White Shoes and Black Hats?
Ten years ago the American Civil Trial Bar Roundtable published a white paper (later revised in 2006) that addressed how the “Lack of respect and confidence seems to have developed in the public’s mind for the trial practice…” Lawyer bashing is as old as the Bard, and more than likely even predates that famous and sometime misinterpreted slam on the profession.
Maybe the low public opinion is misplaced, maybe some of it well deserved. And honestly, who doesn’t love a good lawyer joke? In covering the release of this possibly long-forgotten document, CNN couldn’t even refrain from piling on, quoting an attorney who quoted Voltaire: “I was only abused by lawyers twice in my life — once when I was sued by one and once when I hired one,” said Robert Parks of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers…”
It’s easy for civilians to be suspect and skeptical of those who practice. It’s a closed and insular profession with it’s own customs and language, at times difficult to decipher. And from the earliest days, Washington has been overrun with the critters, a sprawling 70 square mile warren.
Those who inhabit the big lobby shops receive a fair amount of criticism, while their more blue collar counterparts – the trial attorneys – have long had the ire of the right-of-center, tort reform boosters, the lot of them considered pinstriped, briefcase-toting and rapacious bete noirs.
Watching them over the next ten months may offer a good contrast to the differing breeds and also how well these disparate firms may compliment each other’s work gearing up for and executing trial strategy.
Covington, a perennial leader among DC’s top grossing firms, and Robert Wone’s former employer, looks to have unlimited resources to devote to this case.
Judging by the paper that’s been cranked out since the stay was lifted after the criminal verdict, Razi’s team is responsible for the bulk of that and appears to be steering the overall strategy.
This is a pro bono case that former Covington partner Eric Holder dedicated the firm to immediately after Robert’s murder. With them, it’s personal, not business.
Where does this leave Regan?
While Covington’s DC office commands a killer view of Pennsylvania Avenue, real estate that boasts some of the best seats for Inaugural parade viewing, across town at 19th and M Streets in the heart of DC’s nondescript office corridors, Razi’s co-counsel on the case makes his professional home.
On a pro bono basis, Regan joined the Wone civil team by filing a notice of appearance in February, 2009. While little has happened publicly, Regan made his mark right out of the starting gate at the September 16, 2010 status hearing by proclaiming to the media in the courthouse hallway that, “Defendants don’t assert their fifth amendment rights if they are not guilty of something.”
That remark led the way to the defense’s gag order motion (subsequently denied) and may foreshadow more gunslinger tactics that we may see in the coming months. Regan’s ‘apology’ to Judge Hedge was just as stinging as his initial remarks, “In my mind, my comments were less prejudicial than Judge Leibovitz’ decision; not nearly as prejudicial as her 55 pages regarding the culpability of the defendants.”
Will Regan play Bad Cop to Razi’s Good Cop? Surely there will be plenty of courtroom choreography with the sizable defense team of five attorneys, so how does the large plaintiff team respond? Does Cov provide the strategy and backroom firepower under Razi’s direction, while Regan manages the drama, theatrics and working over the jury?
In a recent law.com marketing supplement on “Washington DC’s Best Lawyers,” we get a better understanding of Regan the attorney and his approach to client service, much of it involving heartbreak cases of wrongful death, medical malpractice and personal injury.
“A boutique firm with big firm capabilities, Regan Zambri & Long has been called “DC ’s top personal injury boutique” by Washingtonian Magazine. The firm specializes in representing consumers in cases involving medical malpractice, wrongful death, birth injuries,defective products,automobile collisions, consumer fraud, and other serious injury. The firm uses its extensive financial backing to put its clients on equal footing with their adversaries.”
Regan’s shop trumpets considerable success in big ticket judgments: sixty verdicts or settlements worth over a million dollars, and recently a verdict for five million dollars was awarded his client who was struck head-on by a drunk driver. Regan is also responsible to the largest wrongful death settlement involving DC’s transit authority, on behalf of a woman struck by a Metrobus in 2007.
In the supplement’s full-page profile of Regan, there’s mention of a case he’s been working on for over thirteen years:
“Regan is committed to his clients, despite any obstacles he may face. He is currently working on the case of a man who was severely burned when he was 12 as a result of a defective smoke detector and subsequent fire.
The incident burned more than 70 percent of his body, and he lost both legs. Regan took this case to the Maryland Court of Appeals three separate times. The trial is set to begin in September 2011. The man has now graduated from college and has a family of his own.”
Although we didn’t know it at the time, back during the September 16 status hearing when trial dates were being bandied around, Regan told Judge Hedge that he had a September 2011 commitment on the books. This Maryland case was that commitment.
Also noted was Regan work on behalf of the family of a DC-based New York Times reporter who was slain near his Upper Northwest home in January, 2006:
“Mr.Regan was lead counsel in the lawsuit between the family of David Rosenbaum and the District of Columbia, in which the Rosenbaum family voluntarily gave up any monetary settlement in exchange for the District’s agreement to enact significant reforms in the provision of emergency medical services. “As a result of this legal case and the selfless decision by the Rosenbaum family, the District has made fundamental changes in its ambulance service which have improved the lives and safety of all citizens in the District,” says Mr. Regan.”
For a generation of Washingtonians, Edward Bennet Williams was known as “the man to see” if you needed something done in this town. With a far lower profile, Regan may be filling a void as a consummate fixer, not on K Street, but on the area’s Main Streets.
Appropriatley for the holidays, the Regan profile opens with this:
“Every December, Patrick M. Regan knows they will come, just as they have for the last 15 years. The holiday greeting and accompanying photo make him smile. And just as he has done for years, Regan will place the updated photo in a frame on his desk.
The simple gifts are symbols of thanks from a client Regan helped long ago — a mother of five daughters whose husband was killed in a serious accident.”
Come Christmas time 2011, not long after a decision comes down in the Wone case, Regan may see even more greeting cards arrive from yet another grateful family.