America's Top Black Lawyers: from corporate law to criminal litigation, here are the lawyers to call to get you the best deal or keep you out of trouble.
Over the last three decades, the legal landscape has changed dramatically. At the height of the Black Power Movement in the 1970s, you would have been hard-pressed to find more than 3,000 African American lawyers. Today, their numbers surpass 20,000.
Yesteryear's black attorneys were champions of justice. Today, their scope of expertise has broadened, from defending corporate executives to negotiating multimillion-dollar business deals. Because of the ascension of top-ranking black lawyers and the shifting legal and business environment, BLACK ENTERPRISE has developed our list of America's Top Black Lawyers.
Our editors spent months researching to produce this high-powered listing. Selections were made on the basis of search with leading law schools, legal scholars, prominent attorneys, and the following legal organizations: Minority Corporate Council Association, National Bar Association. American Bar Association. Minority Law Journal, The National law Journal, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Executive Office for United States Attorneys, and the U.S. Department of Justice. After reviewing all areas of practice, we identified the best of the best in 15 categories, ranging from criminal defense to patent law. Our list of top lawyers was based on the following criteria:
* All had to be practicing attorneys. We did not include judges, business consultants, or individuals with law degrees who are not tied directly to the legal profession.
* All had to have achieved partnership or shareholder status at major law firms, served as general counsels at major corporations, or held positions as top-ranking legal officers at nonprofit organizations.
* An have gained reputations as leaders or have an average win rate as high as 95%.
In the next 15 pages, find out why these are some of the most coveted attorneys on earth.
Alicia J. Batts
Foley & Lardner
Career Highlights: Batts handles antitrust issues and other matters surrounding unfair trade practices in the automotive, aeronautics, pharmaceutical, financial, and energy industries.
The Columbia University Law School graduate served as attorney-advisor to former Federal Trade Commissioner Mozelle Thompson, analyzing recommendations for Commission action.
Power Play: Batts was part of the legal team representing the American Hospital Association for In re: Resident Physicians Antitrust Litigation, one of the largest antitrust class-action suits ever filed, involving allegations by medical residents that teaching hospitals and medical associations engaged in price-fixing residents' salaries.
Willie L. Hudgins Jr.
Collier Shannon Scott
Career Highlights: Hudgins helps companies analyze the potential implications of acquisitions and comply with government regulations. A graduate of Howard University Law School, Hudgins served as chief litigator for the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, where he worked on some of the largest merger antitrust cases in U.S. history.
Power Play: While at the Justice Department, Hudgins led the investigations in U.S. v. (General Dynamics arm Newport News Shipbuilding and US. v. Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. As a result, the two proposed mergers were dissolved or abandoned.
Milton A. Marquis
Dickstein Shapiro Morin
Career Highlights: Marquis, who earned a J.D. from Case Western Reserve University, is a partner in the Litigation & Dispute Resolution Group.
He served for 14 years at the offices of the attorneys general of Virginia and Massachusetts and The Department of Justice, including a stint coordinating antitrust efforts like the joint federal and state investigation of Microsoft Corp.
Power Play: Marquis was co-lead counsel in the Clozapine antitrust litigation, an action brought by 27 states against Sandoz, alleging that the pharmaceutical firm violated antitrust laws by tying the sale of the drug to the purchase of its blood testing services.
Patrick S. Thompson
San Francisco, CA
Career Highlights: Thompson counsels clients in industries such as telecommunications, vitamins, and brand name pharmaceuticals in price-fixing and monopolization cases.
A Harvard University Law School graduate, Thompson is active with the American Bar Association antitrust section and has developed an outreach program encouraging law students to consider careers in the field.
Power Play: Thompson has represented many clients in evidentiary hearings before the California Public Utilities Commission, including the proposed WorldCom/Sprint merger and the SBC Communications/Pacific Telesis merger, evaluating the proposed mergers for competitiveness from an antitrust perspective.
BANKING/ FINANCIAL SERVICES
Claudette M. Christian
Hogan & Hartson
Career Highlights: The Harvard Law School graduate spent years in private practice representing over 30 foreign companies and governments in debt and equity financings.
As a partner at Hogan & Hartson. she counts as venerable clients The World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Power Play:. Christian arranged the $2.5 billion ban k financing for the Bolivia-Brazil Gas Pipeline Project.
Chadbourne & Parke
New York, NY
Career Highlights: Vincent Dunn handles both lenders and borrowers in connection with secured and unsecured transactions, including acquisition financing, vendor financing, and raising working capital. The New York native is a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo, School of Law.
Power Play: Dunn represented lenders in a $1.8 billion construction financing case for turbine generators and raised $500 million to lease the construction of an electric generating facility.
Jack P. Jackson
New York, NY
Career Highlights: Jackson has extensive experience in financings ranging from multibillion-dollar leveraged acquisitions to multimillion dollar venture capital and PIPE financings. His clients include J.P. Morgan Chase Capital, HSBC, and Sumitomo Bank. Jackson earned law and graduate business degrees from Columbia University.
Power Play: Jackson handled Superior Telecom's $1 billion bankruptcy restructuring and the bank financing of Pepsi's $1 billion acquisition of the largest bottler in Mexico.
David Baker Lewis
Lewis and Munday
Career Highlights: Lewis has specialized in municipal finance since 1974.
He has served as the firm's lead attorney on many municipal bond offerings with a client roster that includes the Automobile Club of Michigan, DaimlerChrysler, DuPont, and Prudential Life Insurance.
Lewis holds a law degree from the University of Michigan. Power Play: Lewis is a former director of the National Association of Bond Lawyers and a former chairman of the National Association of Securities Professionals.
Marsha E. Simms
Weil, Gotshal & Manges
New York, NY
Career Highlights: Simms oversees debt financing and restructuring in industries such as retail, telecommunications, energy, and manufacturing.
She also has represented major lenders in debtor-in-possession financing and exit financing of newly reorganized companies. Simms is a graduate of Stanford University Law School.
Power Play: Simms was counsel for Leucadia National Corp. and Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett's insurance and investment, holding company, in the FINOVA Group acquisition.
She is currently representing Sotheby's Inc. and Estee Lauder Inc. in bank financings.
Alphonso E. Tindall Jr.
New York, NY
Career Highlights: Tindall has represented every major investment bank in the U.S. as underwriter's counsel on more than $5 billion of financings.
He also has participated in virtue every kind of finance transaction from Connecticut to California. He holds a law degree from the University of Connecticut. Power Play: Tindall is past chairman of the National Association of Securities Professionals, a non-profit organization whose primary focus is the representation of minorities and women in the financial industry.
Barron F. Wallace
Vinson & Elkins
Career Highlights: Wallace specializes in the issuance of municipal bonds and sales for traditional tax-exempt financings for cities, counties, and state agencies. The Michigan Law alumnus represents 12 urban redevelopment authorities and tax reinvestment zones responsible for stimulating over a billion dollars of new investments in Houston and Galveston.
Power Play: Wallace secured $130.2 million bond financing for Houston Area Water Corporation, and $881 million bond financing for Texas Public Finance Authority.
St. Louis, MO
Career Highlights: Cousins serves as chair and founder of the firm's Financial Restructuring, Reorganization, and Bankruptcy Department.
A fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy, Cousins is also listed in The Best Lawyers in America. He earned his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
Power Play: Cousins was lead counsel for the Creditors' Committee in the 54 Apex/Clark Oil/Copper Mountain cases. which was one of the largest privately held companies to have ever filed Chapter 11. He has been involved in numerous corporate reorganizations, including Continental Airlines, Kmart, Enron, and Alamo Bent A Car.
Reginald W. Jackson
Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease
Career Highlights: Jackson has practiced for more than 20 years in the commercial, collection, and bankruptcy areas with an emphasis on representing secured creditors, creditors' committees, and debtors in Chapter 11 reorganization proceedings and workouts. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Power Play: Jackson recently served as lead Creditors' Committee counsel in the Primary Health Systems Inc. Chapter 11 case that, involved a multihospital reorganization. He also served as Creditors' Committee counsel in the Rax Restaurant Chapter 11 case.
Clifton R. Jessup Jr.
Career Highlights: Jessup heads tip the firm's bankruptcy and insolvency practice. Throughout his career, the Michigan Law School graduate has represented secured creditors, unsecured creditors, committees, equity holders, debtors, and trustees in federal bankruptcy cases in more than 35 states.
Power Play: In 1996, Jessup was appointed the examiner in the Megafoods Stores and related cases and was selected as the estate representative in 1998 under the plan confirmed in those cases.
Deryck A. Palmer
Well, Gotshal & Manges
New York, NY
Career Highlights: Palmer concentrates his practice in the representation of debtors as well as creditors under Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has handled a wide variety of workout and corporate restructuring matters. The Michigan Law School graduate also chairs Health Watch, the only organization in the country devoted exclusively to minority health improvement.
Power Play: Palmer represented AK Steel in its bid to acquire National Steel Corp. He is currently serving as counsel to Doctors Community Healthcare, a conglomerate of five hospitals located in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., which is in Chapter 11 restructuring.
Michael H. Reed
Career Highlights: Reed has specialized in the field of bankruptcy and insolvency law since his admission to the bar in 1972. He is a fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy. A Yale University Law School graduate, Reed is president-elect of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, making him the first African American to lead the 108-year-old organization.
Power Play: From 1987 through 1993, he served as special bankruptcy counsel to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources in the multibillion dollar bankruptcy of LTV Steel Co.
Reed's legal successes include a landmark 1991 case that limited the ability of companies to use Bankruptcy as a way to circumvent environmental cleanup liability,.
Julius L. Chambers
Ferguson, Stein, Chambers,
Adkins, Gresham & Sumter
Career Highlights: Chambers founded the state of North Carolina's first integrated law firm. Formerly, Chambers served as chancellor of North Carolina Central University and the director counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Chambers earned law degrees from Columbia University in New York City and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Power Play: Chambers has been winning Landmark Supreme Court rulings in employment discrimination and education since the '70s, including the famous school busing case resulting in the desegregation of Charlotte's schools.
Equal Justice Society
San Francisco. CA
Career Highlights: Paterson is a founder of the Equal Justice Society, an organization dedicated to changing the law through progressive legal theory, public policy, and practices. She was a leading spokesperson in campaigns against Proposition 187 (anti-immigrant) and Proposition 209 (anti-affirmative action). Paterson earned her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.
Power Play: Paterson has co-authored briefs for landmark lawsuits in support of affirmative action, including an amicus brief in Grutter v. Bollinger, the Michigan Law School admissions case.
English, Munger & Rice
Los Angeles, CA
Career Highlights: Rice is acclaimed for litigating civil rights cases involving police misconduct, employment discrimination, and fair public resource allocation. The New York University Law School graduate and co-director of The Advancement Project has strong family ties--she's a cousin of National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.
Power Play: Rice won a $750 million coalition lawsuit for new school construction and a $2 billion lawsuit to improve bus service, both in Los Angeles.
NAACP Legal Defense and
New York, NY
Career Highlights: Shaw has litigated civil rights cases throughout the country at the trial and appellate levels, and in the Supreme Court. The Columbia Law School graduate previously worked as a trial attorney in the civil right division of the Department of Justice.
Power Play: Shaw was lead counsel representing African American and Latino University of Michigan undergraduate students in the affirmative action case Gratz v. Bollinger, in which the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the compelling state interest of diversity.
Kenneth C. Frazier
Senior Vice President and General Counsel
Merck & Co.
Whitehouse Station, NJ
Career Highlights: In 1992, after a 14-year career as a litigation partner with Drinker Riddle & Reath in Philadelphia, Frazier joined pharmaceuticals giant Merck. The Harvard Law School graduate served as Astra Merck's first general counsel and now oversees all legal affairs of Merck, which had 2002 sales of $51.8 billion.
Power Play: Frazier was part of the corporate teams that spearheaded the spin-off of Medco Health Solutions Inc. and that acquired Rosetta Inpharmatics of Kirkland, Washington, and Sibia Neurosciences of San Diego, Merck's two newest research sites.
George W. Madison
Executive Vice President,
General Counsel end Secretary
New York, NY
Career Highlights: Madison serves as chief legal officer of TIAA-CREF, one of the nation's 100 largest companies with $286 billion in assets under management. The Columbia Law School and Columbia Business School graduate previously was a partner at Mayer, Brown & Pratt, where he was the first African American partner in the firm's 120-year history. Power Play: During his tenure as executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary at Comerica Inc., Madison negotiated the naming rights agreement with the Detroit Tigers that resulted in the team's new stadium being named Comerica Park.
Michele Coleman Mayes
General Counsel and
Senior Vice President
Career Highlights: Mayes oversees the legal affairs of the world's leading provider of integrated mail and document management solutions. Previously, she served as vice president and deputy general counsel for Colgate-Palmolive. Mayes had stints with the Department of Justice as assistant U.S. attorney and chief of the civil division in Detriot. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School.
Power Play: One of a handful of black women who head the legal departments of major corporations, Mayes also serves as president of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Stacey J. Mobley
Senior Vice President,
Chief Administrative Officer
and General Counsel
Career Highlights: MoNey is a 31-year career veteran at DuPont, a $24 billion global science company, and was the company's first African American attorney. He is responsible for staff services, including legal, public affairs, and government affairs. A registered pharmacist, Mobley holds a B.S. from Howard University's School of Pharmacy and a J.D. from Howard Law School.
Power Play: Mobley, one of BE's Top 50 Blacks In Corporate America, oversees a law department of 180 lawyers worldwide with a budget of more than $200 million and a docket of over 2,000 cases, including complex commercial, antitrust, intellectual property, and product liability litigation.
Roderick A. Palmore
Senior Vice President,
General Counsel and Secretary
Sara Lee Corp.
Career Highlights: A University of Chicago Law School graduate, Palmore spent two years at a Pittsburgh law firm before assuming the post of assistant U.S. attorney for the northern district of Illinois. In 1996, he joined Sara Lee, the $18.2 billion global consumer products company, where he is responsible for a departmental budget in excess of $15 million.
Power Play: Palmore oversaw the $2.8 billion acquisition of The Earthgrains Co., the largest in Sara Lee's history. He also launched a diversity initiative with Sara Lee's outside law firms.
Deval L. Patrick
Executive Vice President,
General Counsel and
The Coca-Cola Co.
Career Highlights: Patrick directs the $19.9 billion soft drink giant's worldwide legal affairs and legal staff, oversees shareowner affairs, and ensures that the company satisfies government requirements. A Harvard Law School graduate, Patrick was previously vice president and general counsel at Texaco Inc.
Power Play: As an assistant attorney general during the Clinton administration, Patrick's efforts led to a precedent-setting judgment against Denny's for violating the civil rights of employees and customers and helped bring about ground-breaking enforcement efforts under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Solomon B. Watson IV
Senior Vice President
and General Counsel
The New York Times Co.
New York, NY
Career Highlights: In 1996, Watson was named a senior vice president of The New York Times Co., a leading media company with 2002 revenues of $3 billion, having served as vice president since 1990 and general counsel since 1989. Watson is a Harvard Law School graduate and former associate of the Boston law firm Bingham, Dana & Gould.
Power Play: In 1993, Watson oversaw the Times' acquisition of The Boston Globe, a transaction valued at approximately $1.1 billion. He is a recipient of the 2002 National Equal Justice Award from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the 1998 Pioneer of the Profession Award from the Minority Corporate Counsel Association.
Paul S. Williams
Executive Vice President,
Chief Legal Officer
Career Highlights: Williams manages worldwide legal matters for the $50 billion healthcare products and services provider. The Yale Law School graduate came to Cardinal Health in 1995, after serving as group counsel with Borden Inc. and practicing corporate and securities law at Vorys, Safer, Seymour and Pease in Columbus, Ohio.
Power Play: Williams played a key role in the growth of Cardinal Health through has involvement in numerous mergers and acquisitions, including Allegiance Corp., R. P. Scherer Corp., and Pyxis Corp.
Kenneth L. Lawson
Lawson & Associates
Career Highlights: Lawson's firm, founded by the University of Cincinnati College of Law alumnus in 1993, has racked up numerous wins in criminal law and civil rights litigation, including a racial profiling lawsuit resulting in a federally enforceable collaborative agreement allowing for community problem-oriented policing.
Power Play: In a high-profile case, he successfully represented professional football player Deion Sanders on five criminal charges against a police officer and then later in civil court when the same officer attempted to seek damages.
William B. Moffitt
Asbill Moffitt & Boss
Career Highlights: The second of two black attorneys elected president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Moffitt has been listed in Best Lawyers in America and Who's Who in American Law. He earned his J.D. from Washington College of Law, American University.
Power Play: Moffitt successfully got half the charges dismissed against William Aramony, the former president of the United Way convicted lot defrauding the charity. Also, in Commonwealth of Virginia v. Terry Williams, he negotiated a life sentence plea for williams, who had been on death row longer than any other inmate in Virginia's history.
Schroeter Goldmark & Bender
Career Highlights: The 48-year-old Harvard Law School graduate began his career in criminal defense in 1981. A former public defender, Robinson teaches at both his alma mater and the University of Washington and is a frequent guest lecturer at trial advocacy seminars nationwide.
Power Play: Robinson successfully lobbied for the dismissal of a hit-and-run charge against Washington State Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge in 2003. In 1988, he represented Karl Tupper, a woman allegedly drugged and sexually abused by U.S. Sen. Brock Adams. The senator chose not to run for re-election.
James R. Willis
Willis Blackwell & Watson
Career Highlights: Willis, elected as the first African American president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in 1974, has had over 350 reported opinions rendered in courts and has won two of the three cases he argued be fore the Supreme Court. He received his law degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1952.
Power Play: His two Supreme Court wins are Doyle and Wood v. Ohio in 1976 and Beck v. Ohio in 1964, a precedent-setting case dealing with a search by Cleveland police that was ruled a violation of the Fourth and 14th Amendments.
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTS
Stephen D. Barnes
Barnes Morris Klein Mark & Yorn
Los Angeles, CA
Career Highlights: The Harvard Law alumnus began his career in entertainment law when he formed a firm, Nelson, Barnes & Sheehan, with two other young lawyers. Barnes later went on to join the prominent entertainment firm of Bloom. Hergott, Diemer L.L.P. in 1989. His roster has included Babyface, Snoop Dogg, and Chris Rock.
Power Play: One of BE's Top 50 Black Power Brokers in Entertainment, Barnes inked "A-list" deals for Chris Rock's latest movies Bad Company and Head of State and is representing Aaron McGruder, creator of the Boondocks comic strip, in a television deal.
Leroy Bobbitt &
Bobbitt & Roberts
Los Angeles, CA
Career Highlights: After a decade as a civil rights attorney, Roberts entered the record industry representing The Whispers. In 1996, the Harvard Law School graduate joined forces with Stanford Law-educated Bobbitt. The tag team covers sports, television and film such as Paramount Pictures, Interscope Communications Inc., and Black Entertainment Television and is gracing their way into gospel music with such clients as Kirk Franklin.
Power Play: The firm inked a television miniseries deal for romance novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford with NBC.
Lisa E. Davis
Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz
New York, NY
Career Highlights: A media maverick, Davis specializes in film, music, television, and intellectual property, among every other aspect the rainmaker can conjure. The NYU Law graduate spent the late 1980s as a litigator at a powerful New York City firm before hitting the entertainment industry head on with a little help from her neighbor, filmmaker Spike Lee.
Power Play: Davis, a member of BE's Top 50 Black Power Brokers in Entertainment, is a frequent lecturer on topics such as the ethics of entertainment law and copy right infringement and protection issues on the Internet.
Peter L. Haviland
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
Los Angeles, CA
Career Highlights: The Stanford Law alumnus cut his teeth in the labor movement before becoming a media and entertainment Lawyer. Haviland represents clients on contractual disputes involving music, film, and television. He also represents manufacturing and defense industry clients on product liability matters.
Power Play: Haviland won a $132 million infringement case on behalf of TVT Records against Island Def Jam.
L. Lender McMillan
President & CEO
L. Loaded McMillan, PC
& NorthStar Business Enterprises
New York, NY
Career Highlights: McMillan winked his way through NYU Law School as a sports agent. He was a leading entertainment lawyer with Gold, Farrell & Mark, but by 1997, he was hanging up his own shingle with marquis clients, including Prince, DMX, Wesley Snipes, and Roy Jones Jr.
Power Play: McMillan has negotiated over $500 million worth of deals in the hip-hop marketplace.
C. Lamont Smith
President & Founder
All Pro Sports & Entertainment
Career Highlights: Smith is a high roller in the game of NFL player contract negotiations, representing more than 50 clients. He recently launched ELETE, an athletic apparel and shoe company. Lamont graduated from Clark Atlanta University, magna cum laude and received his law degree from Howard University.
Power Play: Smith negotiated record-breaking contracts for NFL players Eddie George, the highest paid running back with a $42 million contract, and Trevor Pryce, the highest paid defensive player with a $60 million contract.
President & CEO
Strickland & Ashe Management
Career Highlights: The sports agent and attorney, along with partner Mason Ashe, has locked in more than 40 baseball, football, and basketball clients. In 1985, Strickland became the first African American to represent No. 1 NBA Draft pick Patrick Ewing. The Georgetown University Law School alumnus also was the first African American lawyer hired by ProServ Inc.'s team sports division in Washington, D.C., where he negotiated Nike's Air Jordan contract.
Power Play: Strickland negotiated a $100 million-plus deal for the New York Knicks' Allan Houston.
Thurbert E. Baker
Georgia Attorney General
Career Highlights: Since his appointment in 1997, the Emory University School of Law graduate has taken great strides to build tougher anti-crime measures and accelerated the state's death penalty appeals process while toughening penalties for domestic abusers. Baker won elections to retain the post in 1998 and again in 2002.
Power Play: In Perdue v. Baker, Thurbert Baker's office successfully prevented Georgia's Governor Sonny Perdue from forcing the attorney general's office to drop litigation over redistricting.
Michael A. Battle
U.S. Attorney for the Western
District of New York
Career Highlights: Battle began his legal career with the Legal Aid Society after graduating from SUNY Buffalo Law School. He is currently working to prosecute James Kopp, already convicted of killing an abortion doctor, on federal charges.
Power Play: In 2002, Battle prosecuted the "Lackawanna Six." alleged members of a terrorist sleeper cell who were trained in an Afghanistan camp connected to Al Qaeda. All pleaded guilty and were offered sentences of between seven and 10 years.
Jeffrey G. Collins
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern
District of Michigan
Career Highlights: Collins earned his J.D. from Howard University. This past summer, his office obtained the first jury conviction of a terrorism case in the nation, while concurrently building bridges of trust through monthly meetings with leaders in the Arab American community and aggressively enforcing hate crimes.
Power Play: One of his civil rights cases resulted in an agreement with the Detroit Police Department called the Consent Decree, which changes the policy on how detained witnesses are handled.
Peter C. Harvey
New Jersey Acting Attorney
Career Highlights: Appointed as acting attorney general in 2003, Harvey previously served as first assistant attorney general and director of the Division of Criminal Justice. The Columbia Law graduate is currently charged with reforming state police, controlling gang violence, and prosecuting domestic violence cases.
Power Play: Harvey successfully prosecuted two executive directors of Windsor Schools who embezzled $3.6 million from school districts by awarding "no-show" high-paying jobs to family and friends.
Roscoe C. Howard Jr.
U.S. Attorney for the District
Career Highlights: Howard, a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, was chosen to become the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia in May 2001. He is in charge of 350 lawyers with jurisdiction over both local and federal crimes, including one of the D.C.-area sniper cases.
Power Play: Howard's office successfully prosecuted Cuban spy Anna Montes, who pleaded guilty and received a 25-year sentence. Current cases include anthrax investigations and the Washington Teachers Union pension fund scandal.
Donald W. Washington
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana
Career Highlights: Washington, an attorney general since 2001, has previous experience in private practice at the Louisiana law firm Jeansonne & Remondet and in corporate counsel at Conoco Inc. A former commissioned officer in the Army, he received a J.D. from South Texas College of Law.
Power Play: Washington's office recently settled a $49 million suit against Shell Oil Co, alleging that the oil giant failed to report large amounts of natural gas that it vented and flared from seven of its facilities in the Gulf of Mexico without authorization from federal regulators.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY/ PATENT
James W. Cannon Jr.
Career Highlights: A former air defense artillery officer in the U.S. Army, Cannon handles patent and copyright infringement and trade secret theft. The University of Texas Law School graduate has represented and taken action against high-tech giants such as Motorola and Microsoft, respectively.
Power Play: Cannon was involved in several landmark patent infringement suits: Rambus v. Infineon and Micron v. Rambus, a $300 million patent infringement action and a $50 million trade secret theft case on behalf of semiconductors and integrated electronic systems manufacturers.
Melvin C. Garner
Darby & Darby
New York, NY
Career Highlights: Garner oversees the procurement and litigation of patent, trademark, trade secret, and copyright matters. Garner, who holds a master's in engineering from NYU and a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School, is the New York Intellectual Property Law Association's first African American vice president. In 2005, he'll become the organization's first African American president.
Power Play: Garner represented O.P. Solutions in O.P. Solutions Inc., v. Intellectual Property Network Ltd., which upheld copyright protection for computer software.
Philip G. Hampton II
Gardner Carton & Douglas
Career Highlights: A member of the firm's technology department, Hampton specializes in patent litigation, trademark prosecution, and intellectual property licensing. A graduate of MIT and University of Chicago Law School, Hampton served as assistant commissioner for trademarks at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office under the Clinton administration.
Power Play: Hampton re-engineered the trademark registration process and changed the rules and policies of the Trademark Office with respect to the Lanham Act through a series of cases, helping to relieve trademark applicants of an unnecessary burden.
LABOR & EMPLOYMENT
Marilyn J. Holifield
Holland & Knight
Career Highlights: Holifield's area of litigation encompasses class action lawsuits, employment, and covenants-not-to-compete. For five years, Holifield was an assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She earned her J.D. from Harvard in 1972 and was recently elected to the Alumni Association's Board of Directors.
Power Play: Holifield has represented major companies such as Clorox, MetLife, Home Depot. and Federated Department Stores. When she was with the NAACP, she litigated Guthrie v. Alt, which resulted in the desegregation of Georgia state prisons.
Curtis L. Mack
Career Highlights: Mack has represented 30 of the nation's Fortune 100 companies over the course of his career. He has a vast amount of experience in the counsel and representation of management in general labor, employment, and personnel matters. A graduate of the University of Akron School of Law, Mack is also a former law professor.
Power Play: In ITT Industries v. NLRB, Mack convinced the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to reject a finding by the National Labor Relations Board that employees working at one of an employer's multiple sites were deemed to be employees of all of the employer's other sites.
A. Martin Wickliff Jr.
Epstein Becker & Green
Career Highlights: Wickliff litigates a wide range of employment and labor issues, including class actions and multiple plaintiff lawsuits. In addition, Wickliff assists company management with collective bargaining and union elections and litigates all types of disputes before the NLRB. He received his J.D. from Texas Southern University.
Power Play: Wickliff defended Amoco Oil Co. against a racial discrimination claim by a minority contractor. The jury returned a defense verdict on all major issues, and the one jury verdict for the plaintiff was later overturned on appeal.
Brent L. Wilson
Elarbee, Thompson, Sapp & Wilson
Career Highlights: Wilson confines his practice to the representation of management clients in labor relations and employment law matters. He is also an arbiter with the National Association of Securities Dealers. Wilson received his J.D. from SUNY Buffalo.
Power Play: Wilson successfully defended Hooters of America against an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge that the "Hooters girl" concept was discriminatory because it prevented men from waiting tables there.
Baker & Hostetler
Los Angeles, CA
Career Highlights: Young represents private and public sector employers in a broad range of labor and employment matters. She began her legal career with the NLRB and was a founding principal of Gartner & Young, a labor and employment boutique firm. She is a graduate of Santa Clara University School of Law.
Power Play: Young defended a major oil company in a case that raised the issue of whether the California Fair Employment and Housing Act applies to alleged sexual harassment occurring outside the state. The California Court of Appeal affirmed the granting of a summary judgment in favor of the defendant.
Dennis W. Archer
Career Highlights: After earning his degree from the Detroit College of Law, Archer worked as a trial lawyer for several Detroit firms. He ascended to the post of Detroit mayor, serving an eight-year term and garnering respect for changing the city's image and lowering the crime rate.
Power Play: Archer was the first African American elected president of the 400,000-member American Bar Association.
Prince C. Chambliss Jr.
Stokes, Bartholomew, Evans & Petree
Career Highlights: The Harvard Law School graduate has over 30 years of litigation and mediation experience. He has been lead counsel in jury trial verdicts in areas ranging from contractual disputes to class action personal injury suits to insurance and securities fraud.
Power Play: Chambliss was the first African American partner of a majority law firm in his state and the first African American president of the Memphis Bar Association.
Vincent H. Cohen Sr.
Hogan & Hartson
Career Highlights: Cohen has litigated civil and criminal cases and argued appeals in all of the District of Columbia's local and federal courts. A graduate of Syracuse University Law School, Cohen served as trial attorney with the Department of Justice and director of compliance of the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission.
Power Play: Cohen is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and formerly served as vice chairman of Disabilities and Tenure and two terms as a member of the Board of Governors of the District of Columbia Bar.
Michele A. Roberts
Shea & Gardner
Career Highlights: Roberts, chair of the trial division, was an independent operator for years although big firms used her to argue their jury cases. The Berkeley Law alumna has served as counsel for defendants with charges ranging from racketeering to bank fraud.
Power Play: Roberts rescued Charles Bakaly, an associate of Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr who was charged with leaking confidential materials. She was also named No. 1 in Washington magazine's "Top 75" attorneys.
Paul T. Williams Jr.
New York, NY
Career Highlights: Williams has represented government agencies and corporate clients, including automobile manufacturers, financial institutions. publishing companies, and national retailers. The Columbia Law School graduate has also represented private employers in labor and employment matters, including unlawful termination, alleged discriminatory hiring, and sexual harassment.
Power Play: Williams served as a gubernatorial appointee to the Governor's Task Force on Diversity in the Judiciary and formerly served as counsel to the New York State Assembly Banking Committee. He was a founding partner of one of the oldest and largest African American-owned corporate law firms, Wood, Williams, Rafalsky & Harris.
MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS/ SECURITIES
Michael C. Banks
Milbank, Tweed, Hadley,
New York, NY
Career Highlights: The SUNY Buffalo Law School graduate is schooled in a range of deals from securities offerings to financings of power plants, pipelines, refineries, and other projects in the U.S., Asia, and Latin America.
Power Play: Banks represented underwriters in a $536 million leveraged lease financing by the subsidiaries of Ahold USA Inc. and represented purchasers in a $290 million securitization backed by the sale of oil generated by Ecopetrol.
Sharon Y. Bowen
Letham & Watkins
New York, NY
Career Highlights: Bowen represents corporations and financial institutions on a broad range of transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, securities offerings, corporate restructurings, venture capital, and private equity financings.
Bowen earned an M.B.A. from Kellogg University and a J.D. from Northwestern University.
Power Play: Bowen was counsel on the finance team for Coach Inc.'s bank financing after the company's spin-off from Sarah Lee Corp.
John W. Carr
Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett
New York, NY
Career Highlights: Carr has had the Midas touch since graduating from Harvard Law School. He represents merchant banks as well as corporate clients on mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, and private equity funds. His client roster boasts the Apollo Theater Foundation, Sony Music Entertainment, and Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone.
Power Play: Carr negotiated NBC's $415 million acquisition of PAX cable network.
Willie E. Dennis
Thelen Reid & Priest
New York, NY
Career Highlights: Dennis' illustrious 15-year career encompasses broad experience in corporate finance, initial public offerings, and mergers and acquisitions. The Columbia Law School graduate also works with companies committed to funding minority businesses.
Power Play: Dennis represented Goldman Sachs' Urban Investment Group when the powerhouse investment firm bought Border Media Partners, which owns Hispanic radio stations in Mexico and Texas.
Bricker & Eckler
Career Highlights: Flowers is a legal expert for hundreds of corporate, emerging business, and nonprofit organizations. The Ohio State Law alumnus represents multi-million dollar venture investors; numerous issuers of privately placed securities, both equity and debt; and numerous closely held businesses. Power Play: Flowers represented a privately held healthcare firm in a $30 million merger with a Fortune 500 corporation. He is the first African American elected to the post of chairman of the business law section of the American Bar Association.
O'Melveny & Myers
New York, NY
Career Highlights: This Columbia Law scholar has 13 years of legal wrangling under his belt. He specializes in venture capital, mergers and acquisitions, forming private investment clubs, and recapitalizing financially distressed companies.
Power Play: Isom represented a firm in the creation of a $1 billion private equity fund focused on the Asian markets.
Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld
Los Angeles, CA
Career Highlights: Johnson represents public and private companies in a variety of industries, ranging from film and television production and distribution to investment banking. The Harvard Law graduate counsels clients on various deals, including joint ventures, publishing agreements, and artists' recording contracts.
Power Play: Johnson's client roster incudes TLC, Stevie Wonder, and SFX Entertainment. Johnson was counsel in the $30 million acquisition of the Great Western Forum for Foreign Enterprises.
Issac J. Vaughn
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
Palo Alto, CA
Career Highlights: Vaughn, a partner at the leading law firm representing technology companies, specializes in working with startup and emerging growth technology. Internet, life sciences, and education companies, including introductions to angel investors and corporate partners. The Michigan Law School graduate has represented such clients as Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs & Co.
Power Play: Vaughn represented issuers and underwriters in IPOs for E-Loan, Bamboo.com, Liquid Audio and Blaze Software. He was named one of the top 20 lawyers under the age of 40 by California Law Business.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
New York, NY
Career Highlights: Williams is the "go-to" man for major corporations under securities investigation or faced with class action suits. The Stanford Law School graduate also has represented such companies as Rite Aid, Pullman Inc., and Revlon in merger and acquisition related litigation.
Power Play: Williams is representing Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance in a series of national class actions and represented American Express in its acquisition of Lifeco Services Corporation.
PERSONAL INJURY/ PRODUCT LIABILITY
Isaac K. Byrd Jr.
Byrd & Associates
Career Highlights: The National Law Journal named Byrd & Associates one of the "winningest" 50 law firms with a verdict totaling $150 million in 2001. A top mass tort litigator, Byrd earned his law degree from Northwestern University School of Law.
Power Play: Byrd won a recent landmark $513 million settlement in Ayers v. State of Mississippi, a 27-year class action battle over Mississippi's unequal funding of the state's historically black universities.
Harry S. Johnson
Whiteford, Taylor & Preston
Career Highlights: Johnson represents insurers and manufactures in product liability, medical malpractice, and lead paint lawsuits. The University of Maryland law scholar is president of the Maryland Bar Association.
Power Play: Johnson was counsel for a major manufacturer in a class action involving over 8,500 plaintiffs and counsel to a major manufacturer in over 350 breast implant cases filed in Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Michael D. Jones
Kirkland & Ellis
Career Highlights: The National Law Journal recognized Jones as one of the nation's top 10 trial attorneys.
The Georgetown University Law Center alumnus is eminent for his winning record and is avidly sought by major corporations hoping to avoid big punitive damages.
Power Play: Michael Jones defended NL Industries in the first lead paint case to go to trial--the $35 million lawsuit was rejected.
William H. Lightfoot
Koonz, McKenney, Johnson,
DePaolis & Lightfoot
Career Highlights: Lightfoot has had notable success in product and premises liability, winning over $400 million in settlements for his clients. The Washington University School of Law graduate earned the title of Trial Lawyer of the Year 2003 by the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C.
Power Play: Lightfoot was counsel in the Gomez & Maddox cases, recovering millions for children scalded by inadequate water heaters and spurring industry reform.
Peter C.B. Bynoe
Career Highlights: Over his 25-year career, Bynoe has negotiated stadium arena deals for professional sports teams such as the Milwaukee Brewers, Washington Redskins. Miami Heat, and San Francisco 49ers. Before joining Piper Rudnick, he founded Telemat Ltd., a project management and financial services firm, Bynoe, who earned his J.D. and M.B.A. from Harvard, served as executive director of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority.
Power Play: Bynoe negotiated the $250 million project development of Comiskey Park for the Chicago White Sox.
Gordon J. Davis
LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae
New York, NY
Career Highlights: Davis' practice includes land use development, municipal authorities and financings, and cultural and nonprofit organizations. The Harvard Law School alumnus spent decades in state and city government, including a stint as New York's commissioner of parks and recreation.
Power Play: Davis was lead counsel on the $250 million development of the American Museum of Natural History Rose Center and on the $7-billion-plus revitalization of the World Trade Center site.
Charles J. Hamilton Jr.
Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker
New York, NY
Career Highlights: Hamilton represents private real estate owners, developers, builders, investment, banks, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. The Harvard Law School alumnus also serves as general counsel for Essence Communications Partners and the National Urban League Inc.
Power Play: Hamilton is representing the city of Mount Vernon in a $400 million revitalization project and represented Essence Communications Inc. in a $125 million deal with AOL Time Warner to form joint venture ECP.
John B. Sherrell
Latham & Watkins
Los Angeles, CA
Career Highlights: A 25-year veteran in the practice of real estate law, Sherrell handles every type of property from residential housing and shopping centers to hotels and oil refineries. His clients include General Electric, Wells Fargo, and Mutual Life. Sherrell earned his J.D. from the University of Michigan.
Power Play: Sherrell served as lead counsel to Southern California Edison Company during the sale of its Edison Pipeline and Terminal Company to Pacific Terminals L.L.C. for $158.2 million and represented the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in its $15 million construction loan to RTC Mountain Waste Medical Office Building.
COMPLEX LITIGATION/ LITIGATION/ WHITE-COLLAR CRIME
Joe R. Caldwell
Career Highlights: Before ascending to private practice, Caldwell served as deputy attorney general for the state of New Jersey and legal counsel to former Washington, D.C., Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly. Caldwell is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and earned his J.D. at Rutgers University.
Power Play: Caldwell served as independent counsel on the Kenneth Starr's investigation of President Clinton and represented a Tyson Chicken executive accused of providing illegal gratuities to former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy.
Eric H. Holder Jr.
Covington & Burling
Career Highlights: The first African American to serve as deputy attorney general in the Department of Justice (the No. 2 spot in that department) under President Clinton. The Columbia Law school graduate also served under President Bush as acting attorney general. Holder began Lawyers for One America, designed to increase pro bono work done by the nation's attorneys. He currently handles complex civil and criminal cases and counsels on domestic and international matters.
Power Play: While he was with the attorney general's office, Holder drafted guidelines for indicting corporations which are still being used by the Bush administration.
James E. Johnson
Morrison & Foerster
New York, NY
Career Highlights: The Harvard College and Harvard Law School graduate previously served as under secretary of enforcement at the Treasury Department. Aside from his white-collar defense practice, he is co-counsel on efforts to overturn a Florida law that prevents felons from voting after they're released from prison. Johnson conducts internal investigations for private companies and other organizations.
Power Play: Johnson represented former Enron and Tyco employees in investigations by the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the New York District Attorney's Office.
Hogan & Hartson
New York, NY
Career Highlights: The Harvard Law School graduate and former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York specializes in white-collar criminal defense and corporate compliance issues. During her tenure as U.S. attorney, she was a member of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee, serving as co-chair of the White Collar Crime Subcommittee. Lynch has been a frequent instructor at the Justice Department. Lynch is currently a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Power Play: Lynch served on the trial team in United States v. Volpe, involving the sexual assault of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima by New York City police officers.
William (Billy) Martin
Career Highlights: Martin's civil and criminal practice is broad in scope, from internal corporate investigations to police brutality allegations. Previously, the Howard Law graduate held senior managerial and supervisory positions at the Department of Justice, overseeing major political and organized crime grand jury investigations. His client list has boasted Monica Lewinsky and the Chandra Levy family. Before entering private practice, Martin had an extensive public service career. Power Play: Martin was paid over $1 million for negotiating two landmark settlements to help improve community-police relations in Cincinnati.
SHARON R. BARNER
Foley & Lardner
Truly ingenious companies rely on creative breakthroughs, hard work, and someone to protect and defend these innovations. That's when intellectual property lawyers SUCh as Sharon R. Barner become indispensable.
With more than 21 years of experience in trial, client counseling, and intellectual property dispute resolution Barner scored big by aggressively defending a half-billion-dollar suit against her client. Pioneer Hi-Bred International in a genetically engineered corn seed infringement litigation. After a hung jury, Barner settled out of court for an amicable work agreement. The 45-year-old lawyer takes credit for convincing judges to allow jurors to raise their hands or pass notes with questions during court proceedings. "You won't find that in your average criminal or civil trial." she quips.
Some of Barner's other career benchmarks include securing a $154 million patient damage award for Hughes Aircraft Co. from the United States for infringement of satellite-stabilizing technology. The award was one of the largest judgments against the U.S. government.
She was also recently named national chair of Foley & Lardner's Intellectual Property Litigation Group and became the first African American to sit on the firm's 14-member executive committee.
Barner's first love was science. She received a B.S. in psychology with a focus on biology from Syracuse University in 1979. But her career path took a turn when she decided to attend the University of Michigan Law School As an intellectual property attorney, Barner has been able to marry the two disciplines she loves.
It's no wonder her face lights up when she speaks of the key strategy in trying technology cases: getting clients to break down the information "as if they were science teachers talking to a room of fifth graders." Barner even goes the extra mile by using video and computer animation in the courtroom. But it's not just about schooling people she says it's about winning cases.
JOHNNIE L. COCHRAN JR.
The Cochran Firm
The name Johnnie Cochran generates fear in the hearts of corporate giants and opposing attorneys alike. With so many high-profile wins under his belt, it's easy to understand why. Among Cochran's successes are wrangling an alleged multimillion-dollar settlement that persuaded a boy's parents to drop criminal charges against Michael Jackson and the "trial a of the century" in which he successfully defended O.J. Simpson against murder charges.
These days, Cochran is looking beyond famous names. To the dismay of major corporations he has shifted his practice's focus to personal injury. "I'd been schooled in criminal law and its had been exciting and fast-paced and all that, but all along I felt I could probably do more good in helping people who are injured, helping people who really needed me," says Cochran.
In virtually every state Cochran practices, he holds the record for most money paid out in a personal injury ease. The Cochran Firm recently won the largest settlement in U.S. history in an environmental pollution case. Cochran and company coaxed $700 million from Monsanto, Solutia, Pharmacia, and Pfizer Inc., which was awarded to 18,000 Anniston, Alabama, residents who fell sick from chemical contamination.
Equally skilled in the judicial courts and the court of public opinion, the Loyola University School of Law graduate was sworn in as a lawyer in 1963 and spent the following three years as a Los Angeles prosecutor. He developed a knack for reading juries and became the top trial lawyer in the city attorney's office.
These days, Cochran's approach in court is to use novel and innovative ways to argue his points to a judge and jury--even if it takes a rhyme or two. "With each case, I try to reduce it down to the simplest common denominator to help people relate or understand," Cochran explains. "I give them something that they can hold on to, something they can grasp. In the O.J. Simpson trial it was: 'If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit.'"
WILLIE GARY Senior Partner Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney, Lewis, McManus, Watson, & Sperando P.L. PERSONAL INJURY
Like the biblical tale of David and Goliath, Willie Gary has represented little-known clients against major corporations, earning him the nickname, the "Giant Killer."
Gary's practice, which got its start 23 years ago in a humble storefront in Martin County, Florida, has won lawsuits against corporate giants such as Disney and Anheuser-Busch for $240 million and $139 million, respectively. Gary, who is in his mid-50s, is heralded as one of the country's leading litigators, having won more than 150 cases valued in excess of $1 million each.
He's a senior partner at Gary, Williams, Parenti, Finney, Lewis, McManus, Watson, & Sperando P.L., which has offices in Stuart and Fort Pierce, Florida. Gary also serves as chair and CEO of the Major Broadcasting Cable Network.
The migrant farm boy who grew up to become a power attorney achieved one of the largest jury verdicts in U.S. history--S500 million for damages suffered by a Mississippi businessman who filed suit in 1995 against the funeral chain The Loewen Group.
"This was a breach of contract case--a concept that I had to simplify/ to a jury. So, I used phrases like 'your word is your bond'," he explains.
Another key tactic was getting inside help. Gary's trial team took great pains to ferret out former employees of The Loewen Group who helped advance their case.
"We were able to find someone in accounting to verify The Loewen Group was buying up small funeral homes in order to double the prices poor people were paying for services," he says.
Gary is used to heating the odds. After graduating from North Carolina Central University School of Law only to discover that no one would hire him because he was black, Gary returned to his hometown of Stuart, Florida. He decided to open the first black firm and says he has never "allowed others to dictate his life's course,"
President and Director-Counsel
NAACP Legal Defense
and Educational Fund
Elaine Jones grew up in Norfolk. Virginia, when Jim Crow was law and order. As a little girl, she witnessed early on America's exclusionist policy toward African Americans and was inspired to become a lawyer. She was convinced that by studying law, she could turn adversity into an advantage.
In 1972 only two years out of the University of Virginia School of Law, Jones served as counsel of record in the landmark Supreme Court case Furman v. Georgia, which abolished the death penalty in 37 states. During that time, she also argued numerous employment discrimination cases including the 1972 class-action suit v. American Tobacco Co.
In 1989, Jones became the first African American elected to the American Bar Association's Board of Governors and broke and broke another barrier four years later when she became the first female president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF). Under her leadership, LDF has undertaken, among others, cases demonstrating that the high incarceration rates of African Americans impact the community at every social and economic stratum.
A poignant example was LDF s push for clemency for Kemba Smith, who, at 24 years old, was sentenced to 24-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty to distributing cocaine. At the time, Smith was a Hampton University student from a middle-class neighborhood whose boyfriend was the head of a drug ring.
Over a four-year period, the LDF appealed the case repeatedly in an effort to demonstrate to the court what the prosecution had initially disclosed--Smith never used or sold drugs.
With Jones' extensive background and broad array of cases, she has earned a reputation as a skillful negotiator and an ardent voice for those who have been shut out of the economic, political, and social mainstream. "Some of the most important cases you can have are those that affect people's lives--whether people live or die," she says. "And those are the cases that affect the quality of life."
--Marcia A. Wade
Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering
John Payton was a law student at Harvard when Regents of the University of California v. Bakke was being litigated. "We were all on edge waiting for the verdict in that case," recalls Payton. In 1978, the Supreme Court handed down its decision, upholding the use of race in college admissions.
Now 25 years later, Payton has litigated two landmark cases, successfully defending the University of Michigan's use of race in the admissions process at its undergraduate college (Gratz v. Bollinger) and at its law school Grutter v. Bollinger). A partner at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering in Washington, D.C., Payton was lead counsel for the two cases in the trial court and in the court of appeals. He argued Gratz v. Bollinger the Supreme Court.
During the compelling proceedings, it was a "battle of semantics," says, Payton, who challenged whether it was the court's job to tell the university what to do or the university's job to devise an admissions program that relied on individualized assessment.
Throughout his career, Payton has played pivotal roles in some of the most significant civil rights cases in recent history. He was chief counsel in the Supreme Court case Richmond v. Croson, and he filed numerous amicus briefs including Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, an employment discrimination case, and Adarand Constructors v. Pena, a case involving the constitutionality of federal affirmative action programs. The former Washington. D.C. Bar president also served as corporation counsel for the District of Columbia.
A native of Los Angeles, the 56-year-old Payton says he was extremely active in the black student union movement during the 1970s. "I have always been interested in racial issues, social justice, and civil rights in some context."
--Carolyn M. Brown
TERESA WYNN ROSEBOROUGH
Sutherland Asbill & Brennan L.L.P.
Teresa Wynn Roseborough has honed the necessary hallmarks of a first-rate litigation lawyer--assertiveness, cleverness, intelligence, quick thinking, and precision. This Memphis, Tennessee, native also adds a bit of Southern charm when arguing complex commercial litigation, constitutional law, and discrimination cases.
Impressive describes Roseborough's win record--roughly 98%. Appeals represent about 60% of her caseload, and jury trials represent the other 40%. Knowing the facts of the case--cold--is her creed. Unlike a jury trial, where lawyers have hours to present closing remarks in hopes of swaying jurors' opinions, appellate trial attorneys have a miniscule 10 to 15 minutes to make their case before three judges.
The "Steel Magnolia," as Roseborough is called, has mastered taking hits and fiery questions from judges. She is always prepared, staging several moot court rehearsals prior to each case.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Law, Roseborough once clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. She also served as deputy assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice during the Clinton administration. It's not surprising that she was enlisted to litigate for former Vice President Al Gore after the 2000 election. The 44-year-old attorney represented the Democratic presidential candidate before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Florida Supreme Court during the Florida election recount litigation.
Other high-stakes cases include a MCI/WorldCom class-action suit that sought punitive damages for inflated pricing structures. The case was dismissed before it made it to a jury trial. Roseborough has also advocated for entitlement and social security benefits for foster care children in the Supreme Court case Keffler v. State of Washington.
But long before she sets foot in the courtroom, Roseborough says she is "already thinking in terms of the appeal process--maintaining a victory or reversing a defeat."
--Jennifer L. Smith
NINA L. SHAW
Del, Shaw, Moonves, Tanaka & Finkelstein
As a founder of the law firm Del, Shaw, Moonves, Tanaka & Finkelstein, Nina L. Shaw negotiates deals and contracts for A-list Hollywood celebrities, including actors Laurence Fishburne James Earl Jones, Cedric The Entertainer and Jamie Foxx.
Shaw's fast-paced schedule also includes hammering out deals for actors in the upcoming Barbershop sequel. "Sequel deals are always difficult to make because when the movie is first being produced, no one is sure that there will be a second or that the character will come back," explains the Columbia Law School graduate. But once a box office hit turns into a franchise, everyone is looking for a cut. That's when Shaw, a 49-year-old native New Yorker, is ready to do battle for her clients.
Case in point: The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded grossed $450 million the U.S. alone, and while lawyer--client privilege prevents us from knowing Fishburne's salary (published reports estimate it's more than $10 million), his contract may not have been quite so lucrative if not for Shaw's negotiating skills. With that kind of money getting doled out, it's paramount that "every representative on the team--the client, attorney, manager, accountant, and any other advisers--work together," to finalize the contract. says Shaw.
Her tactic: "Never wing it" one "start from a place of incredible knowledge," For starters, she researches the current salaries of talent comparable to her clients to ensure they're not lowballed. She also memorizes box office grosses when negotiating with studio executives. Rumor has it her poker face is superb. In a discipline where pitching is everything, Shaw is a rainmaker, studio-shark beater, and vigilant attorney.
"Historically, entertainment [personalities] were not well represented, especially minority clients," she says. "There's good representation out there if they want it."
DENNIS C. SWEET III
Langston, Sweet & Freese
With a 95% win record in trying personal injury and product liability cases, and punitive damages in the millions, it's no wonder people are talking about "how sweet it is" when it comes to civil litigator Dennis Sweet. The 48-year-old Jackson. Mississippi, native is a partner at Langston, Sweet & Freese.
Civil cases represent 80% of Sweet's workload. But you won't always find him in a courtroom. Many of his suits are settled and never make it to trial. When Sweet does walk through the doors of a courtroom, all eyes are on him. The statuesque 6-foot-5-inch attorney always appears to have the world in his hands. There's no sugary approach to the way he persuades jurors or confronts witnesses. "I go in and try to hammer away," says Sweet, adding that he doesn't "apologize for asking for large sums of money."
It's no wonder he has grabbed the national spotlight with victories such as a $144 million verdict against Ford Motor Co. (the largest wrongful death verdict in Mississippi's history) and a $400 million dollar verdict against American Home Products, makers of the Fen-Phen diet pill.
"The general public often views mass tort litigation as jackpot justice because that's how companies on trial sell it. A lot of times, victims' families can't get any justice in the criminal courts, so their only recourse is to file a civil suit, who is a member of the slave reparations coordinating committee's legal dream team.
Although he earned his stellar reputation as a civil litigator, Sweet cut his teeth in criminal law, trying civil rights and anti-death penalty cases. The George Washington University grad's first job out of law school in 1980 was as a staff attorney in the District of Colombia Public Defender's Office and later at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery Alabama.
The million-dollar-verdict man, however, remains humble. As he sees it: "There are no small cases--only small lawyers."
--Carolyn M. Brown
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
COMPLEX LITIGATION/WHITE-COLLAR CRIME
"Mr. Personality" best describes Tad Wells when he is trying a case. A winning formula for one of the nation's leading litigators involves using the "power of transference" on jurors. "Get the jury to like you, and they will like your client," says the partner at New York's Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
Wells, who has defended high-profile CEOs and political figures in white-collar criminal defense trials, is credited with getting acquittals for former Secretary of Agriculture under the Clinton administration Michael Espy and former Secretary of Labor under the Reagan administration Raymond Donovan. He also successfully defended Tennessee financier Franklin Haney in the first trial conducted by the Justice Department Task Force on Campaign Finance Violations. Another significant notch on Wells' belt was persuading the U.S. Department of Justice to drop a three-year criminal investigation of New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli.
Wells, who serves as co-chair of his firm's 150-lawyer litigation department, prides himself on knowing how to read jurors and making them feel at ease. Given the recent media hype and public awareness of corporate scandals, "It's becoming increasingly tougher to win cases against a big corporation or a corporate executive," says Wells, who appeared on our "30 for the Next 30" list (see August 2000).
The son of mail clerk and a cab driver, Wells, 52, grew up in Washington, D.C. He holds a master's in business and a law degree from Harvard. One of his earlier gigs was at a New Jersey law firm, where he was on the trial team in a high profile espionage case.
Today, Wells' practice has evolved. Half of his cases are white-collar criminal defenses and the other half is complex civil/corporate litigation. His biggest active cases are representing Exxon Mobil in the largest Foreign Corrupt Practices Act grand jury investigation and the National Music Publishers Association in a $17 billion lawsuit against Bertelsmann for its Napster alliance.
Says Wells, "I am making inroads in places where black attorneys were once not able to go."
--Carolyn M. Brown
Munger, Tolles & Olson L.L.P.
With the string of recent corporate scandals, and the CEOs who have taken the fall, Bart Williams may have hit a gold mine by tailoring his practice to accommodate white-collar criminal defense.
As a partner in the Los Angeles office of Munger, Tolles & Olson L.L.P., Williams has established his reputation as a successful litigator. His brother, Paul Williams, chief legal officer at Cardinal Health, also made our list.
He was the lead trial counsel for a senior executive at Hyundai Motor America who was acquitted in 1996 of charges of illegal federal campaign donations. Williams was able to convince a jury that the executive was a company scapegoat who knew it was wrong for companies and foreign nationals to give money but had no prior knowledge it was wrong to get reimbursed for personal donations
Williams says the key strategy in white-collar criminal defense is witness preparation. "You can't control what a witness says, but you can make it your business to know what he or she is likely to say through investigation. A trial is like a play. Trial lawyers are both directors and actors," says Williams, who was one of American Lawyer's "45 Under 45."
More recently, Williams led the defense of a major Los Angeles law firm accused of professional negligence. The three-week trial, which Williams calls one of his "most rewarding," ended in an acquittal. Not bad for a self-proclaimed jock who decided to study law after landing a spot on the debate team.
Williams grew up in Los Angeles but left sunny California for provincial New England to attend Yale University, where he was a starting guard on the Yale varsity basketball team.
A former assistant U.S. attorney in the Central District of California, Williams doesn't take his practice or what he considers his duty to the community lightly. He's proud of his work with the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, where he serves on the board of trustees. "My father was one of the doctors who helped found this medical school in the '60s. I want to carry on that tradition of involvement."
AMERICA'S TOP BLACK LAWYERS LEGAL LEGENDS
The contributions of black lawyers have been etched into the history books of American law since the 1800s. There were men and women such as John Rock, the first African American attorney to practice before the Supreme Court, and Charlotte E. Ray, the first African American female lawyer to pass the bar in the U.S. This page pays homage to a select few contemporary African American legal history makers.
As the first black solicitor general and Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall is one of the most celebrated figures in the history of civil rights in America. Along with his mentor Charles Hamilton Houston (the first black lawyer to win a case before the Supreme Court), Marshall, who served as a justice for 24 years, developed a strategy for eradicating segregation in schools that culminated in the landmark 1954 case Brown v. The Board of Education.
J.L. Chestnut Jr.: Chestnut founded Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders, Pettaway, & Campbell, the largest black law firm in Alabama. The Howard University graduate is acclaimed in legal circles for his lifelong battles against segregation in Selma, Alabama, including his contribution to the infamous Bloody Sunday civil rights march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He represented King and other demonstrators in the South. Chestnut also won a $2 billion settlement against the Department of Agriculture on behalf of black farmers in Alabama.
Drew S. Days III: Days was one of the first African American faculty members at Yale University Law School, his alma mater. A former assistant counsel with the NAACP, Days became the first African American to head the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice during the Carter administration. He assumed the post of solicitor general--the second leading position in the Justice Department--under President Clinton.
William Henry Hastie: A 1925 graduate of Amherst College, Hastie was appointed judge of the Federal District Court in the Virgin Islands by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Confirmed in 1937, he became the nation's first black federal magistrate. In 1949, President Harry S. Truman nominated him judge of the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It was the highest judicial position attained by an African American.
A. Leon Higginbotham Jr.: After serving 16 years as chief justice of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, he became a professor at Harvard University. He was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. Higginbotham was known for his championship of broad constitutional protections of individual rights and personal liberties.
Charles Hamilton Houston: A graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School, where he was the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review. Houston would become the chief architect of desegregation. In 1940, he became general counsel of the international Association of Railway Employees and the Association of Colored Railway Trainmen and Locomotive Fireman, successfully arguing two cases involving racial discrimination before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Wade McCree Jr.: After a four year Army stint during World War II, the graduate of Harvard Law School became the first African American judge appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the second African American solicitor general in the history of the U.S. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan--another first for an African American.
Constance Baker Motley: A graduate of Columbia University, Baker Motley's courtroom skills influenced some of the key cases that preceded the civil rights movement of the 1960s, including Brown v. Board of Education. As chief counsel, she won a favorable decision in 1962 in the case for James H. Meredith against the University of Mississippi, securing Meredith's right to be admitted to the school.
Charles Ogletree: A Harvard Law School professor and prominent legal theorist, Ogletree has held a number of positions, including deputy director of the District of Columbia's Public Defender Service. In 1991, he served as legal counsel to Professor Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas Senate confirmation hearings. He is currently co-chairman of the Slavery Reparations Coordinating Committee.
Aulana L. Peters: Currently a member of the New York Stock Exchange Market Regulatory Advisory Committee and a retired partner in the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crotcher, Peters was the first black woman appointed Securities and Exchange Commissioner. A graduate of the College of New Rochelle, New York, and the University of Southern California, she was a member of the Steering Committee for the Financial Accounting Standards Board's Financial Reporting Project and a member of the Board's Blue Ribbon Panel on Audit Effectiveness.
--Carolyn M. Brown
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|Date:||Nov 1, 2003|
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