Big Law:A Novel

By: Ron Liebman


I’m not much of a drinker.

“Another over here, please,” I call to the barmaid.

She’s good-looking, decked out in tight jeans with a shrink-wrap black top and, of course, tattoos. Tattoos and piercings. So common these days they hardly provoke a second glance.

My brother seated beside me raises and wiggles his empty glass.

“Me, too,” he calls to her. “You lovely example of flowering womanhood,” he adds, smiling that in-the-bag grin he gets when sloshed.

My brother, Sean, is drinking Jameson’s. So far I’m sticking with beer. It’s coming on to 11:00 a.m. I need to stay sober. (Okay, I’m not, but I’m not hammered either. Not yet anyway.) There’s a jury out. We’re waiting to see if the nine women and three men will reach a verdict today.

Yesterday the jury told the judge at the end of their second day of deliberations that they were deadlocked. He read them something lawyers call the Allen charge. It dates all the way back to 1896. Allen v. United States. Sometimes referred to as the dynamite charge.

The jury tells the judge they are hopelessly deadlocked and can’t reach a verdict.

The judge tells the jury go back into the jury room and work on it some more, tells them—in so many words—get back in there, talk some more, and agree on a verdict. Do your fucking jobs.

Then, if the jury still can’t agree, more often than not a mistrial is declared. The jury is excused and the defendant or defendants walk. Of course, the prosecutors can retry the case. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.

I sound like a lawyer?

“Thanks,” I say to the barmaid as she places a new frosty mug in front of me. When she puts Sean’s new whiskey down, he tells her how luscious she looks this morning. She raises her eyebrows, smiles, but no way is she falling for any of his bullshit.

Well, I am a lawyer. My brother isn’t. He’s a professional fuckup.

I’ve got to make this my last beer.

Sean and me are at Cahill’s, one of the last Irish bars in this part of lower Manhattan where both the state and federal courthouses are located. I’d say the neighborhood is almost all Chinatown now.

We are the sons of Irish immigrants. Working-class people. Sean is upholding the tradition. In spades. Me? Well, I guess the priests saw something in me. They got me educated. Prep school rather than public or even Sacred Heart down our street. Full scholarship. Then college and law school. Also a free ride.

So you’re thinking, here I am a lawyer waiting on a verdict and sitting here drinking with my brother while my client’s fate is hanging in the balance, that the poor son of a bitch is off somewhere biting his nails while his world crumbles before his very eyes. That I must be one of those low-life criminal lawyers who hang around the halls of the local courthouse. Some schlub whose client roster is a collection of dopers, murderers, molesters, and whatnot.

Actually, that’s not who or what I am. I was a young partner in the New York office of one of the most prominent law firms in the country. I worked long and hard to get there. I’ve overcome my fair share of adversity.

And there is no client sitting somewhere biting his nails waiting for the jury.

I’m the client. I was the one indicted. It’s my fate on the line.

My cell beeps. I remove it from my pocket. It’s a text from my lawyer.

“The jury’s in,” I tell Sean. “They have a verdict.”

He signals for the check.



I didn’t start taking notes right away.

It took me a while to figure out what was actually going on. Then I made sure to take notes.

I did it every morning, soon as I got out of bed. At first it was . . . I don’t know, a self-preservation technique. I was afraid that I just wouldn’t remember. So much was happening so fast.

I also figured that someday somebody—maybe another lawyer taking my deposition, questioning me under oath, or maybe bar ethics counsel—would expect me to recall all the important details. If the thought of a prosecutor entered my mind, I’m pretty sure I wiped it away before the ink was dry.

Writing this memoir? It actually wasn’t my idea. It was my brother’s. By that time most of the facts were out in the open. There were lawsuits, an SEC investigation, depositions, and document productions by the boatload. So I was able to piece together the story, pretty much all of it, from the events that I personally observed and a lot of what happened out of my presence.

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