in and, 20 years ago, I would leap in and
start slashing away. Today, my reaction
would be, ‘Spare me . . . get over it.’”
The approach has earned him praise
from colleagues and adversaries. Dan
French, senior vice president and general
counsel at Syracuse University, partner at
Barclay Damon and a former U.S. attorney,
calls Menkin, “a lawyer’s lawyer.”
“The thing about Eddie is that he’s
excellent on his feet. He’s one of those
attorneys who has great instincts and he is
always willing to advocate for his clients,
almost without bounds,” French says. “I’ve
presented cases with Eddie and, as a U.S.
attorney, I prosecuted cases where Eddie
was the defense attorney, so I’ve seen him
from both sides. He has the unique ability
to agree to disagree—vigorously—without
ever making it personal.”
IT’S JUST AFTER 5 O’CLOCK ON A TUESDAY,
but already the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is
bustling. The air is thick with the smell of
smoked meat as Menkin weaves his way past
the happy hour patrons at the bar, pausing to
allow a server carrying two platters to pass.
“This is the place you’ve got to eat when
you come to Syracuse,” he says, reaching
out to greet a colleague. In a back-corner
table, Menkin settles in and takes a brief
glance at a menu he knows well.
“In this job, ‘winning’ is a relative
concept,” Menkin says between bites of a
hoisin sesame chicken wing. “You’ve got
to measure success against a template of
some harsh realities.”
Among them: The vast majority of his
clients either plead guilty under a deal or
are convicted at trial. The acquittal is a rare
occurrence, though Menkin says he has
earned more than his fair share.
“There is an emotional cost to you, and
it’s a really high price to pay,” he says.
“Particularly when you are a sole practitioner,
you need to keep a balance in your life
because an enormous amount of you is left
on the floor after one of these battles.”
At 73, with a grandson to dote on and
his golf clubs nearby, balance is on his
mind. He’s lightened his workload but
won’t talk retirement. His legacy, though?
He’ll talk about that.
“Like most people, I want to be liked,”
he says with a sly grin. “But how do I want
to be remembered? Nice guy, very good
lawyer; a witty guy who you don’t want to
The Bar and The Bard
The guy who penned the line, “The first thing we do, let’s kill
all the lawyers,” has a fan in Ed Menkin.
“Shakespeare has been a meaningful part of my intellectual
life, and my very favorite character is Falstaff,” Menkin says.
“Although he doesn’t have much to do with the law—far
from it—he has everything to do with how exciting and full
life can be lived if you push against boundaries. Without the
joy and excitement of pushing boundaries, practicing law is
a stale piece of business.”
The Bard had a thing for references to lawyers and law.
Check out a few below:
I have neither the scholar’s melancholy, which is
emulation, nor the musician’s, which is fantastical, nor
the courtier’s, which is proud, nor the soldier’s, which
is ambitious, nor the lawyer’s, which is politic ...
As You Like It
... When law can do no right,
Let it be lawful that law bar no wrong:
Law cannot give my child his kingdom here,
For he that holds his kingdom holds the law.
Help, master, help! here’s a fish hangs in the net,
like a poor man’s right in the law ...
Crack the lawyer’s voice,
That he may never more false title plead,
Nor sound his quillets shrilly.
Timon of Athens
A pound of that same merchant’s flesh is thine:
The court awards it, and the law doth give it.
The Merchant of Venice
And do as adversaries do in law,
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
The Taming of the Shrew