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Compliments of Mark Anderson of Andertoons

How to Place a Bid on Legal Bistro

Bid-for-Placement: what does it mean? Why do we need it?

A bid is a sum of money that a lawyer offers for the opportunity of talking to a client, to receive his contact information and discuss his case (the minimum amount you can bid on is 6 law dollars).

It’s important to remember that a lawyer’s bid on a case determines where in the list of competing, “bidding” lawyers their profile will be displayed to the clients, who posted the case. The profile with the highest bid will be displayed first and the lowest, respectively, the last.

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Legal Bistro Elevator Pitch for Lawyers

What is an Elevator Pitch?

An “Elevator Pitch”, also known as an elevator speech or statement, is a short summary used to quickly define a person, product, profession or organization and its Value Proposition.  The name “elevator pitch” conveys that the person who is delivering the message has about the same time that it takes the typical elevator to go from the ground floor the top floor to convince their audience about their proposal.  A well designed elevator pitch should be between 30 and 60 seconds.

How to Write a Good Elevator Pitch

The “Elevator Pitch” on Legal Bistro is five lines (500 words maximum) of text that are displayed to potential clients in what we call the “Short Profile Preview”.  This is the very first thing that a potential client will see about you and your law firm so you should give a lot of thought to what you would like to say.

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Why Consumers Love Legal Bistro

 Do you need a lawyer but are intimidated by the legal process?  Are you concerned that professional legal services may be financially out of reach?  Perhaps English is not your native language and you are having trouble finding a qualified attorney with whom you can effectively communicate.  Don’t worry, if you answered yes to any of these questions you are not alone.

We built Legal Bistro because we were inspired by the contribution that Lending Tree made to the process for finding a mortgage lender.  Lending Tree used the power of the Internet to bring online competition in the mortgage application process. Equally important is that Lending Tree’s website has helped consumers to better understand the process of applying for a home loan. We hope that Legal Bistro can achieve similar results in the legal services market.

When Lawyers Compete, You Win!

The single biggest reason why consumers love our service is because Legal Bistro facilitates lawyers competing online to serve the client.  Our Company motto is that When Lawyers Compete, the Client Wins! Frankly, we believe that both lawyers and consumers win when the competitive playing field has been leveled.

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Why Lawyers Love Legal Bistro

    

Are you happy with the current Return on Investment (“ROI”) for your online legal services marketing dollars?  Are you spending too much of your time qualifying leads? wasting time imagesDo you know anything about the visitors to your law firm’s website besides their IP Address and the date and time of their visit?  More specifically, are you being provided with case specific  facts that will help you evaluate their legal needs?

If you have answered yes to some or all of these questions then perhaps you will appreciate why lawyers love Legal Bistro.

YOU ARE IN CONTROL

You decide what cases you see based on the Practice Groups, Case Types and Tag or Key Words used when defining your Areas of Practice.

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Forensic Linguistics – Methodology that Solves Crimes

Forensic Linguistics is the study of the language of law and legal process. It also includes the language of 911 calls, the police and the courtroom, and the language that is used in trials as evidence.

LanguageAndLaw.org describes Forensic Linguistics as the methodology that solves crimes. It comprises many areas that relate to crime, both solving crime and absolving people wrongly accused of committing crimes. Some of these areas include:

  • Voice identification (also called forensic phonetics)
  • Author identification (analysis of the personal writing style; also called forensic stylistics)
  • Discourse analysis (analysis of the structure of spoken or written utterance)
  • Linguistic proficiency
  • Dialectology
  • Language analysis (determining the suspect’s native language)
  • “Linguistic veracity analysis” (determining whether a speaker or a writer was being truthful)

One of the best forensic linguists in the USA is Dr. Robert Leonard. He has a wide experience in his field of expertise. For instance, he has been retained by both defendants and prosecutors to consult and/or testify in criminal cases involving murder, espionage, and other felonies, and he has consulted and/or testified for both plaintiffs and defendants in civil cases involving trademarks, plagiarism, libel, malpractice, and the meaning of contracts.

The following video briefly describes Dr. Robert Leonard’s technique on how to implement the theoretical knowledge of Forensic Linguistics into practice, i.e. Sherlyn Hummert murder investigation.

Where Did The Name “Ponzi Scheme” Come From?

 

Investopedia defines a Ponzi Scheme as A fraudulent investing scam promising high rates of return with little risk to investors. The Ponzi scheme generates returns for older investors by acquiring new investors. This scam actually yields the promised returns to earlier investors, as long as there are more new investors. These schemes usually collapse on themselves when the new investments stop.

A Ponzi Scheme is similar to a Pyramid Scheme in that both frauds rely on the use of new investor funds to pay the earlier investors.  The most significant difference is that the Ponzi Scheme gathers all relevant funds from new investors and distributes them while Pyramid Schemes permit individual investors to benefit directly based on the number of new investors that they introduce to the scheme. Consequently the person at the top of the pyramid does not at any point have access to all of the money in the Pyramid Scheme system.

Have you ever wondered where the name Ponzi Scheme came from?  Carlo Pietro Giovanni Guglielmo Tebaldo Ponzi, better known as Charles Ponzi, was born in Lugo, Italy in 1882.  He attended the University of Rome La Sapienza and then immigrated to the United States.

On November 15, 1903, Ponzi arrived in Boston aboard the SS Vancouver. he had $2.51 in his pocket after having gambled away the rest of his life savings on the voyage.  Mr. Ponzi is quoted as saying:

“I landed in this country with $2.50 in cash and $1 million in hopes, and those hopes never left me,”

 Ponzi quickly learned English and started out working odd jobs, including as a dishwasher in a restaurant  where he slept on the floor. He managed to work his way up to the position of waiter, but was fired for shortchanging the customers and theft.

In 1907, he moved to Montreal, where he found a job as a teller at Bank Zarossi. The bank was formed to cater to the new Italian immigrant population, charging high interest rates. Zarossi paid 6% interest on bank deposits – double the going rate at the time – and was growing rapidly as a result. Ponzi eventually rose to bank manager. However, he found out that the bank was in serious financial trouble because of bad real estate loans, and that Zarossi was funding the interest payments not through profit on investments, but by using money deposited in newly opened accounts. The bank eventually failed and Zarossi fled to Mexico with a large portion of the bank’s money.

Ponzi later walked into the offices of a former Zarossi customer Canadian Warehousing and, finding no one there, wrote himself a check for $423.58 in a checkbook he found, forging the signature of a director of the company, Damien Fournier. Confronted by police who had taken note of his large expenditures just after the forged check was cashed, Ponzi held out his hands wrist up and said “I’m guilty.” He ended up spending three years in the prison St. Vincent-de-Paul near Montreal. Rather than inform his mother of this development, he posted her a letter stating that he had found a job as a “special assistant” to a prison warden.

After his release in 1911 he decided to return to the United States, but got involved in a scheme to smuggle Italian illegal immigrants across the border. He was caught and spent two years in the Atlanta Prison.  After being released from prison and getting married in 1918, Ponzi stumbled across an opportunity that would form the basis of his Ponzi Scheme.

After Ponzi’s release from prison, he made his way back to Boston. There he met Rose Maria Gnecco, a stenographer, to whom he proposed marriage. Though Ponzi did not tell Gnecco about his years in jail, his mother sent Gnecco a letter telling her of Ponzi’s past. Nonetheless, she married him in 1918. For the next few months, he worked at a number of businesses, including his father-in-law’s grocery, before hitting upon an idea to sell advertising in a large business listing to be sent to various businesses. Ponzi was unable to sell this idea to businesses, and his company failed soon after.

A few weeks later, Ponzi received a letter from a company in Spain asking about the catalog. Inside the envelope was an International Reply Coupon (IRC).  An international reply coupon (IRC) is a coupon that can be exchanged for one or more postage stamps representing the minimum postage for an unregistered priority airmail letter of up to twenty grams sent to another Universal Postal Union (UPU) member country.

The purpose of the IRC is to allow a person to send someone in another country a letter, along with the cost of postage for a reply. If the addressee is within the same country, there is no need for an IRC because a self addressed stamped envelope or return postcard will be sufficient.  If the addressee is in another country, an IRC removes the need to acquire foreign postage or sending the appropriate amount of currency.

IRCs were priced at the cost of postage in the country of purchase, but could be exchanged for stamps to cover the cost of postage in the country where redeemed; if these values were different, there was a potential profit. Inflation after World War I had greatly decreased the cost of postage in Italy expressed in U.S. dollars, so that an IRC could be bought cheaply in Italy and exchanged for U.S. stamps of higher value, which could then be sold. Ponzi claimed that the net profit on these transactions, after expenses and exchange rates, was in excess of 400%.

Seeing an opportunity to capitalize on this arbitrage, Ponzi quit his job as a translator; borrowed money and sent it back to his relatives in Italy requesting that they purchase postal coupons and send them to him in the United States.  Despite running into significant problems when trying to redeem these coupons, Ponzi went to several of his friends in Boston and promised that he would double their investment in 90 days. The great returns available from postal reply coupons, he explained to them, made such incredible profits easy. Some people invested and were paid off as promised, receiving $750 interest on initial investments of $1,250.

Ponzi wasted no time in expanding his operation by forming the Securities Exchange Company.  Word spread, and investments came in at an ever-increasing rate. Ponzi hired agents and paid them generous commissions for every dollar they brought in. By February 1920, Ponzi’s total take was US$5,000, (approximately US$54,000 in 2010 dollars). By March, he had made $30,000 ($324,000 in 2010 terms). A frenzy was building, and Ponzi began to hire agents to take in money from all over New England and New Jersey. At that time, investors were being paid impressive rates, encouraging others to invest. By May 1920, he had made $420,000 ($4.53 million in 2010 terms). By July 1920, he had made millions. People were mortgaging their homes and investing their life savings. Most did not take their profits, but reinvested.

Ponzi’s rapid rise naturally drew suspicion. When a Boston financial writer suggested there was no way Ponzi could legally deliver such high returns in a short period of time, Ponzi sued for libel and won $500,000 in damages. As libel law in those days placed the burden of proof on the writer and the paper, this effectively neutralized any serious probes into his dealings for some time.

Nonetheless, there were still signs of his eventual ruin. Joseph Daniels, a Boston furniture dealer who had given Ponzi furniture which he could not afford to pay for, sued Ponzi to cash in on the gold rush. The lawsuit was unsuccessful, but it did start people asking how Ponzi could have gone from being penniless to being a millionaire in so short a time. There was a run on the Securities Exchange Company, as some investors decided to pull out. Ponzi paid them and the run stopped. On July 24, 1920, the Boston Post printed a favorable article on Ponzi and his scheme that brought in investors faster than ever. At that time, Ponzi was making $250,000 a day. Ponzi’s good fortune was increased by the fact that just below this favorable article, which seemed to imply that Ponzi was indeed returning 50% return on investment after only 45 days, was a bank advertisement that stated that the bank was paying 5% returns annually. The next business day after this article was published, Ponzi arrived at his office to find thousands of Bostonians waiting to give him their money.

Ponzi’s good fortune quickly faded as the Boston Post continued to investigate his operations. On July 26, 1920, the Post ran a series of articles that raised some very serious questions about his operations.  The Post contacted Clarence Barron, the financial analyst who published the Barron’s financial paper, to help them investigate Ponzi’s scheme.

The first red flag raised was despite the fact that Ponzi offered incredible investment returns on investments, Mr. Ponzi was not investing his own money with the Company.  Barron calculated that based on the number of investments that had been made with the Securities Exchange Company, there would have had to have been 160 million postal reply coupons in circulation.  Barron’s investigation revealed that only 27,000 coupons were actually in circulation.

These disturbing facts reported by the Post caused an investor run on the Securities Exchange Company and forced Ponzi to pay out $2 million in three days to a wild and rowdy crowd gathered outside of his office.  Ponzi’s downfall was when he hired William McMasters as a publicity agent to help get himself out of trouble.

McMasters became extremely suspicious of Ponzi’s activities and began his own investigation. He found several incriminating documents indicating that Ponzi was using new investor money to pay other investors. In fact, he later described Ponzi as a financial idiot who could not even handle simple math.

On August 2, 1920, McMasters wrote an article for the Post declaring Ponzi hopelessly insolvent. The article claimed that while Ponzi claimed $7 million in liquid funds, he was actually at least $2 million in debt. With interest factored in, McMasters wrote, Ponzi was as much as $4.5 million in the red. The story touched off a massive run, and Ponzi paid off in one day. He then sped up plans to build a massive conglomerate that would engage in banking and import-export operations.

Massachusetts Bank Commissioner Joseph Allen launched an investigation into Ponzi’s banking practices found nothing illegal.  Never-the-less, Allen was afraid that if major withdrawals exhausted Ponzi’s reserves, it would bring Boston’s banking system to its knees. When Allen found out a large number of Ponzi-controlled accounts had received more than $250,000 in loans, he ordered two bank examiners to keep an eye on Ponzi’s accounts. On August 9, they reported that enough investors had cashed their checks on Ponzi’s main account there that it was almost certainly overdrawn. Allen then ordered Hanover Trust not to pay out any more checks from Ponzi’s main account. He also orchestrated an involuntary bankruptcy filing by several small Ponzi investors. The move forced Massachusetts Attorney General J. Weston Allen to release a statement that there was little to support Ponzi’s claims of large-scale dealings in postal coupons. State officials then invited Ponzi note holders to come to the Massachusetts State House to furnish their names and addresses for the purpose of the investigation. On the same day, Ponzi received a preview of Pride’s audit, which revealed Ponzi was at least $7 million in debt.

On August 11, everything came crashing down for Ponzi. First, the Post came out with a front-page story about his activities in Montreal 13 years earlier—including his forgery conviction and his role at Zarossi’s scandal-ridden bank. That afternoon, Bank Commissioner Allen seized Hanover Trust after finding numerous irregularities in its books. Although the commissioner did not know it, this move foiled Ponzi’s last-ditch plan to “borrow” funds from the bank vaults after all other efforts to obtain funds failed.

With reports that he was due to be arrested any day, Ponzi surrendered to federal authorities on August 12 and was charged with mail fraud for sending letters to his marks telling them their notes had matured. e was originally released on $25,000 bail, but after the Post released the results of the audit, the bail bondsman withdrew the bail due to concerns he might be a flight risk.

The news brought down five other banks in addition to Hanover Trust. His investors were practically wiped out, receiving less than 30 cents to the dollar. His investors lost about $20 million in 1920 dollars ($225 million in 2011 dollars)

 

Peter Madoff Awaits Sentencing – Victim or Villain?

  

On Monday, December 17, 2012, Defense attorneys John R. Wing, Charles T. Spada and Jeannie Rose Rubin of Lankler Siffert & Wohl LLP filed a 44 page Sentencing Memorandum on behalf of their client Peter B. Madoff.  The document was submitted to the Honorable Laura Taylor Swain of the Southern District of New York.  Judge Swain is expected to sentence Mr. Madoff on Thursday, December 20, 2012.

 Peter Madoff is the younger brother of Bernie Madoff who was sentenced on June 29, 2009 to 150 years in Federal Prison for masterminding one of the largest Ponzi Schemes in history.  Principle losses to investors were nearly $20 Billion.  Including recorded fictional investment gains, investors lost close to $65 billion.

The sentence imposed on Bernie Madoff by Federal District Judge Denny Chin was nearly three times longer than what had been recommended by the federal probation office and more than ten times longer than that requested by Mr. Madoff’s defense lawyers.  At the time of sentencing, Judge Chin condemned Mr. Madoff’s crimes as being “extroadinarily evil”.

Now in what may very well be the final chapter in a painful saga that began on December 10, 2008 when Madoff’s sons told authorities that their father had confessed to them that the asset management unit of his firm was a massive Ponzi scheme, Peter Madoff will stand before Swain to learn his fate.

The question that needs to be answered by the sentenced that will be imposed on Thursday by Judge Swain is whether Peter Madoff is a victim or a villain.  Keeping in mind that Peter Madoff has already pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate various federal statutes and one count of falsifying books and records of an investment adviser, the Sentencing Memorandum submitted by defense counsel portrays Peter Madoff as another victim who was duped by his older brother’s Ponzi Scheme. Under his Plea Agreement, Mr. Madoff has agreed to accept a minimum sentence of no less than ten years in federal prison.

In the Draft Sentencing Report, it was reported that Peter Madoff had only learned of his brother’s Ponzi Scheme on December 9, 2008, a few days before it had been disclosed to the world.  Peter Madoff’s attorneys described him as being in shock and realizing that his world had been destroyed by the loss of his reputation and any future ability to support his family financially.  They further reported that Peter Madoff had been reviled by strangers, as well as former friends who all assumed that he must have had full and complete knowledge of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme.

Peter is described by his attorneys as being someone who believed that his older brother was a brilliant securities trader. As a result, he encouraged his own family to invest millions of dollars into accounts that were managed by Bernie Madoff.  The fraud committed by Bernie Madoff resulted in Peter’s wife losing millions of dollars in her Madoff account, as well as his daughter, granddaughter, sister and other relatives also suffering significant losses.

Mr. Madoff’s attorneys state: “Moreover, at the time of his plea this past June, Peter Madoff consented to a Draconian forfeiture order that in one stroke stripped him of all existing assets, his home, his pension, his savings, his personal property, etc. and all future assets and income should he even have the opportunity to earn any income after serving his prison sentence.  After a lifetime of hard work, this man has been denied the ability to even collect social security”.

The facts, as presented in the Sentencing Memorandum, are as follows:

  • On June 29, 2012, Peter Madoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy and falsifying records of an investment advisor.
  • He has accepted responsibility for his conduct, which he knows was wrong, and is deeply ashamed of his conduct.
  • Peter worked for his older brother’s business (Bernie was the sole owner) for 39 years.
  • On several occasions, and at Bernie’s instigation, Bernie and Peter engaged in money transfers in ways specifically designed to avoid payment of taxes.
  • At Peter’s request, his wife Marion was placed on the BLMIS payroll and for many years received compensation for what was essentially a “no-show” job.
  • Peter pled guilty because he conspired with others to commit the following violations of law: (1) Attempts to interfere with the administration of internal revenue laws; (2) falsifying the books and records of an investment adviser; (3) false filings with the SEC; and (4) mail and securities fraud.
  • Regarding the interference of internal revenue laws, Peter conspired with others to prevent the IRS from collecting proper revenue taxes in the following ways: (1) He received various fringe benefits from BLMIS, including meals, travel, leased cars, country club costs, apartment rentals, payment of household employees, and life insurance premiums which he failed to report on his income tax returns; (2) He placed his wife on the BLMIS payroll, although tax was paid on her income, he caused her to receive untaxed 401(k) contributions to which she was not entitled; (3) In 2005, Bernie gave Peter a substantial sum of money in the form of a completed securities transaction.
  • In July of 2006, BLMIS Peter became the Chief Compliance Officer as the Company registered with the SEC as an investment adviser despite the fact that at this time Peter did not have any substantial knowledge or experience with the rules governing Investment Advisers.
  • As the Chief Compliance Officer, Peter failed to implement any meaningful supervision of his brother’s management of the customer business and failed to test or confirm his brother’s representation that he was trading and managing the Investment Advisory accounts in compliance with the customers’ directions.
  • In 2006 and 2007, Peter allowed Bernie to file false reports with the SEC.

The list of disclosures contained in the Sentencing Report goes on and on.  It makes for very fascinating reading.  It will be very interesting to see what kind of sentence Judge Swain will impose on Thursday.  Will she take the same hard line position imposed by Judge Chin when older brother Bernie was sentenced or will she buy the fact that Peter was duped by his older brother?  Stay tuned as Thursday is only a few days away.

Lawyer Involved in $850,000 Illegal Billing Scheme

On August 30, 2012, Mayer Brown’s former Chief Information Officer (“CIO”) David Tresch was arrested by the FBI for embezzling more than $850,000 over the past year.  The government’s complaint alleges that Tresch approved $980,000 in payments to an IT vendor for work that hadn’t been performed between May 2011 and May 2012, and the vendor sent him checks totaling $854,250. Mayer Brown paid the IT vendor almost $8 million between November 2004 and March 2011.  It has also been alleged that Tresch had a financial interest in the IT vendor and had received nearly $1.3 million from the vendor between 2005 and 2001.

Tresch had worked at Mayer Brown, one of Chicago’s oldest, largest and most prominent Chicago law firms since 2005.

It was reported that much of the illegal proceeds were spent on a fleet of vehicles, including a Cadillac DTS, an RV camping trailer, a work van and a mobile home. FBI agents seized Thursday approximately $210,000 in bank accounts controlled by Tresch, as well as a camping trailer, a van, and a luxury automobile.  Tresch was released on a $100,000 partially-secured bond.

For additional information, please read the Above the Law Blog Posting by Christopher Danzig entitled: Mayer Brown’s Former CIO Charged With Defrauding the Firm Out of a Whole Bunch of Money