Monday, February 7, 2011
Lawyer Barons: What Their Contingency Fees Really Cost America by Professor Lester Brickman (Cardozo) has hit the shelves. From the publisher:
This book is a broad and deep inquiry into how contingency fees distort our civil justice system, influence our political system and endanger democratic governance. While the public senses that lawyers manipulate the justice system to serve their own ends, few are aware of the high costs that come with contingency fees. This book sets out to change that, providing a window into the seamy underworld of contingency fees that the bar and the courts not only tolerate but even protect and nurture. Contrary to a broad academic consensus, the book argues that the financial incentives for lawyers to litigate are so inordinately high that they perversely impact our civil justice system and impose other unconscionable costs. It thus presents the intellectual architecture that underpins all tort reform efforts.
Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently wrote a review of the book for the New York Law Journal (subscription only). Judge Jacobs wrote:
There is no shortage of books and articles deploring defects in lawyer ethics. The novelty of "Lawyer Barons" is that it focuses on the contingency fee as a business model. Mr. Brickman argues that the prevailing business model is based on a systematic conflict of interest on the part of lawyers who collect their large fraction on claims that have no appreciable risk; who collect fees on the portion of recoveries that were available at the outset, without counsel or litigation; who conduct class actions that serve no one but lawyers; who spread panic over questionable mass torts; and who corrupt medicine and science itself. . . . The book amounts to a call for remedial action by honest members of our professiona, and is convincing on the level that the professional institutions, including bar associations, courts, and law schools, should look into these claims and consider whether remedial action is indicated and feasible.