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Legal Malpractice Suit Claims Duane Morris Partners' Own Company Collected Client Fees

A legal malpractice suit alleges Duane Morris corporate practice chief George Nemphos and corporate partner Jay Cohen instructed the plaintiff to pay retainer fees to a company they created. Morris and Nemphos have resigned.

The $10 million legal malpractice suit by Angela Singleton, the inventor of a high heel shoe insert, alleges Nemphos and Cohen told her to stop paying monthly retainer fees of $6,500 to Duane Morris and to instead make payments to an LLC called Smeyne Ross, the New York Law Journal (sub. req.) reports. Smeyne and Ross are the maiden names of the lawyers' spouses, the suit says. Nemphos and Cohen helped launch a Baltimore office for Duane Morris in 2006 after they left DLA Piper, according to the Baltimore Business Journal. Nemphos was managing partner of the Baltimore office. Singleton's suit (PDF), filed on March 3 in Baltimore court, says she was directed to pay the retainer to Smeyne Ross in May 2010, then was advised in March 2011 to split the retainer between Smeyne Ross and Duane Morris. The suit alleges that the lawyers advised Singleton to transfer her intellectual property rights to a company called Pique Founders Co., which would be jointly owned by Singleton and two investors in her company who were Duane Morris clients. Singleton claims she emphasized that she wanted control of major decisions by the company, but Cohen didn't notify her about a revision to a draft operating agreement that ended a requirement of unanimous consent for major business decisions when convertible notes matured. As a result of losing control of the company, the suit alleged, Singleton was effectively frozen out of Pique and the company "spiraled downward," filing for bankruptcy in November 2014. The suit also claims that Nemphos and Cohen obtained a 3 percent equity interest in Singleton's company through Smeyne Ross without compensating Singleton. Nemphos was also a defendant in a prior malpractice suit against Duane Morris that alleged he represented the seller of a controlling interest in a credit card processing company without disclosing his long-standing relationship with the purchaser. The suit was dismissed with prejudice in January, according to the Baltimore Business Journal. Duane Morris has named Chicago partner Brian Kerwin as the new chair of its corporate practice and partner Robert Hopkins as the new leader of its Baltimore office. A law firm spokesperson did not comment on the lawsuit when contacted by the publications. Originally posted by Debra Cassens Weiss on abajournal.com. Legal Malpractice Suit - Ball & Bonholtzer Trial Attorney - Los Angeles

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