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January 27, 2012

"Big Law's Sixth Amendment: The Rise of Corporate White-Collar Practices in Large U.S. Law Firms"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper available on SSRN from Charles Weisselberg and Su Li. I have long thought the relationship between defense representation and the development of criminal justice jurisprudence is a rich topic that rarely gets examined sufficiently. Consequently, I am looking forward to reading this paper and also am eager to hear others' thoughts on this paper and the topic more generally.  Here is the paper's abstract:

Over the last three decades, corporate white-collar criminal defense and investigations practices have become established within the nation’s largest law firms.  It did not used to be this way. White-collar work was not considered a legal specialty.  And, historically, lawyers in the leading civil firms avoided criminal matters.  But several developments occurred at once: firms grew dramatically, the norms within the firms changed, and new federal crimes and prosecution policies created enormous business opportunities for the large firms.

Using a unique data set, this Article profiles the Big Law partners now in the white-collar practice area, most of whom are male former federal prosecutors.  With additional data and a case study, the Article explores the movement of partners from government and from other firms, the profitability of corporate white-collar work, and the prosecution policies that facilitate and are in turn affected by the growth of this lucrative practice within Big Law.  These developments have important implications for the prosecution function, the wider criminal defense bar, the law firms, and women in public and private white-collar practices.

January 27, 2012 at 09:29 AM | Permalink


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I'm stunned no one has commented on this article yet.

I read it several days before Doug posted it. I found it in both tone and tenor insulting to those of us who do criminal defense but don't defend the malfeasance of the top 1% or decided not to sell our souls to Big Law in order to do defense work; I found this especially so in the last few pages of the article.

I also found amusing the failure to discuss whether the large concentration of former prosecutors has a negative impact on the success rate for defendants in these cases. In my own experiences, former prosecutors, both state and federal, generally - but not always - prove to be less than stellar defenders of those accused of crimes. There was a lot of fertile material to cover here, IMO, that should have been covered rather but, perhaps due to its reliance on Big Law sources, was not examined.
speaking just for me....

Posted by: speaking just for me.... | Jan 28, 2012 10:26:03 AM

Attended a party in support of Barack Obama with Lawrence Tribe. Walking around, I ran into a half dozen young Harvard Law grads, supporting Obama. They were from several big cities in the East. Did not know each other. Every single one of them was doing white collar defense work. We were having a good time, joking around, until I asked one why they never assert the full legal rights of their clients by attacking the other side, such as demanding e-discovery of the prosecutor for improper motive. I got this, "In no way, should you consider this to be legal advice, nor do we have any lawyer client relationship. However, what you propose is totally unethical and ineffective. Even if you can disqualify the prosecutor, you will only get a much higher level official who will be far more difficult to deal with." Then he ran away from me, before I could say, "Calm down. It's only cocktail party chatter."

First, the prosecutor may be a friend and former colleague. Second, the job of the defense comes from the prosecutor and not from the client. If fired, at this level of skill, the client is fungible. But deter a prosecutor or a line of prosecution and massive Harvard Law grad defense bar unemployment follows.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 28, 2012 10:54:44 PM

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