How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

    Click on the book cover for details!

« Corporate Titans of the 1990s and Their Lawyers Speak Out: "The Buck Stopped Somewhere Else" | Main | Two Illinois Cities Pass Tort Reform Measures: Merely a Symbolic Act? »


Walter Olson

Jim Copland is on vacation and I can't speak for him, but I have a few comments on your arithmetic.

Fred Baron told the New York Times that "The pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry and the chemical industry have spent over $200 million over the last five years in ad campaigns that make trial lawyers look like villains...." In the course of trying to substantiate this very specific assertion, you:

1) treat all business spending intended to influence state judicial elections as if it were spent by the three industries named;

2) treat all such spending as devoted to ad campaigns;

3) treat all such ad spending as devoted to negative ads rather than to (say) ads proclaiming the virtues of favored judicial candidates;

4) treat all negative ads as "really" meant to vilify judges' backers even if their message on the surface is "Vote against Judge X, he's too liberal for the state."

5) treat the plaintiff's bar, as opposed to groups such as labor unions, as the only targets of such (perhaps unspoken) messages in negative ads.

And yet readers who follow the link to the Forbes article on which you rely will find that it flatly contradicts each of these five assertions. (It also begins by proclaiming "For years the trial lawyers had state courts wrapped around their fingers. Now big business is striking back.") As for the $15 million figure, a quick Google search indicates that at one point Chamber officials told reporters they were hoping to raise that very large sum for a national ad campaign, but I can find no indication that they actually did raise or spend that amount or anything near it.

It is hardly news that, of the fortunes spent by both sides in our deplorable system of state court election races, some fraction winds up in ads attacking trial lawyers on the one hand or business on the other. But substantiate Baron's $200 million claim? You've got to be kidding.


Walter: Thanks much for your comment. As always, you are a gentleman and a good sport.

As for the substance of your comment, it's duly noted. Meanwhile, I'm doing some more digging. If it yields anything new, I'll probably give the information to the participants in the dialogue.

David Giacalone

Gee, Walter, This is an "entertainment" forum by a p/i lawyer -- you don't expect fact-checking, cogent arguments, and balanced reportage do you?


David: The standards you mention are maintained on this weblog mostly by Saturday guest-posters. While you are waiting for Saturday, may I invite you to have a cigar?


*rolls around the floor laughing*

*recovers - stares down co-workers who are concerned about my mental state*

*starts laughing again*

Ahh - you crack me up. Interestingly enough, your question "can lawyers be entertaining" is similar to the debate question for this years Golden Gavel (a Queensland debating comp for lawyers), which is "Are lawyers funny?"

Any debater worth his salt on the team for the affirmative should be mentioning a few blawgs like this one. Keeps me entertained for 5 minutes every morning anyway... ;o)


David Giacalone

Evan, Thank you, but I'm not a smoker. However, if you should have any leftover Baby Sam bubble-gum cigars, I'd love to have one.


Editor's Update In an e-mail, Fred Baron confirmed to me that he is "not a blogger" and did not see the "e-stuff" at Overlawyered and Point of Law to which this post refers. He also said that despite repeated attacks on him by Walter Olson, he has never met or spoken to Walter Olson, and "to [his] knowledge," has never been given an opportunity to comment prior to publication of the attacks in the Wall Street Journal and other publications.


Who has ever been given an opportunity to respond pre-publication to an op-ed in any major newspaper?

The Baron & Budd memo was published in full in the January 1998 Harper's, and otherwise investigated in the press and elsewhere so poor beleaguered Fred Baron has had six years to come up with a response; all Walter did was quote it. Elsewhere, Walter has quoted Baron's public response.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

Search Beyond the Underground