Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Show Me the Money (Part 1)

This is part of an intermittent series about the cost of Episcopal litigation.

Who is David Booth Beers? He's currently the chancellor of teh Episcopal Church. He served at that post under the previous Presiding Bishop as well, so he's been doing it for a while. But who is he? Here are the facts:

He graduated from Trinity College in Connecticut in 1957. Trinity is a school with a long Episcopalian connection, although it is a non-denominational school. He graduated from Berkeley (University of California) Law School in 1960. He also earned an MA from there at the same time.

He was a partner in the Washington based law firm of Shea and Gardner until the firm was acquired by Goodwin Procter in 2002. Shea and Gardner was an establishment litigation firm. Mr. Beers was a litigator for them in the area of products liability. Shea and Gardner was acquired by the very large tony Boston law firm of Goodwin Procter in 2004. Mr Beers became a partner in Goodwin Procter after the acquisition. He became 'of counsel' to the firm in this year.

He is an active layman within the Episcopal Church and serves (or has served) on several charitable boards.

Here are some points that may or may not be obvious:

Mr. Beers is no longer a partner at the firm. "Of Counsel" is a term law firms use to cover a variety of relationships with the firm. In this instance, it likely means semi-retired. That would fit with the upsurge in litigation at 815 and Mr. Beers' age. I'm afraid it means he wishes to concentrate his formidable legal skills on serving this one particular client. His going 'of counsel' means that he has cleared his decks.

Also, Goodwin Procter has an unofficial goal of 1850 billing hours per year. This is usually applied to associates at a law firm, but partners who let their billing slip can expect to hear about it at firm meetings. For non-lawyers, 1850 hours billing per year means 2200 hours worked, or a 44 hours billed per week (66+ hours worked per week), with two weeks off for vacation. If Mr. Beers is giving the Episcopal Church a discount on his $600/hour fee, and I will explain why I believe that in a later essay, then he would have to step down as partner, given how much of his time the church is using.

Mr. Beers' legal experience is vast. But his area of practice was products liability for large corporations. In other words he defended equipment manufacturers and such when people were injured by their equipment. His accustomed roles are preventative and reactive. Under Bishop Griswold, I think we saw him being preventative. The constant use of the talking point about how "People leave the Episcopal Church, property does not" is likely as a result of his advice.

Bishop Schori has thrust him into a new role as a plaintiff's attorney. This time he is doing the suing. I'm certain he's up to it, but it is not a role he can be much used to.

A side note: Mr Beers is a very formidable opponent. He has had a distinguished legal career. But that does not mean he can not be beaten. Back in the day when I was in general practice in South Georgia we used to make mincemeat of white shoe lawyers at trial. Good litigators are rarely the top of their class in law school. Being raging egomaniacs, they tend to be with very small firms. Also, a local attorney almost always has an advantage over a large firm attorney from out of town. The big guy may have great resources behind him, but he will never know the lay of the land, and that advantage is a huge one.

Correction made to sentence about hours billed per week.

4 comments:

Shay said...

This is excellent, Matthew, I'm looking forward to seeing the coming installments and referring my Episcopal friend to the site. Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Matthew, you clearly have no idea what the life of an associate at a big law firm is. You don't work 44 hours a week and bill 1850.

Matthew said...

anonymous,

Good catch. What I meant to say was 44 hours billed per week. Which would be a minimum of 66 hours worked per week.

Thank you for pointing that out.

Matthew said...

Also, in the interests of full disclosure, I was an associate in a litigation firm as my very first law job. My billables were in excess of 1850 by a good bit.