Letters to the Editor

Recession Issue Hits Home

Your January special recession issue really hit home to me and my office. I have been an ABA member since 1980 and have enjoyed your articles every year.

I am part of a five-man firm that has been in existence since the early ’70s. We are a small firm that specializes mainly in criminal offenses and traffic violations. I do have two partners who do domestic-related work and a partner who does civil litigation. Our firm is dependent on many small businesses and individual cli­ents. We do not have any “cash-cow” clients. Since the recession has hit, we have re-evaluated our billing prac­tices and fee arrangements with our clients.

As you know, in criminal matters attorneys do not generally take cases without getting paid in full up front. On the criminal side of our practice, we have tried to go the extra mile in working with clients by setting fee arrangements and accepting payment schedules. Needless to say, this has paid off dramatically: Our revenues were up 15 to 16 percent from the 2007 calendar year. I think it goes to show that if you work with individuals, they will not only come back to you but also send other clients your way.

Thanks for the excellent series of articles, and keep up the good work.

George V. Laughrun II
Charlotte, N.C.

Thanks for the exceptionally lucid article by Terry Carter, “How Lawyers Enabled the Meltdown,” January. It is the most concise account that I have seen, and should be a beacon for Congress and the regulators.

Robert C. Nusbaum
Norfolk, Va.

Carter’s article reminds me again how history makes the dangers in certain conduct obvious; but by either failing to learn that history, or deciding it isn’t relevant to “our time,” we repeat the same errors.

After the Depression took hold and in the shadow of the market crash of the late ’20s, the Senate held hearings to investigate the causes, hauling Wall Street’s leading financiers in to testify. These were known as the Pecora hearings—Ferdinand Pecora being the Senate counsel questioning the once great men of the day. Pecora’s Wall Street Under Oath should be required reading for anyone dealing with securities regulation.

To quote from the preface, written 70 years ago: “Under the surface of the governmental regulation of the securities market, the same forces that produced the riotous speculative excesses of the wild bull market of 1929 still give evidence of their existence and influence. Though repressed for the present, it cannot be doubted that, given a suitable opportunity, they would spring back into pernicious activity. Frequently we are told that this regulation has been throttling the country’s prosperity. Bitterly hostile was Wall Street to the enactment of the regulatory legislation. It now looks forward to the day when it shall, as it hopes, reassume the reins of its former power.”

Pecora even gives us an example of his own lament over the consequences of ignoring the past. He observes the all-around failure to heed advice from Solicitor General Frederick Lehmann, given in 1911, addressing systemic flaws that would eventually lead to financial catastrophe. Pecora appreciates that Congress finally addressed the problem in 1933, vindicating Lehmann’s prescience, while recognizing that this came only after paying a cost that was “incalculable.”

As is sometimes said by the weary wise, there is nothing new under the sun; but learning from our history creates the possibility for something new in ourselves and our institutions.

Lee Applebaum


In February’s “Jabber-Jaw, Job Edition,” employment lawyer Elaina Smiley correctly observed that there is nothing wrong with discussing the well-known Yankees-Red Sox rivalry during an interview.

But while it may be innocuous to be “talkin’ baseball,” it is important to keep in mind that the refusal to hire a candidate based upon his or her preference for a particular sports team may violate New York law. New York Labor Law § 201-d(2)(c) states that it is unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire an individual because of that person’s “legal rec­reational activities outside work hours.” Al­though some might disagree, being a Red Sox fan is not a valid reason for refusing to hire someone in New York.

Louis Pechman
New York City

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