A certain British former lawyer – whose name had been “struck from the Roll of Solicitors” – hired attorneys to institute California litigation against a newspaper over its coverage of him.  The complaint predictably drew an anti-SLAPP motion, which was ultimately granted in full, requiring him to pay a substantial attorneys’ fees award. 

He subsequently sued his attorneys for alleged malpractice and other wrongs, presenting multiple theories of damages, but defendants obtained summary adjudication.  On appeal, the court, in addition to ruling on the merits, felt compelled to highlight his counsel’s “several material violations of the California Rules of Court governing the opening brief and appellant’s appendix in civil appeals.”  Specifically, she had filed the appendix with the documents “arranged in reverse chronological order, making the appendix remarkably difficult to review.”  

While showing some contrition, the lawyer could not resist arguing that while the applicable rule provides that the appendix documents must be “arranged chronologically,” it “does not specifically indicate in which direction the chronology should proceed.”  Well, of course that’s ridiculous.  Any reasonable person would understand the term “chronological” to mean from oldest-to-newest. Hence the received phrase “reverse chronological order” to signal the opposite.  And there’s also the fact that 99.9% of counsel read the rule correctly.   

As to the merits, however, the ex-Solicitor in fact won reversal of the grant of summary adjudication.  But not on the familiar damages theory that he would have won his lawsuit but for his attorneys’ negligence.  Rather, on the theory that his lawyers failed to warn him– before instituting litigation– that his complaint would likely draw an anti-SLAPP motion and he’d get hit for attorneys’ fees.  A warning was required “[b]ecause an attorney owes a duty of care to advise a client of foreseeable risks of litigation before filing a lawsuit on the client’s behalf…”  Attorneys:  Better put that warning in writing.