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Lawyer Barons: What Their Contingency Fees Really Cost America Paperback – January 31, 2011
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Anyone who reads this book will quickly conclude that tort reform belongs back on the national agenda."
- Richard Epstein
Lawrence A. Tisch Professor of Law, N.Y.U. Law School
Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution
"Accident rates decline, but tort costs increase. In Japan, legal fees consume just 2% of compensation payments, but American lawyers take more than half the money. If you suspected that our legal system is rigged to fund lawyers at consumers' expense, this book well documents that. Our system is disgusting. In great detail, Lester Brickman explains how American lawyers collaborate with judges to use their special coercive powers to overwhelm defendants and create 'a huge money making' machine for themselves."
- John Stossel
Fox Business Anchor
"In Lawyer Barons, Lester Brickman exposes the new legal power elite as little more than a sleazy, self-interested racket. Brickman surgically dismantles each rationale for their approach to justice, revealing a sewer of hypocrisy and greed. Brickman lets the facts do the work of the powerful indictment, leaving the Bar with this unavoidable choice - does it stand for justice, or money?"
- Philip Howard
Founder, Common Good
Author, The Death of Common Sense
"Tort litigation in America is riven with abusive and corrupt practices that Dickens would find familiar. Dickens is not around to chronicle them, but fortunately, Lester Brickman is. Himself an able story-teller, Brickman combines compelling narrative with lucid summary of pertinent theories and research. He builds a powerful case that current fee practices undermine the tort system and betray the professed values of the legal profession."
- William H. Simon
Arthur Levitt Professor of Law
Columbia Law School
"Lester Brickman has long strikingly exposed in scholarly and other writings the gross unfairness of much personal injury law, especially the often scandalously excessive 'contingent fees' charged by many claimants' lawyers. In this thorough but readable book Brickman both collects and expands on his seminal scholarship to the benefit of all - except those same claimants' lawyers."
- Jeffrey O'Connell
Samuel H. McCoy II Professor of Law
University of Virginia School of Law
"There is about [LAWYER BARONS] the sort of fascination one has in being let in on the workings of a particularly long con. ... Mr. Brickman has made the case for a re-thinking of contingency fee arrangements. Considering the powerful role of such arrangements in the shape and evolution of the American legal system, that is a considerable achievement."
- Dennis Jacobs
New York Law Journal
"...Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how the modern American tort system actually works."
- Daniel Fisher
Top Customer Reviews
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.