Hiring Lawyers

I also got my first taste at Bradford in managing litigation outside the United States. Bradford’s collector’s plates were usually made from isolated kaolin clay deposits in China, Japan, and Europe. With application of artwork applied, they were then fired in limited, numbered volumes and delivered to Bradford in the U.S. for sale around the world. Bradford would then export them from the U.S. for sale by its own subsidiaries or other local dealers. When the plates crossed the border at this point, a custom’s declaration of their value was made when the imported plates came in bulk into the country of ultimate sale.

At one-point Canadian customs authorities disputed the value assigned to Bradford’s imports, claiming it was losing customs duties that were due as a result. After concluding the Canadian valuation calculation was faulty, I went shopping in Canada for a lawyer there who could represent the company in putting forth its arguments.

At the time in Canada and other British Commonwealth countries, lawyers weren’t just lawyers, they were either solicitors or barristers and never the twain did meet. Solicitors generally only did office work, though they might appear as an advocate in lower courts. Barristers were trial lawyers and had a monopoly on trying the bigger cases in the trial and appellate courts. This meant I needed a barrister. Early in my search, I discovered a subset of barristers known as Queen’s Counsel. This group turned out to be where I found my lawyer. These advocates are appointed by the Canadian Minister of Justice. All were senior trial lawyers who were recognized for their contributions to the legal profession and public service with the Queen’s Counsel (Q.C.) designation. Later in my career with Encyclopaedia Britannica, I also had a chance to be similarly guided through major disputes in trial and appellate courts of The United Kingdom and Australia.

Jenner, Burt

Burt Jenner

Before Rod MacArthur sued his fellow directors of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundation, he had asked me for guidance in finding a premier trial lawyer.  I took Rod on a round of interviews with several of Chicago’s most prominent attorneys.

I began by introducing him to Burt Jenner, a founder of Jenner & Block law firm. Jenner struck both Rod and me as not right for the job. He clearly seemed to be in declining health and lacking the mental acuity of his better days.

Kirkland & Ellis was also on the list to talk to.

Weymouth Kirkland

When I was in law school and beginning to interview firms for a clerkship, my father’s brother, Augustine J. Bowe, had left the Bowe & Bowe law firm to become the Chief Justice of the Municipal Court of Chicago. He suggested I ask for an appointment with one of the Kirkland’s founders, Weymouth Kirkland.

When I expressed doubt as to whether Kirkland would take time to see lowly me, Gus said not to worry. He said he and Weymouth had known each other for decades. I later discovered that these contemporaries had met not as leading Chicago lawyers who might have met as allies or adversaries, but because Gus and his wife Julia had bumped into Kirkland and his wife Louise on summer trips to France in the 1920s. Kirkland did indeed see me in his office in the late 1960s, though, like Burt Jenner on my later visit with Rod, he also in declining health.

With the Kirkland firm on my list for the current assignment, I introduced him to its most prominent litigator of the day Don Reuben.

Don Reuben

Don Reuben

Reuben was much in the public eye, having such diverse clients as the Chicago Tribune and Time Inc., and sports teams such as the White Sox, Cubs and Bears. Add to them, the Illinois Republican Party, the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, and Hollywood personalities Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Hedda Hopper. Reuben wasn’t hired then, but several years later, when Rod finally did sue his fellow MacArthur Foundation directors, Rod was represented by other Kirkland & Ellis trial lawyers. Reuben was out of the picture at that point, because not long after Rod and I met with him, he had been canned by the firm in what the Chicago Tribune called, “an act of back-stabbing plotted while Reuben was on a European vacation.”