August 2004 Issue
When Henry W. Asbill said he would represent one of 26 defendants in an organized crime RICO case, he expected it to be an interesting, complex criminal defense with a trial lasting about three months.
He was right about the interesting and complex parts. But he soon realized he had seriously underestimated just how long the trial would last.
What he thought would take up only a part of 1986 stretched on into 1988. At 22 months, Asbill says the trial actually set the record as the longest criminal trial in federal court history.
Fortune was with him in a number of ways—he got along well with the client, his client could afford to pay him, and he eventually won the case, Asbill recounts. In fact, all of the defendants were acquitted on all charges on the first day of deliberation.
Nonetheless, he recalls the Newark, N.J., trial as the most challenging period of his career. Long before the days of cell phones, laptop computers and PDAs, the location was several hours away from his small firm’s Washington, D.C., law office, his wife and his 2-year-old son.
Dr. A. Bernard Ackerman saw his professional world turned upside down the first time he testified as a medical expert witness.
When a corporation’s general counsel hired an outside law firm in days gone by, the exercise was akin to ordering a la carte in an upscale restaurant—on the boss’s tab.
From cocktails to dessert, nothing came cheap. Nor did paying an outside lawyer by the hour. In those days, law firms rarely offered their corporate clients prix fixe.