Opinion | First, Smear All the Lawyers

Opinion | First, Smear All the Lawyers

The Washington offices of law firm Jones Day in Washington, Aug. 30, 2020.


andrew kelly/Reuters

In “Servants of the Damned,” his purported exposé of the evils of “big law,”

David Enrich

gets one thing right—Jones Day is a global law firm with 2,400 lawyers and 42 offices across five continents and a 130-year history of zealously representing clients. Other than that, his portrait of Jones Day and the legal profession bears little resemblance to reality. Indeed, Mr. Enrich’s insistence that some clients of Jones Day—whom he calls the “damned”—shouldn’t be able to secure competent legal representation is utterly at odds with our common-law tradition. According to that tradition, truth and justice are secured through a vigorously contested adversarial system, in which all litigants have lawyers who represent them.

Mr. Enrich’s thesis that Jones Day is a “right wing” institution mischaracterizes the firm. As many Jones Day lawyers told him, the firm represents clients, not causes; it has no political agenda. Jones Day lawyers span the political spectrum, supporting Democratic and Republican candidates alike. (I am a Democrat.) While the vast majority of Jones Day’s work has nothing to do with government or politics, the firm does represent clients who seek to challenge regulations. It defends clients from lawsuits, investigations and prosecutions, and sometimes represents clients who run for public office.

In his book, Mr. Enrich relies heavily on anonymous sources and appears to ignore facts that don’t fit his narrative. He writes, for example, that the firm’s senior leadership is pursuing a right-wing agenda, citing the managing partner’s Catholic faith. But he doesn’t try to reconcile that with the fact (mentioned elsewhere in his book) that the same managing partner,

Steve Brogan

—with whom Mr. Enrich has neither met nor spoken—personally initiated a massive pro bono project on the U.S. Southern border that is the antithesis of Mr. Enrich’s narrative. Thus far, this effort has devoted more than 450,000 hours to assisting more than 15,000 migrants while challenging Trump-era immigration restrictions.

Mr. Enrich attempts to take Jones Day to task for the work “once and future Jones Day lawyers” did while serving in the Trump administration. We are proud that our lawyers have held senior positions in every presidential administration, Democratic and Republican, for decades. That includes many current and former Jones Day lawyers in the Clinton, Obama and Biden administrations. But we take neither credit nor blame for the work these lawyers perform during their time in public service, any more than we endorse the decisions our alumni make after they accept in-house counsel positions, go into business or pursue other opportunities.

Mr. Enrich’s attack on Jones Day isn’t as disturbing, though, as his broadside against America’s entire system of justice. His apparent view is that the “damned”—any person or group of whom he disapproves—aren’t entitled to high-quality legal representation and should instead be left to “fend for themselves,” to quote his book. That is how legal systems operate in totalitarian regimes, not free societies.

We should all fear the dystopian system that Mr. Enrich advocates. As he said in a recent interview: “If you’re the

Donald Trump

campaign, you did not have a right to high-quality legal representation to advise your campaign on compliance with FEC rules.” In making this shocking claim, Mr. Enrich reveals that his goal is for Lady Justice to remove her blindfold, inspect the litigants before her, and deny the protections of the law to the disfavored.

Unlike totalitarian systems that ensure the “right” person wins every case, America’s adversarial process strives to ensure that cases reach the right outcome based on a dispassionate analysis of law and facts. For that process to function, there must be zealous advocates on both sides. There is no place for ideological censorship or silencing the disfavored in legal practice, which is why the ethical rules for lawyers have long provided that the views of clients can’t be attributed to lawyers and that lawyers shouldn’t decline clients because of concern about public criticism.

In a nation of laws, the “damned” are sometimes entitled to prevail, just as the “blessed” must sometimes lose. If Mr. Enrich believes America’s laws and the rules governing legal practice enable “the business world’s worst misbehavior,” he should take that complaint to the lawmakers who write them and judges who enforce them. Selectively withdrawing the law’s protections from those Mr. Enrich dislikes would erode the justice system until there is nothing left for any of us. As Sir Thomas More said in “A Man for All Seasons,” “Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”

Jones Day won’t abandon its clients based on public criticism, from Mr. Enrich or anyone else. Nor will we acquiesce in attacks on the fundamental principles of the U.S. justice system. Jones Day will instead continue representing our clients in the highest traditions of our profession—as we have for well over a century.

Mr. Orr is partner in charge of Jones Day’s U.S. offices.

Wonder Land: Queen Elizabeth II’s personal virtues are an antidote to our era’s self-promotion and social-virtue signaling. Images: WPA Pool/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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