How to hire a lawyer without knowing you did

The SE Texas Record May 5, 2011, 1:00am

Ever wonder about those people on Facebook who have hundreds of "friends"? 532 friends? 693 friends? 875 friends? How does anybody have 875 friends?

Are they close friends or mere acquaintances? Do they know all their friends' birthdays and the names of their 1000+ kids? Do they have all of them over for a barbecue in the backyard? Can one person really know that many people?

We don't know how many friends Mikal Watts has, or if he has a Facebook page, but the San Antonio-based trial bar legend does have an extraordinary number of clients – 43,000 in a single lawsuit, so he claims.

It's a class action suit -- against British Petroleum for alleged damages suffered by Gulf Coast residents because of last year's oil spill. 43,000 clients seems rather immense.

Can Mikal Watts document a genuine attorney-client relationship with 43,000 plaintiffs? He says he can, but there is some doubt.

According to a recent New York Times report, some of those 43,000 plaintiffs were unaware that Watts was representing them. They deny knowing the man, much less hiring him.

The Times cites several Vietnamese workers who discovered to their surprise that they were listed as clients of Watts Guerra Craft. In fact, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, which administers BP's fund for spill victims, turned away some of them because of that alleged relationship.

Can this be what Watts, et al. mean by the assertion on their website that "we don't believe in business as usual"? When they boast that they "move with lightning speed" and "get to trial fast," that couldn't include clients they haven't signed up yet, right? That would be too fast, indeed.

Watts and his partners say they "have what it takes to win." May we suggest that it's not just whether you win or lose; it's how you play the game?

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