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David Boies Is Not Done with Jeffrey Epstein

Vivia Chen

July 29, 2019

David-Boies-Article-201907261858If David Boies is just giving it away, who wouldn’t take it?

I’m talking about his pro bono representation of sex trafficking victims in the Jeffrey Epstein matter. Boies and his firm Boies Schiller Flexner are emerging as the go-to lawyers for women allegedly victimized by the billionaire pedophile. Currently, the firm is representing at least eight of the female victims. And that number is expected to swell.

“With the publicity about Epstein, more women have been calling us,” Boies told me during a recent phone chat. “Some are looking for guidance, and some are still very wary of Epstein’s power, and, frankly, wary of the government.”

Boies cast as the knight in shining armor is a familiar trope. But before we get into his role in the Epstein fiasco, let’s first deal with that elephant in the room, meaning this: Is Boies representing victims of sex trafficking to salvage his brand?

Sure, that’s a cynical question, but that’s what people ask me when I mention Boies’ involvement.

It’s been a rough two years for the star litigator. He suffered a terrible personal loss earlier this year. On the professional front, Boies lost a chunk of his halo when his role in the Harvey Weinstein scandal came to light in the fall of 2017. During his representation of the movie mogul, Boies personally signed the contract to retain Black Cube, an investigative agency hired to thwart the publication of an article in the New York Times about Weinstein’s abuse of women. (He claimed that he did it unthinkingly at the client’s behest.) Overnight, it seemed, Boies got caught in the #MeToo net, getting labeled as another highly paid enabler of a powerful ogre.

So back to that pesky question: Is Boies going to battle for Epstein’s victims a redemption tour?

Boies sounded slightly pained when I posed that question. “We started this long before Weinstein was controversial,” he answered. “When we started representing Weinstein, he was a highly respected producer.”

In fact, his firm started representing Epstein’s victim Virginia Roberts (Jane Doe #3) in 2014, practically eons before Weinstein became the poster boy for male toxicity. The firm sued Ghislaine Maxwell, an Epstein cohort, on Roberts’ behalf for defamation. In 2017, it took on Sarah Ransome as a client, suing Epstein for sex trafficking. Both cases have settled. And now there’s a pending suit by Roberts against Alan Dershowitz for defamation. (Look out for my post on that soon.)

Boies also stressed that the Epstein matter represents a continuation of his firm’s pro bono priorities: “Sex trafficking and the abuse of women have been major pro bono efforts of our firm, so this was something that fit.” He pointed out that his firm has a history of representing sex trafficking victims, citing its role in suing Backpage.com, a site that enabled child prostitution. (Law.com’s Jenna Greene reported last year that the firm, working with Legal Momentum, succeeded in shutting down the site, after a two-year fight.)

He added: “Anyone who says that I’m doing this for some kind of redemption has another agenda.”

OK, I posed the elephant question, so I moved on. Why, I asked, of the myriad pro bono requests he and his firm must get, is representing Epstein’s victims so compelling?

Boies said it galled him how Epstein was able to flout justice. “It was absolutely astonishing that he had a sex trafficking ring and could walk the street. It represented a serious breakdown of our legal system.”

Moreover, “sex trafficking doesn’t get the attention it deserves,” said Boies. “It doesn’t touch most homes as other #MeToo activities do. Politicians and the media find it harder to identify with victims of sex trafficking who come from the most vulnerable parts of our society: primarily girls without resources, who aren’t highly educated and are suspicious of authority.”

I was also curious if Boies is personally involved in this high-profile matter and how much time, money and resources all this representation is sucking up.

“This has been a major project for me in the last five years,” said Boies, who also credited his partner Sigrid McCawley’s deep involvement. He said the firm had to assemble “a good size team” (including Meredith Schultz, Josh Schiller, Ben Margulis, Andrew Villacastin, Andrew Marrero and Sandra Perkins) because “Epstein has a huge team and is paying the legal fees of other defendants.” (In a separate conversation, McCawley confirmed that the case against Epstein’s cohort Maxwell was extremely hard-fought. “The other side was well-funded. We argued over 50 motions. I was in court every week,” she said.)

And what’s this costing Boies Schiller? “The firm has spent millions of dollars worth of legal fees and hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses” over the last five years, he said.

As for the next stage of the Epstein matter, Boies is leaving us with a cliffhanger: “When the Second Circuit unseals the records in the Maxwell case [the defamation suit brought by Roberts], people will get a sense of the magnitude.” He added, “Epstein will be in jail for a very long time. And his confederates will be charged. This is only the beginning.”

Well, doesn't that sounds ominous?

Contact Vivia Chen at vchen@alm.com. On Twitter: @lawcareerist. 

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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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