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It’s bad enough for Charlotte’s commercial real estate industry. Lenders aren’t lending. Vacancies are still high. And then there’s the ongoing problem of lawsuits alleging that shopping centers, office buildings and industrial parks are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. “The way the (federal) statute was set up it was meant to provide a method where it would be easy for plaintiffs to bring these lawsuits,” said John Bowers, a lawyer for Charlotte law firm Horack Talley. “They can sue to have these changes to the properties.” Bowers (pictured) is among attorneys who have been hired to defend two clients in the Charlotte area dealing with ADA lawsuits.
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The term frivolous lawsuit is tossed around a lot, but attorney Ben Smith of Price, Smith, Hargett, Petho and Anderson in Charlotte finds the phrase objectionable in his practice area. “The phrase doesn’t exist in medical malpractice, and I resent people who go in public and say it does,” Smith said. “There is a large entry price in any case. You have to have an expert review the records, and they have to give a preliminary opinion on the case based solely on the record. You don’t really get to the meat of the case until you take a deposition, and that comes much later.”
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Everyday law practice can be a trial, and balancing work and family can become even more laborious for women and minority attorneys. But firms are making an effort to be more diverse and retain attorneys of varying backgrounds across the Palmetto State. At the Columbia offices of Haynsworth, Sinkler and Boyd, Ben Alexander, chairman of the firm's diversity board, said the profession has a long way to go. "This diversity task is not easy for us or others," Alexander said. "You've got to ramp up your recruiting and hiring of qualified applicants, and once you hire those well-qualified lawyers, you've got to retain them."
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