CANADY: I lived through the three-martini lunch. I didn’t indulge, but I
attended them. Lawyers stayed with one
firm. You didn’t know what other lawyers
made, and you didn’t want to know.
Once information on what attorneys were
making came out, attorneys would say,
“Gee, that guy’s making a lot more than
I am,” so people got aggressive about
seeking out rainmakers.
STERNS: Clients used to come in; I’d hand
them a retainer agreement, they’d sign
it. Now people question the small print,
haggle about the fee, shop around. One
lady, after we discussed her case, she
reached into her purse and handed me
the agreement—all loaded up in her favor,
MELCHIOR: You used to go to court every
week. Now it’s maybe every five months.
BROSNAHAN: Back then, a trial was
a major American institution and there
were many, many trial lawyers. Now,
about 97 percent of federal criminal cases
are disposed of without a trial. And the
prosecutors dictate. You spend your time
with the sentencing guidelines. It’s all
numbers. You add up the numbers and
you tell the defendant, “You’re at 26. Bad
news. You’re at 37.” They’re a bloodless,
unfortunate development in criminal law.
SUCHERMAN: Custody of children—used
to be 100 percent to the woman. Now it’s
50-50 down the line. There’s also a big
change in women having to pay support.
The courts put in mandatory formulas for
paying child and spousal support. [Also],
judges are paying much more attention to
domestic violence now.
FASTIFF: When I started, it was 90
percent traditional labor law [unions,
employees]; now it’s 20 percent
traditional and 80 percent employment
law [wages and hours, discrimination,
harassment, class actions.]
STERNS: In 1960 there was no provision
[saying] you had to declare experts or put
them up for deposition. Both sides would
walk into a trial having basically no idea
what the other side was up to. One time I
called a doctor to the stand as a witness
and didn’t even identify him as a doctor
until I was questioning him. Not knowing
who the other side’s witnesses are, and
listening to them testify while thinking
about how you’re going to cross-examine
them, is not conducive to effective counsel.
But I’m not so sure if it’s a better system
now or not. We take up an enormous
amount of time in all that pretrial stuff; it’s
much more expensive.
CANADY: At our small firm, clients would
come to you with all of their work. Now a
corporation’s general counsel says, “We
want who is best for this particular project.”
I’ve never thought it was that difficult to do
M&A for a different industry, but now they
want specialists in their industry. I always
felt being a generalist was an advantage.
I’d be the only lawyer from our side, but
I had a background in tax, securities law,
corporate law and M&A. I’d be dealing
with lawyers for a bigger firm who’d have
to turn to another lawyer. I think it’s good
for young attorneys today to have broader
experiences before they specialize. It gives
you better judgment and perspective.
BROSNAHAN: I’m not sure the decline
of the generalist is a good thing. But it’s
necessary: The laws have become much
These men have witnessed seismic change
in another area: technology.
MELCHIOR: Lawyers [once] made copies
by dipping them into a liquid. In the ’70s, a
bright young lawyer in the firm demanded
that he get a computer terminal, and the
firm wouldn’t let him get one, even if he
paid for it himself.
CANADY: I started out with a mechanical
typewriter, carbon paper and white-out.
When the fax machine came along, I’d
come in 7 a.m.; and at 4 p.m., the Japanese
would begin work and send me a fax, and
they’d expect a turnaround at the end of
Some cases—and clients—stand out.
BROSNAHAN: The case of John Walker
Lindh, “The American Taliban.” We
represented him in Northern Virginia
and everybody in the world said he was a
traitor, and they had it all wrong. Although
his view at the time—and his father’s—was
that we saved him, I regret that America
didn’t understand him. Finally, they
dismissed all the terrorism stuff, but he
was sentenced to 20 years.
CANADY: I represented the second
Japanese buyer of Pebble Beach, which
is several golf courses and hotels, in 1992
and sold PB to Peter Ueberroth, Clint
Eastwood, and Arnold Palmer and that
group in ’ 99. During that seven-year
period, they’d invite me to play in the
AT&T tournaments. For a golfer, that’s
probably the best client. I was sorry when
they were sold.
STERNS: A young couple from England
was killed in a DC- 10 crash in 1974. It was
the first crash of the McDonnell Douglas
DC- 10, which had been rushed to the
market to compete with Boeing. [The
crash] killed 340 people; it was a huge
deal. It ended up in the Los Angeles federal
court because we were able to go against
McDonnell-Douglas there; the judge
picked [my] case as the first one to be tried.
[The couple] left two young daughters, 7
and 5. The other side offered us $150,000
each. The defense calls up an accountant
from London, complete with bowler hat
and umbrella. What a gift. His testimony
was that, traditionally, the English culture
would have them out of the house at age
16—out of school and out working on the
street, selling flowers like Eliza Doolittle,
so they didn’t need any money. These are
the daughters of college graduates. I was
like an alligator finding loose debris in
the swamp. I cut him up like a Christmas
goose. The jury gave us a million-and-a-half dollars.
BROSNAHAN: About 12 years ago, I
defended a man who had been wrongly
convicted of a murder that occurred in
Northern Ireland and sentenced to the
Maze prison, but then he escaped [to the
U.S.]. We defended him here for eight years.
I made five trips to Northern Ireland and
Belfast to investigate who had committed
the murder. I walked around. Asked a lot
questions. You could see the prejudice
[toward Catholics]. It was palpable.
MELCHIOR: I recently lost a couple cases
that bothered me a lot. The courts didn’t
follow the law, and it’s shocking. I’m used
to losing cases [where] judges interpret the