Stone & Magnanini

Last week, I headed downtown to meet with Stephen A. Weiss and Eric Jaso, partners at the Seeger Weiss litigation boutique. Weiss co-founded the firm with Christopher Seeger in 1999. Jaso, who just joined the firm from Stone & Magnanini, is a friend and former colleague of mine from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They kindly agreed to be interviewed about what it’s like to work at an elite, plaintiff-side litigation firm.

Here at Above the Law, we’ve always had strong coverage of the large, defense-oriented firms that collectively constitute Biglaw. In the past few years, however, we have dramatically expanded our offerings related to smaller law firms. We currently have three columnists — Brian Tannebaum, Tom Wallerstein, and Valerie Katz — writing in this space, in addition to the small-firm coverage generated by our other writers.

Consistent with this editorial expansion, I was eager to meet with Weiss and Jaso and hear about Seeger Weiss (which is relatively large for a plaintiffs’ firm, but small compared to a Biglaw firm). I’ve always wondered why more law school graduates don’t go into plaintiffs’ work and why we don’t hear about this side of practice as much. It can represent a chance to do well while also doing good, by vindicating victims’ rights or blowing the whistle on misconduct — especially in the qui tam practice area, a focus of Seeger Weiss.

Here’s what Weiss and Jaso had to say….

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Back in October, we informed our readers that law school litigators Jesse Strauss and David Anziska intended to file class action lawsuits against 15 additional schools, on top of the two they’d already filed against Cooley Law and New York Law School. In mid-December, we brought you an update on the status of those potential filings after Anziska told us that at least three named plaintiffs had been secured for 11 out of the 15 law schools on October’s target list. And now, about a month and a half later, have we got some news for you.

Anziska quipped in an interview with us last year that he hoped to turn 2012 into the year of “law school litigation.” Well, the class action crusader is off to a great start, because today, Team Strauss/Anziska partnered up with six other law firms and filed lawsuits against 12 law schools around the country. According to Anziska, “these lawsuits will define a generation.”

Which law firms have joined in their mighty quest, and which law schools have been sued? Find out all of this information, plus additional details that we learned during today’s media conference call, after the jump….

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People are talking about an interesting Slate article entitled “Leaving Big Law Behind: The many frustrations that cause well-paid lawyers to hang out their own shingles.” It’s currently the most-read piece on the site. But it’s actually quite similar, even down to some of the sources, to an article that appeared a few days earlier in Crain’s New York Business:

A lawyer’s hourly billing rate used to be a badge of pride — the higher the number, the more valuable (and supposedly brilliant) the lawyer. But over the past 18 months, a strange phenomenon has been sweeping the legal arena: Partners at major law firms are quitting because they want to be able to charge less for their services.

This is, of course, not a new development. Kash and I wrote about it in a December 2009 cover story for Washingtonian magazine, in which we interviewed a former member of the $1,000-an-hour club who left a large law firm and started his own shop so he could offer clients better value. But all the recent coverage — in Crain’s, Slate, and elsewhere — suggests that the trend is picking up steam.

Which kinds of lawyers are leaving Biglaw to hang up their own shingles? Why are they doing it? And how’s it going for them?

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We’ve been hearing talk of interesting developments at Boies, Schiller & Flexner, the litigation powerhouse founded by the legendary David Boies, which seems to be doing well despite the downturn (see their bonuses). If you have info to share, please feel free to email us.

Here is some news that we can confirm. The BSF office in New Jersey — located in the upscale community of Short Hills, home to the fabulous, high-end shopping mall — is breaking off from the mother ship. Partners David Stone (at right) and Robert Magnanini are hanging up their own shingle, at Stone & Magnanini. (The official press release is available here.)

As one might expect of Boies Schiller partners, Stone and Magnanini are highly experienced and impressively credentialed. David Stone (above right) — a graduate of Harvard Law School, where he worked with such heavyweights as Alan Dershowitz and Laurence Tribe — has developed a robust practice in complex civil and criminal litigation. He has been particularly successful in handling False Claims Act cases, where he has scored some major victories (including a $163 million settlement in the Medco case).

Bob Magnanini (at right), a graduate of Columbia Law School, has similarly extensive experience in complex civil and criminal cases, especially False Claims Act matters. He’s also a Lieutenant Colonel in the New York Army National Guard, serving as the senior division staff officer from the 42nd Infantry Division at the World Trade Center for the two weeks following the 9/11 attacks.

They’ll be joined by Eric Jaso, as counsel. Jaso, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, is a former Justice Department official and federal prosecutor, who also worked at Latham & Watkins and Cravath. (Disclosure: Jaso is a friend and former colleague of your above-signed scribe, from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey.)

We chatted on the phone with David Stone — no relation to Eli — about the new firm. Read more, after the jump.

UPDATE (4/7/09): As of now, the firm is hiring. Details here.

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