There's a 30-attorney law firm in Chicago that's suing Facebook, and that sounds like it might be a good candidate for Inc.'s annual list of the world's coolest offices

Perks include "an indoor volleyball court, golf simulators ...  and a large mural of emcees in the midst of a rap battle," according to a report. 

But the firm, Edelson P.C., also has another highly unusual asset: Its name partner, Jay Edelson, holds the government title of "special assistant state's attorney," as part of an apparently unique class action lawsuit strategy over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

That status means the fifth-largest U.S. state has basically "outsourced law enforcement to a class-action attorney," in the words of Eriq Gardner of The Hollywood Reporter, who wrote a 3,400-word analysis of the case. 

It also means that besides asking for $50,000 for each Facebook user who was affected by Cambridge Analytica's actions--potentially billions of dollars in damages--Edelson is suing under a law that could theoretically ban Facebook from operating in the state of Illinois.

The lawsuit is one of many that Edelson has filed against big technology companies in recent years, including Amazon, Apple, and Google. The New York Times once called him, "if not the most hated person in Silicon Valley, very close to it.

But the status that Edelson apparently worked out in the Facebook case with Kimberly Foxx, who is the top government prosecutor in Chicago, gives him a potentially potent tool to keep it from being dismissed from court.

When Facebook claims the plaintiffs in Edelson's suit lack standing to sue, he argues back that he's partly not only suing on behalf of private clients, but also on behalf of the people of the fifth-largest state in America. 

Depending on your point of view, it's either an insane and potentially unconstitutional arrangement -- or one that's scrappy, creative, and borderline genius.

Edelson declined comment when I reached out to them. Facebook hasn't responded to me.

But in one of their legal filings to dismiss the case, according to the Reporter, Facebook said the case is "being directed and financed by private attorneys with no accountability to the State or Illinois voters, pursuant to a contract of questionable validity that awards them a significant contingent interest in any recovery."

Actually, there's probably no dispute there about the "significant amount" Edelson's firm would make with a win. The firm is entitled to 20 percent of the recovery, according to the article.

So even on a $1 billion judgment, we'd be talking $200 million in attorney's fees. Maybe a lot more.

By way of comparison, the state's attorney, Foxx, makes about $180,000 a year.

Here's what else I'm reading today:

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Published on: Jan 11, 2019
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