Ted Frank Finds His Groove

It’s been quite a while since Ted Frank’s waking hours were spent maligning every action taken by a lawyer to represent evil individuals who suffered at the benign hand of corporate neglect and greed as a major player at Overlawyered.  Was he hunkered down at an unknown location, with only his neighbor Cheney to talk to, awaiting the end of time?  No, it turns out.  As disclosed in a revealing interview at Above The Law, Ted has re-emerged, and now he’s really pissed.

Ted Frank . . .  is starting a new public interest law firm that specializes in pro bono representation of consumers unhappy with class action settlements.

ATL: How did you get started with this new venture? What was your inspiration?

TF: It all started with my Grand Theft Auto objection last summer. It really showed me how easy it is for a bad class action settlement to get rubber-stamped. I ended up spending several hundred dollars of my own money on that case, and I understood right away why judges see so few objections to bad settlements. After the New York Times article came out about my objection, I got many phone calls and emails from people wanting my help in objecting to settlements, and I had to turn them away because it wasn’t part of the work I was doing at AEI.

Last October, I gave a talk to the University of Chicago Law School Federalist Society where the students wondered how the problem of bad settlements could be addressed if no one had the economic incentive to object. At the time, I supposed that my class action objection could be scaled up if there was someone crazy enough to do the same thing pro bono. Seeing noone else crazy enough to do it, I figured it might as well be me.
Now before anybody jumps on Ted to point out the irony of his new direction, allow me.  Soooo, Mr. Lawyer Ted, there’s suddenly merit in representing the interest of the individual, helpless in facing the well-financed behemoth whose interests may not include those of the very people they purport to serve?  Standing up for the little guy who suffers at the hand of an unfeeling, uncaring Goliath?  The names of the players may be different, but the idea is exactly the same as that of the personal injury lawyers representing the lone suffering individual against the corporate titans who sacrificed the consumer’s limb for another $1.79 in profit.  Have you gotten your ATLA membership yet?

In all fairness, Ted has finally found his niche.  His attacks on trial lawyers for doing exactly what he plans to do, except against corporations, may not be a thing of the past, but he’s at least found a way to put his belligerence to good use.  Class actions are a necessary means of keeping corporate malfeasance in check when the harm done isn’t sufficient to give rise to individual actions, and we would be a worse society without them. 

But there is also an element to them, revealed in the Grand Theft Auto class action as well as the Ford Explorer one, which demonstrates that they can easily become vehicles for lawyers to make money at the expense of the class.  Whether a lawyer serves one or ten thousand clients, it’s the clients’ interest that must prevail.  We don’t do this to generate fees for ourselves while providing no value to our clients.  And as both cases show, and as Ted’s experience showed, there’s no incentive to challenge the class action settlements, and even if there was, the road is rocky and almost impossible for the non-lawyer to traverse.

When someone claims that his cause is in the “public interest,” I tend to wince.  After all, who anointed him savior of the public, with the inherent vision to know what’s good or bad for the public (particularly when it’s obvious that I am the only one who knows what’s truly in the public interest, though others may dispute this fact).  But I suspect that this time, Ted’s the right man for the job. 

Unless you’re as blindly supportive of trial lawyers as Ted was once against them, you will see the merit in Ted’s new crusade.  Not every class action is bad, but there is most assuredly a need for someone to serve as a check on lawyer greed as there is on corporate greed.  Whether it proves to be a viable plan has yet to be seen, as Ted has no doubt come to realize that even public interest lawyers need to feed their kids, and it takes financing to keep a firm, even one dedicated to the public interest, in business.  That revenue has to come from somewhere, and he’ll have to learn how to pick his causes.  Just like trial lawyers.

I wish Ted Frank the best in his new endeavor.  I trust that he’ll flex his muscles cautiously and appropriately.  I take no issue with someone keeping a close watch on the legal fees relative to the benefits of the settlement to the class, and I look forward to seeing Ted’s efforts make class actions serve the class rather than the lawyers. 

2 thoughts on “Ted Frank Finds His Groove

  1. Anne

    So, people victimized by lawyers need … more lawyers?! Hair of the dog!

    That’s a hilarious concept — class actions spawning class actions.

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