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Pricey Lawyer Draws Curious Crowd

Over the past three weeks, the legal malpractice trial against law firm Thompson Coburn in a Madison County, Ill., courtroom drew hardly a single spectator. That changed dramatically Wednesday, reports legal newspaper The Record, when gawkers filled the courtroom to see a lawyer charging $1,000 an hour testify as an expert witness against the firm. During questioning of the lawyer, Thomas Q. Keefe Jr. of Belleville, Ill., the courtroom "was jammed with legal professionals from every field: trial attorneys, probate lawyers, prosecutors, public defenders and even judges came by to witness the day's proceedings."

The plaintiff, Magna Bank, is suing the law firm over legal advice that allegedly cost it millions in settlements after a local businessman stole millions in structured-settlement funds. Saying the trial could continue for weeks, The Record describes it as "one of the most dramatic and complicated civil trials ever held in Madison County" That's saying a lot, given that Madison County long held the top spot on the American Tort Reform Association's annual list of Judicial Hellholes.

It is not clear whether the crowd of curious onlookers was attracted by Keefe's lofty hourly rate or by his opinion that Thompson Coburn committed legal malpractice in the advice it gave the bank. As for Keefe, he said he agreed to appear as an expert to "make amends for the two-week brain fart" he had when he represented another lawyer in a case years ago. And his pricey fee? He is donating that to charity.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on February 29, 2008 at 12:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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