January 18, 2017

A Legendary Litigator Jumps From Biglaw To Boutique

Where do you go after spending more than four decades at one of the world’s leading law firms? The golf course might be the answer for many — but not for James W. Quinn, who left Weil Gotshal & Manges to join the New York office of one of the nation’s top litigation boutiques, Berg & Androphy.

During his time at Weil, Jim Quinn handled some of the firm’s biggest cases, including a number of headline-making sports law matters. He also served in firm leadership, as longtime head of the litigation department and as a member of the management committee. At Berg & Androphy, which he joins as of counsel, Quinn will continue to try cases and also expand his mediation practice.

If you spend even a small amount of time with Jim Quinn and David Berg, founding partner of Berg & Androphy and a top trial lawyer himself, you’ll be struck by their easy rapport. They finish each other’s sentences, interrupt one another frequently (without getting on each other’s nerves), and generate lots of laughs. You’d think they had been partners for decades.

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Although Quinn has been recognized as a “legendary litigator” by the Legal 500, the “L word” doesn’t do him justice; he is a true trial lawyer, one who brings cases before juries — and wins. So he’s a great fit at Berg & Androphy, a firm full of seasoned trial lawyers — including David Berg himself, described by one former general counsel as “the St. Jude for bet-the-company cases.”

Berg and Quinn hope to try cases together once again, although they recognize that the litigation environment isn’t what it was back in the 1990s. The major change: many fewer cases go to jury trial. About 1 percent of federal cases reach a jury today, compared to more than 10 percent back in 1962.

I spoke with Berg and Quinn by phone earlier today — while Quinn was on break from a mediation, showing that he’s not missing a beat as he transitions from firm to firm — and I asked them: what’s behind this trend of the vanishing jury trial, and what can be done about it?

“One of the main causes is that folks have gotten more risk-averse, especially when it comes to going to trial before a jury,” Quinn said. “It’s due in large part to the enormously increased cost of going to trial, especially in large commercial cases. I personally think it’s unfortunate. As for the likelihood that it can be reversed, I’d love to see that, but I’m not confident it can be.”

Some of the fault for the decline of trials can be assigned to the U.S. Supreme Court, Berg said. In a series of cases, covering such subjects as pleading requirements, the standards for granting summary judgment, and alternative dispute resolution (especially arbitration), the Court “has created procedural hurdles that do an end run around the Seventh Amendment right to a civil jury.”

Another culprit, according to Berg: the Chicago school of law and economics and one of its leaders, legal academic turned Seventh Circuit judge Richard Posner. Although Posner is “so smart and funny, I kind of hate him,” the economic analysis of law that he pioneered “has really undermined the law, especially for the little guy.”

The declining number of jury trials led us naturally to chat about alternative dispute resolution — particularly mediation, which Jim Quinn will focus on at Berg & Androphy. He couldn’t resist referring me to the website for his mediation practice, JW Quinn ADR LLC (which led Berg to humorously mutter, “Just stand outside in a sandwich board!”).

“One of the reasons I started my mediation practice is that so many of these major commercial cases are being mediated,” Quinn explained. “Mediation doesn’t always lead to settlement, but there’s almost always going to be a mediation, sometimes as a matter of course. As a result of mediation and other forms of ADR, there are fewer and fewer cases available to go to trial.”

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“Jim and I look forward to trying some cases together,” David Berg said. “We did very well the first time, and I suspect we’ll do fine in the future. What made this happen is that we have a great deal of respect for each other’s trial skills. In fact, I think Jim worships me.”

“As far as our trial skills go, David’s great,” Quinn said. “But I’m greater.”

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