“Most over-lawyered proceedings in recent history”

“Most over-lawyered proceedings in recent history”

News from Chicago this morning: the prosecution’s lead attorney, Eric Sussman, is seeking greener pastures in the private sector. The same Trib article also mentions Hugh Totten, who commented wittily and non-stop in the press throughout the Black trial from his post as a commercial litigator at the Chicago firm Perkins Coie. He is now starting, along with a couple of other partners from big league firms, the Valorem Law Group. They aim to compete with the majors primarily on price. I asked Totten whether his experience following the Black trial influenced his decision.

There’s absolutely no question that the Black criminal trial, and certainly the related civil cases, are among the most over-lawyered proceedings in recent history. After all the talk about thousands of documents and case complexity, the whole case ended up focusing, repeatedly, on the same public filings, a security video and the testimony of a few witnesses. The same thing happens again and again on the civil side. Witness, for example, the $100 million that the Sun-Times has spent on lawyers—and we’re just starting the appeal process. The legal process never seems to have an end when there is no limit to the hours that large firms can bill to a matter. Our central purpose is to drive a stake into the heart of that billing regime and get back to what matters, which is delivering value to clients.

I further asked whether Sussman would be interviewing with the new firm.

“No, Eric hasn’t interviewed with us. I’m not sure he even knows who I am.”

I’m guessing he does now.

Conrad Black prosecutor Eric Sussman going into private practice: Source [Chicago Tribune]