Cover Story

Lions of the Trial Bar


Their names can be found in the pages of case­books and on the sides of law school buildings. They’ve tried some of the most important cases of the last 50 years, dazzling juries and swaying judges. They’ve won—or saved—billions of dollars for their clients, and become wealthy men in the process.

They’ve also represented the guilty and unpopular because they thought it was the right thing to do. They are the lawyers most of us secretly wish we could be, if only for a day.

And now they’re in the autumn of their careers.

Fred Bartlit. James Brosnahan. Bobby Lee Cook. Richard “Race­horse” Haynes. Joe Jamail. James Neal. Bernie Nussbaum.

These seven lawyers are among the best litigators in America. Strike that. Most of them consider the word litigator an insult. They’re trial lawyers.

They’re all past—in some cases, well past—70 years of age, but when the nation’s largest corpo­rations and most important people face serious trouble, they still turn to these seven old-timers.

That’s because, as the number of trials in the United States seems to be approaching zero, there are fewer and fewer trial lawyers with the experience to take their place. (See “The Endangered Trial Lawyer.”)

Says U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson, who’s seen several at work in his San Antonio courtroom: “They represent a breed of lawyer that I fear is on the verge of extinction.”

But before they go, they’ve got some tales to tell—stories that are timeless, provocative, profane and laugh-out-loud funny. And most of them are even true.

Sit back, pour yourself a drink, and learn how it was done back in the day. Class is in session.

Bernie Nussbaum: From Watergate to the World Trade Center

Joe Jamail: Keeping it simple

James Neal: Hating losing more than loving winning

Fred Bartlit: John Wayne in a pinstripe suit

Bobby Lee Cook: Kickin’ asses that needed kickin’

James Brosnahan: Defending clients, not movements

Richard “Racehorse” Haynes: The man they call when they’re in Texas-size trouble


Mark Curriden, an occasional contributor to the ABA Journal, is a freelance writer based in Dallas.


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