Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Five years ago I was forced to defend one of my patents against a charge of infringement.  I engaged a prestigious Pittsburgh law firm.  They promised to provide competent representation led by a litigator who was reputed to be super.

Considerably into the case, the super litigator, whom I spent considerable time educating about the technicalities of the case, was suddenly pulled off the case by this law firm and I was given a litigator who turned out to be considerably inferior in skills.  I was given no warning and no choice in the matter.

I am a layman where matters of law are concerned, but, during the conduct of the case, I was getting the feeling that my attorneys were incompetent, losing advantage at almost every turn and showing that they were not knowledgeable.

I knew that we did not infringe.  Further, my attorneys were telling me that we should prevail in this lawsuit.  Therefore, I pressed on.  It went on for 2 years.  The whole thing was debilitating to me, my family and my business.  In additional to the physical and emotional costs, I could not afford for this to continue financially.  At one point, I thought I may have to remortgage my home.

The case reached the Summary Judgment level.  We lost.  That is, we did not win, and, in my estimation, we should have.  The Judge said that my attorneys had failed to prove that our product did not infringe.  He cited several examples of case law, leaving me to wonder why my own attorneys were not aware of those cases.  Further, I believe, we should have won this case at an early stage.  My attorneys simply did an inadequate job of telling our story.

We had filed a separate Invalidity Motion.  My attorneys told me that they thought we had an 80% chance of winning on Invalidity.  At Summary Judgment, the Judge said that he would not even rule on our Invalidity Motion because (he said) my lawyers did not educate him properly.

By that time, I had neither the will nor the finances to continue the case.  I was forced to settle, and not on a very pretty (or just) basis.  The fees I had paid my attorneys came to nearly $450,000...unbelievable.  Very small companies, like mine, could have survived such a hit...and then my attorneys said that I owed them another $98,000.  That was rubbing salt into the wound.

In view of (what seemed obvious to me to be) their incompetent performance, I refused to pay their additional billing.   As a result they are now suing me to force me to pay the $98,000.  I am offended that they would even ask for it...Therefore, I have filed a Countersuit asking for repayment of the $450,000 that I already paid them and which they never truly earned.

I have engaged another law firm to defend me and to pursue our Countersuit.  So far, I am happy with these guys.  It is well known that it is difficult to find competent attorneys who are willing to sue other attorneys for incompetence.  Bucking the establishment...taking on the "Old boys club" requires an attorney who is something of a maverick.

I am a businessman who has worked 65+ hours per week all of my life.  I did so for the benefit of myself and my family and also to make sure that the good people employed by my company continue to have jobs.  Check us out at

It turns out that I am a good guy who is a victim within the justice system that is supposed to help the good guys.  I guess an old attorney was right when he said to me, "You will get all the justice that you can afford".

I am not litigious.  I was willing to let my ex-attorneys keep the $450,000 and simply call it the worst experience of my life.  But, after the incompetent job that they did, I am refusing to pay them even more and I am also asking for my money back.

The cards are stacked against me.  I am fighting the guys who make the rules.  Is it even possible for me to find justice here?  I don't know, but I must keep trying.

I told this story (thanks for listening) in the hope of finding a sympathetic and knowledgeable ear.  If you have had experience in a case involving Legal Malpractice or Breach of Contract (which is what I think we have here), I will appreciate your comments.

Please pass this along to anyone else you may know who might be able to offer advice.  I will deeply appreciate it.

Bill Voegele - President - EXTECH/Exterior Technologies,

Monday, February 11, 2008

Suing An Attorney for Legal Malpractice

I'm trying to sue my attorney for work that I consider to be incompetent.

I have learned, however, that the cards are stacked against me. To sue an attorney for any kind of "bad work" apparently falls into the category of "legal malpractice."

At first, I thought it was a telling indictment of attorneys that any bad work should be considered "malpractice." But then I learned that the attorneys set up this whole thing. They have caused the government (which is also composed of attorneys) to set up the rules whereby there are five things that must occur before you can be successful in a "legal malpractice" suit against an attorney. It is almost impossible to assemble all of those ingredients. Do you think they knew that when they wrote the rules?

For example, I had what I believe is incompetent representation when my attorneys were defending me in a patent infringement lawsuit. Although I did not lose the case totally, neither did I win it (and I clearly should have). Along the way, my attorneys had several errors and omissions that led to the result. However, the result occurred at a legal level called Summary Judgment. Although the way the rules of "legal malpractice" are written to protect the attorneys, I am told that I must prove that they would have lost my case if it went to the final (trial) level and...further, that the loss was the result of their incompetence. So I cannot sue them for the bad work that they have done to date because the rules say that they may have still achieved a "win" in this case. No consideration is given to the fact that I spent roughly $.5 million in legal fees already and that I cannot afford the extra $250,000 they told me it would take to go to trial.

It seems to me that any person or company that offers a service (and charges rates in the range of $300 per hour) should be expected to deliver that service at a competent level and, if not, should not expect to be paid the full amount in the case of such incompetence.

I'll be interested to hear advice and/or experiences from anyone who has played on this field.