Paging Dr. Phil

The Madison County Record Apr. 22, 2007, 10:00am

When they first met back in 1999, for Chicago-based Freed & Weiss and the Metro East's venerable Lakin Law Firm, it was love at first sight.

It was a match made in plaintiff's heaven. And why not? They had much in common, yet were perfect complements.

One was a small fish in a huge pond, a small, young boutique with high energy and big lawsuit dreams. The other was the biggest fish in a small pond, a old-time plaintiff's outfit built upon the swashbuckling reputation of a personal injury star-- albeit one in the twilight of his career.

Freed & Weiss had the ideas; the Lakins had the venue. That's the "complement" part. The glue that held their collective gaze was a bit more obvious: a devoutness to the concept that mass litigation made for a lucrative business opportunity.

No, these law firms didn't get hitched because they were out to secure more justice. They didn't team up to provide better service to clients, or to bolster their firm's relative expertise. From the beginning, it was all about combining forces to turn the Third Circuit into a class action lawsuit-settling machine. This union was all about the green.

This page has long argued that this tandem was scheming to use our civil courts--under the guise of "justice"-- as a lever to make themselves personally rich. Recent public filings by both of them confirm as much that, sadly, Freed & Weiss and the Lakin Law Firm married (sigh)-- for money.

Before honeymooning in Edwardsville, it's now clear they should have signed a pre-nup. Their messy break-up is starting to resemble a virtual Jerry Springer Show. It's now playing, as reported by our Steve Korris, at the Madison County Courthouse.

The barbs are flying. It's hard to believe these class action lawyers were ever so sweet on one another. Partners of both firms are characterizing the other as greedy, lying and deceitful, self-interested and incapable of playing responsible custodian to the hundreds of pending class action lawsuits they filed together over a seven-year span.

And who are we to disagree?

Not that the combatants seem much worried about the reputation of their profession, but their spat confirms average folks' worst fears about lawyers: that they're only in it for the money. You'd think the State Bar, supposedly obsessed with ethics and integrity, would have something to say at some point.

That said, the business model of Freed & Weiss and the Lakins could use the public vetting-- if only to guarantee our court never lets such a mass tort fiasco happen upon us again.

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