Elite law firms and the Mafia would appear to be worlds apart. Biglaw firms represent all sorts of unsavory characters, but these clients tend to steal using computers rather than cudgels. When you wear white shoes, you don’t want to get them splattered with blood.
But there are commonalities. Both Biglaw and Big Crime are large and lucrative enterprises. They’re intensely hierarchical and often ruthless.
There are cultural similarities as well. As noted in these pages by lawyer turned therapist Will Meyerhofer, “Some big law firms are like the mob. They do ugly things, but prefer to avoid ‘ugliness.'” Instead, there’s a lot of indirection and passive-aggressiveness.
So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that a leading defense lawyer to Mob figures has joined “the family” — the Biglaw family, that is….
In his celebrated career as a criminal defense lawyer, Gerald Shargel has represented Mafia bosses, corrupt politicians and celebrities in hot water, while trying more than 125 jury trials along the way.
Now, four decades after hanging out his own shingle, Mr. Shargel has closed the law offices of Gerald L. Shargel L.L.P. and on Monday will announce that he is joining the corporate law firm Winston & Strawn as a partner in its New York office.
“I’ve always practiced law on a narrow platform of a sole practitioner,” said Mr. Shargel, 68. “It’s time to try something different and expand my horizons.”
Biglaw practice will certainly be different. Shargel shouldn’t expect another 125 jury trials while at Winston.
On the bright side, though, Shargel will be relieved of the hassles of running his own firm:
Mr. Shargel, who is bringing his three junior lawyers and a paralegal with him, said he plans to expand his practice to civil litigation. His move, he said, was in part driven by his having grown tired with the administrative burden of running his own firm, and that Winston & Strawn had the infrastructure, reputation and resources to support his caseload.
From Winston’s perspective, this looks like a win. Seth Farber, head of litigation in New York, praised Shargel’s skills and background as fitting the firm’s focus on taking tough cases to trial and prevailing. And hiring Shargel and his team continues Winston’s expansion of its litigation practice in New York. Last year, Winston snagged star litigator Jeffrey Kessler and a slew of other refugees from Dewey & LeBoeuf, about 60 to 70 lawyers in all.
Even though Winston is thrilled to have Shargel on board, Winston might not want all of his clients. Shargel made his name representing such infamous organized-crime figures as John A. Gotti and Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano. Clients at Winston generally don’t have middle names inside quotation marks, except for ones like “Chip” or “Tripp.”
Criminal Defense Lawyer Closes Office to Join a Big Firm [DealBook / New York Times]