Veteran legal-affairs journalist Eisler examines the Washington powerhouse law firm of Williams & Connolly.
The most ubiquitous, arrogant and feared law firm, writes the author, is the one founded by Edward Bennett Williams (1920–1988). 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, Elián González (“the…attorney had successfully turned the issue not to whether Elián 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 their many of 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.”
Vivid, savvy reportage.