Thanks to everyone who submitted possible nominees for our Lawyer of the Year award. We reviewed your 160+ comments and developed a slate of ten worthy candidates.
Before we reveal them, we’ll talk about a few folks we passed over. A number of you suggested Mike Leach, the lawyer turned football coach who was recently fired by Texas Tech University. Although Leach’s achievements on the gridiron are considerable, he’s more of a football figure than a legal figure, so he didn’t make the team.
A few of the lawyers you suggested, while certainly well-known, really belong to years prior to 2009. These include former New York governor and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in disgrace after his dalliances with prostitutes came to light; former administrative law judge Roy Pearson, of the infamous $54 million (originally $67 million) pants lawsuit; and prominent IP litigator Jeremy Pitcock.
Also named: Kathy Henry, a former Legal Secretary of the Day, whose alleged oversight could have cost PepsiCo a pretty penny — over a billion dollars (until the default judgment was vacated). But since she’s a legal secretary rather than a lawyer (or even a law student), we passed her over.
So who made the cut? Check out the nominees and vote for your favorite, after the jump.
Here are the nominees, in alphabetical order, with a little bit about each (although most of these folks need no introduction).
They reflect different aspects of Above the Law — some are success stories whom we’ve celebrated in these pages, some are infamous individuals whom we’ve subjected to good-natured mockery, and some fall somewhere in between.
- The Anonymous Laid-Off Big Firm Attorney: Last year, the Anonymous Laid-Off Big Firm Attorney almost won Lawyer of the Year honors. Will 2009 be the year that ALOBFA takes home the prize (as Justin Bernold predicted)?
Last year certainly created many more laid-off lawyers — almost 5,000 of them, according to conservative estimates — and also brought to light the stories of many individual laid-off attorneys. E.g., Roxana St. Thomas, of Notes from the Breadline; Mark Levy, former chair of the Supreme Court and appellate practice of Kilpatrick Stockton, who took his own life in April 2009.
- H. Rodgin Cohen: Rodge Cohen, the outgoing chairman of Sullivan & Cromwell and one of the country’s top M&A lawyers, played a major role in cleaning up Wall Street messes. He came thisclose to landing a top job at the Treasury Department. Read a profile of him here.
- Marc Dreier: He may have gotten overshadowed by Bernie Madoff, but Marc Dreier definitely made headlines last year. The once high-flying litigator, founder of his own eponymous firm, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for defrauding clients and investors of over $400 million. (Dreier was also a nominee for Lawyer of the Year in 2008, but the full extent of his fraud came to light in 2009, which is also when he was sentenced.)
- Harvey Miller: A partner at Weil Gotshal and dean of the bankruptcy bar, Harvey Miller had a busy 2009, working on such mega-bankruptcies as Lehman Brothers and General Motors. Bankruptcy was hot in 2009, and Miller was at its fiery center.
- Robert Morgenthau: At the end of 2009, Robert M. Morgenthau, the 90-year-old legal legend, concluded 35 years of service as district attorney of Manhattan.
- Barack Obama: He’s the freakin’ president of the United States. And he’s a lawyer. And he won last year. ‘Nuff said.
- Robert Robbins: A prominent and successful securities lawyer, Bob Robbins leads the Corporate & Securities practice section at Pillsbury Winthrop. But he’s best known to ATL readers as Acela Bob, for talking loudly about upcoming layoffs on a crowded Amtrak train.
- Sonia Sotomayor: In August 2009, this Wise Latina Woman made history, becoming the 111th justice, the third female justice, and the first Latina justice of the United States Supreme Court.
- Orly Taitz: California lawyer Orly Taitz is a “a leading figure in the ‘birther’ movement, which challenges whether Barack Obama is a natural-born citizen eligible to serve as President of the United States.” Read more about her here.
- A. William Urquhart: Bill Urquhart, a name partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, is one of the country’s top litigators. In October 2009, he sent out a famous firm-wide email urging all Quinn lawyers to show constant vigilance in checking their email. (This spawned the “CHECK YOU EMAILS” meme in ATL comments, from a typo in his email’s subject line.)
Which one of the foregoing folks should be crowned our Lawyer of the Year for 2009? Argue the merits in the comments, then vote. We’ll leave voting open until Thursday, January 7, at 11:59 PM. Thanks!
UPDATE: Find out the winner over here.