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Most Intriguing and Outrageous Legal Personalities for 2018

Vivia Chen

January 4, 2019


Who are the most memorable lawyers in 2018? Well, as you might guess, the lawyers in or near Trumpland dominate:

Most Fascinating Power Couple: George and Kellyanne Conway. (No, silly, it’s not Jarvanka.) Oh, what we would give to be a little fly in the Conway household! Does Kellyanne actually defend her boss at home? (Or is she saying, “Oh, honey, you know I’m just playing along because we need the medical benefits.”) Is this marriage on the rocks? Or is all this public sparring a setup for their own reality show once Trump’s out of office? We can’t wait for the ensuing episodes.

Most Perverse Self-Immolator: Alan Dershowitz. Why is the legendary Harvard Law professor and BFF of the Clintons rabidly defending Trump? Is Dershowitz on Trump’s secret payroll? Is he just bored with his old Cambridge cronies? Does he just want/need to be in the spotlight? Did he not get enough attention as a child?

Most Puzzling Liar: Brett Kavanaugh. You can debate whether Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation of attempted rape against him was credible, but it’s clear that Kavanaugh drank himself stupid in high school and Yale undergrad. So why did he persist in painting himself as a boy scout throughout the hearings? And was he truly a virgin until late in life, as he professed on national TV? And why did he think that his late deflowering would exculpate him from Ford’s charges? And why would he think we give a hoot about when he lost his virginity?

Most Intriguing Nobody: Jared Kushner. How did this 2007 law grad get tasked with solving the Middle East problem? Yes, I know he’s married to the First Daughter, but it’s still mystifying how Jared managed to convince anyone (even his erratic father-in-law) that he’s up to this incredibly complex job. Sure, he went to top schools: Harvard for college (after his father allegedly donated $2.5 million before admission decisions came out) and NYU for law school (not sure how much daddy donated there, but suspect it was a cheaper admission ticket than Harvard). Kushner’s resume is thin for the job, though Nikki Haley did call him “a hidden genius that no one understands.” Hidden, indeed.

Most Cryptic Lawyer: Don McGahn. Though McGahn started as a Trump enthusiast (he was an early supporter) and a Trump henchman (he conveniently ignored Sally Yate’s warning about Michael Flynn), he and The Donald fell out of love. But we know little how it unfolded because McGahn makes no public announcement and he operates under the radar. Sly, this one.

Most Nutty Nut: Rudy Giuliani. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches to pick the looniest lawyer in Trump’s orbit. Michael Cohen and Marc Kasowitz are certainly leading contenders, though an argument also could be made for Ty Cobb and John Dowd (why did they urge everyone in the administration to cooperate with Bob Mueller’s investigation?). Still, my pick is Rudy. He says things that make Trump look guilty (he admitted that the 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russians was to get dirt on Hillary, not to discuss adoption) and makes weird pronouncements (he said that Trump couldn’t be indicted as president even if he “shot” James Comey). But what makes Giuliani deserving of the top prize is his precipitous fall: Not only was he mayor of New York, he previously headed the Southern District of New York. I mean, he was considered a serious guy once upon a time!

Most Indefatigable Senior: Sheila Birnbaum. Almost everyone on this list has a dubious distinction, so let’s end with someone we can cheer. And that honor goes to the Queen of Toxic Torts. Why? Because Birnbaum, 78, is the Energizer Bunny of the profession. Not only does she refuse to slow down, but she’ll tell you where to stick it if you dare mention the “R” word (as in retire). That’s what she did to Skadden Arps when she decamped to Quinn Emanuel in 2013. And she’s still hopping: This spring, she and her troops moved over to Dechert, where she’s the co-chairwoman of the firm’s product liability and mass torts practice. You go, girl!



On Twitter: @lawcareerist.


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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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