Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Williams & Connolly: Masters of the Game

Masters of the Game: Inside the World’s Most Powerful Law Firm is a recently published book about the Washington law firm of Williams & Connolly, by veteran legal issues reporter Kim Eisler.

Eisler takes us behind the scenes into mega law firm Williams & Connolly, guiding us on a journey through the many storied cases that have served to shape current policies in public and private sector alike.  For the past twenty years, author and journalist Eisler has covered the law firm of Williams & Connolly, first at American Lawyer Magazine, then for Legal Times and since 1993 as National Editor of Washingtonian Magazine. More than any other writer, Eisler has unprecedented and unusual contacts and relationships with the partners, as well as a background knowledge and familiarity with the firm's history and personnel over the past two decades. In Masters of the Game, Eisler sets out to demonstrate how the disciples of Edward Bennett Williams went beyond anyone's expectations and came to occupy key roles in American culture and business. In the last ten years of his life, Williams, the founder of Williams and Connolly, often said he was building not just a law firm but a monument.   Masters of the Game is not only about a law firm, but about how the philosophy and practices of this particular law firm have spread out beyond Washington to dominate business, finance, sports and the American psyche itself through its influence with past, present and future political, corporate and media figures.

In a town boasting thousands of lawyers, this firm of bipartisan fixers is at the top of the heap of true insiders. With tentacles everywhere, the partners handle criminal cases, run sports teams, arrange authors' book deals, set TV appearances and manage national affairs. At considerable fees, omnipresent Williams lawyers have represented the likes of Oliver North, the Bushes and the Clintons. They have handled cases involving tobacco regulation, the Iran-Contra scandal, a presidential impeachment, Elian Gonzalez ("the . . . attorney had successfully turned the issue not to whether Elian would be turned over but to when and, just as importantly, how"), the Vioxx controversy and the rise of Sarah Palin as a nationally known political candidate. Wielding considerable intellectual firepower--besting many of their New York competitors, writes Eisler--the Williams & Connolly team deftly navigates a world of internecine tricksters and vicious competition. The author's often-snarky tone caters to the popular view of lawyers, yet despite the cynicism, Eisler's text is something of a tribute to those who practice an oft-despised profession. The author depicts them as people of overwhelming ability and, often, rectitude. "Among American law firms," writes Eisler, "Williams & Connolly--with its one office, its one-for-all attitude, and its unique don't-poach-the-rivals policy--is the anachronism that proves the folly of its clumsy PR- and consultant-driven competition.

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