Tort Law

List of Top 75 Plaintiffs Lawyers Highlights ‘Macho Image of Trial Lawyering'

  • Print.

Who are the best plaintiffs lawyers? A list of the top 75, compiled by two lawyers at Shook, Hardy & Bacon based on interviews with the defense bar, has lots of well-known names, but only one woman, as best as we could tell.

The 74 men on the list (PDF posted by the Am Law Daily) include Joe Jamail (named the nation’s richest practicing lawyer by Forbes magazine), Stanley Chesley (reportedly under investigation by the Kentucky Bar Association), Willie Gary (who has a fleet of Bentleys), and W. Mark Lanier (known for hiring big-name talent for his holiday parties).

The only woman on the list is Elizabeth Cabraser, who recently received a Margaret Brent Award from the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession.

Cabraser says more women would be on a list that was compiled by the plaintiffs bar, including Dianne Nast. Cabraser told the ABA Journal in an e-mail that Nast is “a pre-eminent antitrust lawyer and a great mass torts strategist whom I consider the quintessential role model for any woman—and any man, for that matter—of a model litigator.”

But Cabraser acknowledges that any list of the top plaintiffs lawyers would still be dominated by men. “There are not as many nationally-recognized women plaintiffs’ advocates as there should be,” she says. “Women struggle for recognition and high-profile roles in litigation, especially—I’m sorry to say this—on the plaintiffs’ side. This is changing, and the change will accelerate as our younger women stars gain experience and visibility, but the macho image of trial lawyering lingers.”

The two lawyers at Shook, Hardy & Bacon who compiled the list are product liability and mass torts partner Mark Behrens and of counsel Cary Silverman, the Am Law Daily reports. Behrens and Silverman didn’t rely on media “king of torts” proclamations to draft their list; instead they interviewed defense counsel, in-house attorneys, and individuals involved in the civil justice reform movement. Their goal was to compile a list of the best plaintiffs lawyers based on their expertise and influence.

Behrens and Silverman decided to draft the list because many of the big-name tort lawyers are no longer practicing law. Fred Baron died of cancer. William Lerach, Dickie Scruggs and Melvyn Weiss went to jail.

Some law firms have multiple lawyers on the list, including Motley Rice; Waters & Kraus; Kaplan Fox; and Provost Umphrey. Also earning a spot on the list is lawyer Robert Peck of the Center for Constitutional Litigation, a law firm that fights tort reform laws.

Cabraser said the list is interesting, but “hardly comprehensive.”

“I’m not sure whether it is a ‘greatest hits list, or simply a hit list,” she observed.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.