The World’s Richest Lawyers: Part 1

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If you think all lawyers are rich, you’d be wrong. Money Inc. reports that the average salary for lawyers in the United States is $133,000 per year. The average for Canadian lawyers is less than that. But there are a group of lawyers worldwide who have made a fortune from practicing law, not from investments or business activities, but just advising and representing clients.  The list includes a few well-known names and several who fly under the radar.

  1. ALAN DERSHOWITZ  $25 million

A graduate of Harvard Law School in 1962, Dershowitz became a faculty member at Harvard in 1964 and a full professor in 1967. While working as a professor he gained a stellar reputation as a criminal lawyer, representing celebrities such as heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, Queen of Mean and New York hotelier Leona Helmsley, OJ Simpson, Patty Hearst, televangelist Jim Bakker, and Claus Van Bulow, acquitted of murdering his wife. He has also written more than a dozen books.

2. MARK GERAGOS $25 million

Mark Geragos is a “celebrity” lawyer who has acted for Michael Jackson in his sexual molestation trial; Winona Ryder for shoplifting; California politician, Gary Condit, who was suspected of murdering his Washington, DC intern; Susan McDougal , partner of the Clinton’s involved in the Whitewater scandal; Scott Ferguson, convicted of murdering his wife Lacey; and Chris Brown, who pleaded guilty to the assault of his girlfriend Rhianna. Named one of the 100 Most Influential Attorneys in California, he also holds the record for one of the top ten jury verdicts in California for a 2008 award of more than $38 million against a pharmaceutical company

3. WILLIAM LERACH $900 Million

William Lerach specialized in corporate law, specifically  private securities class action lawsuits, the largest being the $7.12 billion he obtained as the lead attorney in the action against Enron. Nicknamed the “King of Pain”, he was reputed to be one of the most feared lawyers in the US during his 30-year career. In 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, Patrick Dillon and Carl Cannon wrote a book about Lerach called “Circle of Greed: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Lawyer Who Brought Corporate America to its Knees”. He no longer practices law after pleading guilty  in 2007 for obstruction of justice, related to a kickback scheme,  and serving a two-year prison sentence. He was disbarred in California in 2009.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

DISBARRED- THE SERIES: F. LEE BAILEY

10950859361151CDPSome lawyers achieve international recognition whether through their representation of high-profile clients, their legendary oratory skills, or their transition from law to politics.

We live in a culture that idolizes the successful and the famous and yet as Phaedrus the Roman fabulist said “Success tempts many to their ruin.”

This aphorism is nowhere truer than in respect of some of Canada and America’s most celebrated lawyers. Lawyers held in the highest esteem for their skill and knowledge, but eventually stripped of their credentials and barred from the practice of law.

The first subject in this series on disbarred lawyers is F. LEE BAILEY:

Bailey was a criminal defence lawyer and legal superstar known for his representation in 1965 of the Boston Strangler, Albert deSalvo. DeSalvo was convicted of numerous sexual assaults but never tried for the strangulation deaths of thirteen women, despite the confession he made to Bailey.

He also represented Dr. Sam Sheppard in 1966 on appeal from his murder conviction in the death of his wife. Sheppard’s “bushy-haired stranger” defence failed at his first trial, however, his appeal to the United States Supreme Court succeeded on the basis that Sheppard’s trial resembled a “carnival” and was tainted by non-sequestered jurors and the trial judge’s public declaration: “Well, he’s guilty as hell. There’s no question about that”.

Sheppard was acquitted at his second trial after serving ten years of his sentence. The Sheppard case was said to be the basis for the popular television series “The Fugitive” with David Janssen and the movie with Harrison Ford.

Other high-profile clients included Dr. Carl Coppolino, convicted in the death of his wife, Patty Hearst of Symbionese Liberation Army notoriety, Captain Medina for his 1971 My Lai Massacre court martial and O. J. Simpson.

Many pundits say that it was Bailey’s cross-examination of Mark Fuhrman that sealed Simpson’s acquittal.

In 1994 Bailey and ROBERT SHAPIRO acted for Claude Duboc, an international drug trafficking kingpin extradited to Florida. Part of Duboc’s plea deal was that he would turn over all his assets to the federal government. These assets included stocks in a Canadian company called Biochem valued at $6 million. By the time the government moved to recover Duboc’s assets, the stock had increased in value to $14 million. Bailey had previously placed the stock in his account and used it as collateral for personal loans. He also used the interest on the investment to finance his expensive lifestyle, claiming that the stocks were payment for his legal fees. He refused to turn the stock over to the government.

Bailey was censured by the Florida Supreme Court and served six weeks for contempt of court. He eventually reimbursed the government almost $20 million. In 2001 he was disbarred by the State of Florida for five years and ordered to close his practice within 30 days. The State of Massachusets removed Bailey from their roll of licensed attorneys the following year.

Today Mr. Bailey is chairman and CEO of a productivity and management company and is on the speaking circuit for a fee of $10,000.00. From time to time he also appears as a legal commentator on television and radio. He has tried for several years to regain his practice license but says he has no desire to practice criminal law.

As a 12-year-old I read Mr. Bailey’s book “The Defence Never Rests” and was mesmerized by his war stories and trial tactics. He was a hero of mine.

Perhaps Will Rogers was correct when he said “Heroing is one of the shortest-lived professions there is.”

UPDATE: In 2012 Mr. Bailey passed the bar admission exam in the State of Maine and sought admittance to practice as a lawyer. The Maine Board of Bar Examiners reviewed his case and determined he was not fit to practice law given his past issues in the States of Florida and Massachusetts. On appeal, the tribunal found that the only impediment to allowing him to practice was an outstanding tax debt of $2 million dollars. His lawyer filed an application to reconsider Bailey’s application and he was cleared to obtain a license to practice law in Maine, however, in April 2014 an appeal decision stifled his opportunity to become licensed in the State of Maine. Today he is not licensed to practice law in any state.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang