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Tough divorce attorneys grapple with conflict rules

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

 

This is what happens when you get a reputation as the roughest, toughest, you-don’t-want-to-mess-with-me divorce attorney in town.

Jody Stahancyk is the attorney in question, and love her or hate her, if you’re getting a divorce, she’s the lawyer you don’t want representing your spouse. Or at least, that’s what a number of people seem to think, since Stahancyk has become the prime target of a legal but maybe not so ethical strategy called “conflicting out.”

Here’s how it works: Say a wealthy husband has already chosen legal representation for his not-yet-announced divorce. But having heard of Stahancyk’s reputation, he knows he doesn’t want his attorney going up against her. So he sets up an appointment with Stahancyk and pays for an initial consult. He tells her a thing or two about his situation, and leaves knowing that because of strict Oregon rules governing attorney conflict of interest, Stahancyk cannot represent his wife.

There are only a handful of high-profile divorce attorneys in Portland, and most say they’ve been the victims of such strategies on occasion. But only Stahancyk has seen it happen to her with regularity. And that’s despite the fact that the Oregon State Bar in 2010 amended its rules governing professional conduct with the intention of curbing the practice.

Read more in today's Portland Tribune.

 

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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


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