

Losing attorneys and fees can't be good for a law firm. But having your competence questioned and your reputation batted around like a tetherball . . . well, that really has to hurt:

Beyond Balch’s alleged unsavory conduct, now Balch’s alleged inexperience, incompetence, and screw-ups have become the running joke in legal circles.

From jokingly called Balch, Bingham, & Bribery to Balch, Bingham, & Buffoons, the once-prestigious silk-stocking law firm appears to be suffering from “brain drain.”

And in the meantime, Brime, LLC should file a complaint against Balch’s alleged legal malpractice and demand a refund for every penny they paid for the alleged incompetent work product.

Finally, how many more attorneys and staff at Balch are ready to exit the embattled and alleged racist law firm to greener and brighter pastures? 1 in 4? 3 in 6?


Anonymous said...

I sense that Balch has adopted a head-in-sand approach to its problems. Doesn't seem to be working.

legalschnauzer said...

It's important to remember this is the firm with longstanding ties to Jeff Sessions and Alabama Power. That should make people wonder about the integrity of that politician and that company.

Anonymous said...

That cyber-squatting case involving Balch sounds pitiful. A little research should have shown there was no case there, but they filed a legal claim anyway.

legalschnauzer said...

It is pitiful. My understanding is that an attorney is required to conduct at least a minimal investigation to determine if allegations in a complaint are factual, if there is actual cause for the lawsuit. It appears Balch skipped over that in a race to grab fees. Balch should not only return fees to its client, Brime, but also should have to pay attorney fees and costs to the opposing parties who had to pony up to defend a baseless claim.

legalschnauzer said...

I suspect this happens a lot in the legal field: A lawyer or firm wants the fee, so he doesn't tell the client he doesn't have a case. A complaint gets filed, turns out to be s loser, and the lawyer goes, "Ooops."

Anonymous said...

Aren't lawyers called counselor for a reason? Aren't they supposed to counsel clients about whether a claim is legit or not?

legalschnauzer said...

Yes, exactly -- at least in theory. In practice, not so much.

Anonymous said...

All these years later, Balch still operates with a mindset from the days of Wallace and segregation. They haven't changed with the times. They are dinosaurs, and if they die off, so be it.

legalschnauzer said...

Where is the Alabama State Bar in all of this? Brime should file a bar complaint against lawyers at Balch, bur Balch lackey Jeff Sessions (including his allies Rob Riley, Doug Jones, Luther Strange, and Steve Windom) reportedly control the Alabama State Bar. Any chance of Balch facing discipline from the Bar? Not holding my breath.

Anonymous said...

My Great grandmother always said when the stuff starts rolling down hill, get out of the way, it only gets worse. Reminds me of how this is turning out.

legalschnauzer said...

Sounds like your great grandmother was a wise lady.