It wasn’t until I read David Enrich’s fascinating new book, The Damned Servant: Giant Law Firms, Donald Trump, and Judicial Corruption, that I fully understood how right he was.
New York Times business investigations editor Enrich, An in-depth and disturbing study of Jones Day, a law firm that spawned major law firms BakerHostetler and Squire Patton Boggs. Other large law firms have also emerged. The authors show how the profits and political power of partners can easily overwhelm legal ethics and even basic morality to the detriment of fairness, equity, and justice.
In this engaging and well-paced account, Enrich tells how Jones Day, a local Cleveland law firm representing John D. Rockefeller’s burgeoning 19th century oil monopoly, grew and led the national and global legal powerhouse The rise of these legal powerhouses is able to smash deserved plaintiffs or court documents down the hill.
Until half a century ago, Jones Day partners turned down some unpleasant business clients. In the 1960s, they approved the admission of another law firm because “these gentlemen are honest, upright and respectful of the law as a profession, not just as a business.” In 1973, out of concerns about its reputation, Jones Day Refused to keep the Watergate tapes secret on behalf of Richard Nixon.
Things started to change in 1974. Enrich traces the rise of large law firms to a small ad in an Arizona newspaper for two reform-minded lawyers offering low-cost legal services. The ad and a second case prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to allow lawyers to advertise for clients when price fixing is prohibited. But consumer interests aside, the high court ruling has created an unexpected path to wealth for those who see the law as a profit-maximizing business.
Enrich has shown in anecdotes and revealing court filings how Jones Day took on pesky customers like tobacco companies for paying multimillion-dollar hires to keep its deadly products on sale. He noted that the right to hire a lawyer applies to criminal cases, but Jones Day conveniently applies it to business clients.
Forty years ago, Charles Keating of Lincoln’s savings & Loan, “Their claim is that Jones Day can scrub Lincoln’s books before a government audit”. Jones Day also hired regulators who helped Keating and others fend off law enforcement. It also aids and abets fraud by hiding and tracing documents and forging the signatures of company directors. Jones Day paid a large civil settlement but was never charged with criminal charges.
Investors ended up losing $1 billion, while taxpayers spent three times as much. Keating’s history of fraud dates back to the 1950s and ended up in jail.
Not everyone at Jones Day agrees to chase fees. Those who speak out have been told to “stop whining”. Those most outspoken about breaching moral standards were brought to the door, Rich Report, to name.In this climate of corruption, some lawyers 4,000 hours billed a year. That’s 11 hours a day, every day. Jones Day didn’t hesitate to help clients like soccer team owner Art Modell get hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies, a subtle form of benefit for the wealthy, provided they pay lucrative legal fees.
Despite his impressive research, Enrich overlooks some illuminating aspects of the stories he tells. He ignored William K. Black, the banking regulator, discovered what Keating and his associates were doing, taught detectives and prosecutors how to bring thousands of cases, and became a pariah in the legal world, Because he insisted on integrity and wrote, “The Best Way to Robbery a Bank is to Own a Bank: How Corporate Executives and Politicians Robbed the S&L Industry.”
Enrich makes a persuasive case that “year after year” Jones Day became an ideological powerhouse. It paid a $400,000 signing bonus to poach more Supreme Court clerks than any other major firm; 70% of them worked under conservative justices like Antonin Scalia — he was a Jones Day lawyer — an investment that shapes the future of the pro-business right while attracting clients.
The company won awards for current and future clients when it signed Donald Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Jones Day partner Donald McGahn has become White House counsel, promising he will pick Trump’s federal court nominee. Another partner became Attorney General and was responsible for controlling the cases that the Department of Justice appealed, how they were appealed, and which cases were dropped.
Like other major law firms, Jones Day sends out top lawyers on roadshows to woo clients during a government change; it accurately touts that the Trump administration and its past and future partners are a valuable sales tool.
Jones Day played a major role in fulfilling Trump’s 2016 campaign promises, both inside and outside the administration Reduce the efficiency of federal regulation of corporate behavior. The firm’s partners “helped reshape the hodgepodge of federal agencies” and helped turn the Justice Department into a “political affiliate of the White House,” Enrich wrote. The authors show that during Trump’s tenure, Jones Day may have held more power within the administration than any other outside organization in any administration — ensuring more billable hours.
Enrich weaves a series of startling facts into a powerful and important picture of how big law firms distort justice: a system in which you can only get as much legal protection as possible favors the rich and the large corporations they control, while Not the one who suffers from mistakes.
Like many books with sprawling characters, this one would benefit from photos of key characters, or at least a one-page mini-biography, to refresh the reader’s memory. The reader should also get more endnotes than the sparse detail provided by Enrich.
Enrich cites a law professor who said lawyers should ask themselves two questions. Am I proud of the work I’m doing? Am I the person I want to be? Imagine how attorneys at Jones Day and other large firms would answer, given the soul-eating environment in which they work.
Enrich ends with an anecdote about Jones Day representing Trump & Co. After a failed January. June 6, 2021, coup. A descendant of a Jones Day founder worries that the company is “playing Russian roulette with American democracy,” angrily imagining that if her grandfather was still around, he “would say their pants were too big.”
She’s too pissed off to get her idea done, so I’ll: If the law becomes just another business, then our democracy and freedom cannot last because the richest and worst criminals will cheat, pollute, and steal— Until lawyers and courts remember, law is a respected profession.
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