You can tell a trial lawyer from a litigator in about 15 minutes. The trial lawyer defines what is going on, and creates the boundaries of the essential story that the judge or jury can grasp. Then a small number of critical facts are marshaled in a compelling sequence. A trial lawyer doesn’t persuade. A trial lawyer empowers the trier of fact to persuade herself.
Meanwhile, the litigator is thumbing though a mountainous binder of exhibits, asking one of the bag-carriers sitting behind him to help find something that sounds important, but is really inconsequential. Litigators extend, complicate, confuse. They don’t tell a story so much as they strive to fill a dictionary.
Fred Bartlit is a trial lawyer. And he just brought his formidable talents to bear on the BigLaw status quo in the ABA Journal yesterday here. You have to read it. And then read it again.
It’s a guest column in the “New Normal” series written by Paul Lippe and Patrick Lamb.
Mr. Bartlit’s firm, Bartlit Beck, is not new, and it’s not normal, either. Although the model and approach seem highly logical, eminently practical, and apparently quite profitable.
I started to prepare some excerpts, but it really doesn’t work in this case. You have to read Mr. Barlit’s work intact and in one sitting. He’s advancing an argument, not just offering an idea. The conclusion is particularly brilliant, and relies more on Thomas Kuhn than Thomas Jefferson.
It may be a coincidence, but Mr. Bartlit’s article went live the same day that the 2012 AmLaw 200 results were released.
There will certainly be some shifting around in this annual pecking order, and some percentages will be offered up to show progress for some, and perhaps a bit of optimism for many others.
But make no mistake about it, it’s beginning to appear to be somewhat of an illusion. The other 199 want to think that Dewey was the outlier, not an early warning signal. “They had too much debt; too many high-priced and high-maintenance laterals. We are different, and our model is sound!”
We shall see; I recall how Leo Tolstoy started Anna Karenina:
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Fred Bartlit may not be Leo Tolstoy but he tells a mighty interesting story, and has created with his partners a very functional legal family.
(He’s the one on the left).