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Why Some With a Breach of Fiduciary Duty by a NY Co. Can't Be Helped


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1/1/2016
Jonathan Cooper
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I like to help people, particularly those who have been wronged by others. That is one of principal reasons I became a lawyer.

But there is one characteristic that helps determine whether I can help people out or not: if they come to me with questions rather than answers.

Last week, I received a call from a gentleman overseas, who began our conversation asking if I could help him with his legal issue pertaining to a New York company's breach of their fiduciary duty to him by wrongfully misappropriating of his intellectual property. He indicated that there was no formal written agreement, but that he could prove, based upon a litany of e-mails between the two sides, that they had taken advantage of the benefit he had conferred upon them, and run with his ideas without compensating him for it.

There were only a "few" problems with my ability to advise accurately this individual:

  • This gentleman insisted that this case was ripe for a declaratory judgment - i.e., a lawsuit that seeks only the court's determination as to the parties' respective rights under a contract - (about which he was completely wrong);
  • He refused to give me any details whatsoever as to the content of the e-mails between the two sides to determine whether a court could find that a partnership in fact existed, and if so, what the respective percentage of the partnership would be;
  • He refused to provide me with any details or proof that this intellectual property either belonged to him, or its inherent value; and,
  • He wouldn't even give me the names of the purported defendants.
No, he felt he had already given me enough details to give him an assessment as to the likelihood of success of his case. I politely disagreed.

Disappointed that I couldn't confirm his "knowledge" and "research" without further factual details and actual research, he abruptly hung up. 

Here's the lesson: if you want help with your breach of fiduciary duty matter, you have to be willing to level with the attorney. Simply put, the quality of the advice you get can only be as good as the information you provide to the lawyer.

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