Yet, what's convenient and cute is that the power part is positioned and packaged as the noble legal fundamental that everyone has the right to a defense.
That's how, for a long time, David Boies, founder of Boies, Schiller, could justify his representation of clients such as Harvey Weinstein.
Also, there was the time when a partner at Jones Day, Don McGahn could go ahead and represent the campaign of Donald Trump. That bit of well-paid work also was rewarded with the top legal job in the White House.
Thanks to the Brett Kavanaugh win, McGahn exits that position on top. If he wants to return to Jones Day or any other brandname law firm he likely will be welcomed.
Now, though, assorted constituencies, such as the media and ethics experts, are taking a hard look at the right to a defense argument for agreeing to take on certain seemingly dark accounts.
The latest is Andrew Rice's article in New York Magazine. Before that, of course, had been Ronan Farrow's The New Yorker outing of the use of private investigation help by Boies in the Weinstein scandal about sexual assault.
There will be more. Boies has become a target. He could suffer a great deal. Given how tribes, both legal and celebrity, operate, this stink sticking on him could drive powerful players away.
Not only could he lose his status in the establishment. His law firm could develop negative branding.
Meanwhile, the rank and file at Boies, Schiller don't seem to be happy campers. On Glassdoor, anonymous employee reviewers give it a "3.1" out of a possible "5." Eventually, the Brandname lawyers at the firm could decide to do a lateral.
Should McGahn bounce back to Jones Day he could find that his firm is also under attack. Like Boies, Schiller is now known to do, Jones Day has habitually accepted controversial accounts. They range from the former manufacturer/marketer of lead paint Sherwin-Williams to the currently distressed Roman Catholic Church in America.
So far, according to some ranking systems, Jones Day has not suffered. For example, Acritas found it the top brand for two consecutive years.
But, there are signs of serious trouble. On Glassdoor, at its Cleveland, Ohio headquarters, anonymous employees give it a "2.7" out of a possible "5." One assessment advises to "run the other way."
Also, the lead paint public nuisance issue could mutate into the Next Tobacco or the Next Asbestos. Things don't look terrific in the court of public opinion for Sherwin-Williams. For instance, business media outed that in 1900 there had been an internal memo indicating the hazards of lead. Four years later it published an ad promoting lead paint.
Jones Day has appealed the Sherwin-Williams' conviction in "Santa Clara v. Arco" to the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS). The schedule to even consider reviewing that has been put on indefinite hold. Of course, Kavanaugh's coming to SCOTUS could pull it to the front of the line. But maybe he won't have the influence at SCOTUS to do that.
If the members of the media and child advocates continue to hammer Sherwin-Williams, other states could decide to form a conga line suing Sherwin-Williams for allegedly creating a public nuisance through lead paint. It could happen that the way Jones Day managed the litigation in Santa Clara could be flamed. That in itself could damage its reputation as a legal powerhouse.
In short, the future of those brandname lawyers and influential law firms representing what is perceived as darkness is in play.
This is the era of public opinion. It can transcend the reach of the law. As the Boies and McGahn types might put it: The barbarians are at the gate.
Full Disclosure: I blogged the Rhode Island lead paint class action public nuisance litigation (11/1/05-2/22/06). Sherwin-Williams and two other defendants were convicted. Later the RI Supreme Court tossed the case.
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