“Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I’ll tell you a story.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald
The place where your business or your life meets the legal system is a cliff.
To not fall off the cliff requires two things.
Trust. And, someone to tell your story.
Trust between lawyer and client. And a narrative that persuades, whatever the audience—judge or jury, prosecutor or regulator, adversary or ally.
I base my practice first on trust, then on persuasion. Trust gets you to a comfort level; persuasion allows us to solve problems by shaping someone else’s thinking.
When should we talk?
Let’s talk when they try to put you in prison and your business out of business.
I have pretrial, trial and appellate experience across the federal and state landscape: corporate internal investigations, kickback cases, government-contract fraud, grand jury investigations, gaming issues, defense of criminal environmental offenses, public-corruption enforcement, due diligence issues under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Congressional investigations, election contests, defense of health-care entities in civil and criminal matters, including Medicare fraud and qui tam lawsuits under the False Claims Act, and investigations by military officials.
I blog weekly on white-collar matters, White Collar Wire, and publish the firm’s Twitter feed about white-collar crime and enforcement matters, @WhiteCollarWire.
Let's talk when they blame management.
In the current economic and political climate, directors, officers and professionals—accountants, investment bankers, business consultants and lawyers—are ripe targets for blame. I’ve handled most types of directors’ and officers’ and professional liability litigation—fiduciary duty lawsuits, malpractice claims and contract disputes, claims for securities fraud and tortious interference with contractual and business relations, and recovery actions brought by trustees of bankrupt publicly-traded companies.
Let’s talk when technology meets law, and it’s not going well.
As a lawyer in the firm's Electronic Discovery and Digital Information practice, I represent companies and individuals in a host of electronic-information issues pre-trial, at trial and on appeal.
What else might be useful to know?
I’m a member of several state bars (Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and the District of Columbia), and I was in school for a long time: undergraduate degree from Washington & Lee University; graduate degrees from the Institute for European Studies (Geneva, Switzerland) and Washington University in St. Louis; and a law degree from Harvard University. While at Harvard, I was Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, which was more fun than class.
Out of law school, I was a judicial clerk to Judge David B. Sentelle, United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit. Then I practiced at Covington & Burling (also in Washington, D.C.) before I became Special Counsel to the House Banking Committee (now called the Financial Services Committee). As Special Counsel to the Committee for its Whitewater investigation, I oversaw a team whose work culminated in four days of nationally-televised hearings in August 1995.
Sometimes, I teach: I’ve been an Adjunct Professor of Law at Washington & Lee University and the University of Alabama, and I have helped out with a course on Electronic Discovery at Cumberland School of Law.
Professionally, I belong to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the White Collar Crime Committee of the ABA Section on Criminal Justice, and the Committee on Criminal Litigation of the ABA Section of Litigation. When I worked in Washington, I was a member of the Edward Bennett Williams American Inn of Court in Washington, D.C., an Inn devoted solely to white collar fraud matters. Currently, I’m a Barrister of the Birmingham American Inn of Court. As a member of the Alabama State Board of Bar Examiners, I graded a lot of bar exams. I’m also a former Group Chairman of the Birmingham Bar Association's Grievance Committee.
As a former president of the Washington & Lee University Alumni Association (1997-1998), I remain active in W&L projects. I’m married, and the father of two children, and I serve in various lay capacities at my church. To the extent that hard work and enthusiasm can overcome inexperience, I love to coach youth lacrosse teams.
I have always wanted someone to ask me these questions, but they never have.
You have a social-media presence. Can someone hire a lawyer off the Internet?
No. Hiring a lawyer is an impossible judgment to make from a blog or webpage. There are a lot of good lawyers. They may be able to help you, but you can't tell because their websites and bios look and sound the same. (Ask yourself: "The last guy I looked at who talked about 'innovation in client service,' was the background of his webpage goldenrod, or was he the guy with the blue stripe and tiny print down the side?")
So how does someone with a legal problem tell one lawyer from another?
All lawyers want to stand out from the crowd, but everybody uses the same buzzwords. “Dedicated, innovative and collaborative.” It's like we all picked up the same management-guru’s paperback one night changing planes at DFW.
That doesn’t answer the question.
Well, it does.
First, I'm not going to tell you how smart, creative, proactive, problem-solving, practical-minded, cost-effective, sophisticated, responsive, savvy, innovative, disruptive, global and social I think I am. Clients and colleagues get to draw conclusions like that.
Second, I'm going to admit at least some ignorance. A lawyer learns about a client by listening. Not by talking. If I don't listen to you, I can’t claim an understanding of your business, your problem or your life.
If we skip adjectives and admit ignorance, what's left?
A promise. I promise I'll pay attention to you, your business and your life. If I'm not the smartest guy in the room (which is entirely possible), I promise that I will work harder―a lot harder―than anyone else in the room. I promise that I respect the courtroom but I don't fear trial. I promise that I will tell you (a) the truth about your problem and (b) about whether I'm the right person to help. I promise to be ethical. I promise to be loyal, because too many lawyers and businesspeople aren't.
Seminars, Articles and Speeches
- Civil Lessons from Criminal Trials; 2012
- ”Cost versus Value: Beyond Budgets, Towards Trust,” Network of Trial Law Firms, New York, New York (August 7, 2009)
- "Electronic Discovery," Practitioner-In-Residence for seminar held by Judge John Carroll, Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama (Fall 2008)
- "Electronic Discovery," Pretrial Advocacy Seminar, University of Alabama Law School, Tuscaloosa, Alabama (October 7, 2008)
- "Privilege and Ethics," The Basics of Electronic Discovery, Alabama Bar Institute on Continuing Legal Education, Birmingham, Alabama (October 31, 2008)
- "Effect of the Subprime Disaster on the Legal Profession," Alabama Bar Institute on Continuing Legal Education, Birmingham, Alabama (October 17, 2008)
- "Electronic Documents, But Real Money: Controlling E-Discovery Costs," Network of Trial Law Firms, New York, New York (August 1, 2008)
- "New E-Discovery Rules: Emerging Legal Issues," panel member, District of Columbia Judicial Circuit Judicial Conference, Farmington, Pennsylvania (June 4, 2008)
- "Public Corruption Cases," White-Collar Crime seminar held by Professor Pam Bucy, University of Alabama School of Law, Tuscaloosa, Alabama (January 30, 2008)