14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2011
How much do I like this book? I got a free review hardcopy, and I ended up buying the Kindle version so I could always have a searchable version with me as a reference.
Professor Brickman is one of the few scholars commenting on the striking problem of legal ethics that lawyers tolerate lawyers cheating their clients out of small fortunes to an extent they would never tolerate any other business cheating their customers--which is especially ironic given that attorneys are supposed to have fiduciary duties to their clients. (The opening account of Mary Corcoran, and how an appellate court shrugged when an attorney took her for $140,000 without winning her a penny is alone worth the price of the book.) Brickman lays out a compelling case for the distorting effects of contingency fees, their effect on tort law, their incentives for extensive mass tort fraud, and the failure of the judicial system to police the conflicts of interest inherent in class actions.
Brickman marshals evidence to an extent no previous author has before. A reader is almost getting two books in one: a readable account of the problem that one can read straight through without ever flipping to the back, and then an extensive set of detailed footnotes and appendices for those looking for further scholarship. Any aspiring legal academic or law student looking for paper ideas can mine these footnotes for several full careers worth of further inquiry in this understudied area.
I'm not sure I entirely agree with Brickman that contingency fees are entirely responsible for the distorting effects he describes (and Brickman, to his credit, acknowledges the benefits as well as costs of that fee structure), but the abuses he describes across the system should concern all attorneys and academics who care about the huge discrepancy between theory and practice.
Anyone looking for a book that is a kneejerk polemic against "greedy trial lawyers" will be disappointed. Many of the reforms Brickman suggests will not just transfer wealth away from lawyers, but from defendants to genuinely injured victims. But if we're looking for the tort system to fairly compensate the injured without punishing the innocent, Professor Brickman's analysis must be considered.
Since I've started my non-profit project in 2009, I've seen remarkable instances of attorneys putting their interests ahead of their clients. (Disclosure: one of Brickman's lengthy footnotes discusses one of my cases.) I will be citing this book frequently in my litigation on behalf of consumers and class members. Let's hope judges listen.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2012
If you think corporate greed is a problem, just wait'll you read about the systematic avarice associated with contingency fees in American litigation. Sums of money larger than the GDPs of small nations pass into the hands of the plaintiff bar on claims that another reviewer of this book rightly characterized as "long-running scams." Brickman really has the goods on outrageously inflated compensation for risks the plaintiff bar isn't taking. Some of his well-documented tales would be rejected by fiction authors as too outlandish to be believed. Lawyer Barons is a necessary corrective for the theory that plaintiff attorneys, especially those in mass torts, are knights in shining armor, out there championing the downtrodden. If you're sufficiently downtrodden to face any real risk in litigation, Brickman argues cogently that you'll be very fortunate indeed if you can persuade one of the high-flying plaintiff law firms to take your case. We are all paying for this "entrepreneurial" litigation in the costs of all the goods and services we buy, as well as in jobs permanently lost to the U.S. economy. Read Brickman's Lawyer Barons if you care whether or not the American legal system is really delivering justice.