Will Lawyering Destroy the Free Market?

Corporations, Securities & Antitrust Practice Group Newsletter - Volume 2, Issue 1, Spring 1998

May 1, 1998

Al Dunlap, William Lerach, Theodore B. Olson

At the 1997 National Lawyers Convention, the Federalist Society sponsored a program on whether lawyers will destroy the free market.

Here is what three panelists had to say:

Al Dunlap, Sunbeam CEO:

"Let’s contrast entrepreneurship with excessive litigation and regulation. Entrepreneurship is the spirit of creation, hard work, and risk taking which built this country. It is the can-do attitude which generates wealth, creates jobs, and has made America the envy of the world. Excessive litigation and regulations are destructive. They each make it more difficult than it should be for a society to produce goods and services. Let’s look at the incentives. In business, the best avenue to long term success is competitive products and prices. In law, the most effective strategy for making money is to sue early and often."

William Lerach, Milberg Weiss:

"The government doesn’t do a very good job enforcing the law in many respects and does so inefficiently. I suggest to you that it’s possible that private enforcement of the law, guided by the profit motive, overseen by an independent federal judiciary, working within laws that we have all agreed upon through our elected representatives, might have a strong and useful role to play."

Theodore Olson, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher:

"Legislatures may not always do their job, and regulators may not be properly funded. But we have a government of laws, and it seems to me that this system of laws is the preferred way of running our country, not a system of vigilantes that have a profit motive. Lawyers owe a duty to their clients, not to the public. The clients must come first. Private lawyers with private profit motivations are working for a client, and the fact that the result in a case happens to help the public is purely coincidental."