Lawyers Always Win, or: That's Why It's Called a Plea Bargain

Lawyers: Do they win even when they lose a case?

From a Wall Street Journal article about Raj Rajaratnam‘s failed insider-trading defense strategy:

Mr. Rajaratnam is estimated to have paid as much as $40 million for his defense, according to people familiar with the matter and some lawyers not affiliated with the case, about two-thirds of the amount prosecutors said Galleon made from the insider trading addressed in the charges.

I bet I could have gotten him convicted on all 14 counts for $5 million, and I’m not even a lawyer. More from the article:

By comparison, Conrad Black, the newspaper magnate, has spent about $30 million battling fraud charges at trial, in appeals that have overturned some of his convictions, and in related civil suits, according to one of his lawyers, Marc D. Powers, of Baker & Hostetler LLP. “It’s an expensive thing to get in the cross hairs of the government,” said Mr. Powers.

How does the Rajaratnam verdict affect demand for the services of his lawyer, John Dowd? Also: how is that demand affected by Dowd’s swearing at the media?


It's not expensive if you don't adopt the scorched earth defense. They spend huge amounts looking for some evidence, hidden somewhere, of something they can use to leverage against the government. They look up and down the evidence trail for any hints of stuff they can call misconduct and for material they can use to impeach credibility. The "value" of that approach is an interesting economic subject: how often is it worth looking for that needle in the haystack?

Problem for a wealthy defendant is that occasionally, just occasionally they hear about some bit of information turning up deep in files and that leads them to chase what the Right Stuff called that ghost in the thin air.

caleb b

Those lawyers win. But the law profession is about to see a dramatic change. I went to a law graduation over this last weekend and the overwhelming attitude was one of despair. With the exception of the top five or six in the class (who will be working 90+ hour work weeks), everyone that has a job is making at, or less, than they would have without a law degree…but now they are $100k+ more in debt.

The young women were especially distraught as none of them could imagine being able to afford the costs of children. The quote of the weekend was, “law school ate my baby.”

Mike B

In these days of debt ceilings and tight budgets the government should be aware that it has more to gain from the wealth of rich criminals than the satisfaction of putting them in jail. Confiscating 90 to 99% of a billionaire's net worth ex lieu of prison time would not only have a significant punitive effect, but also benefit far more people than slapping some rich dude in jail.

Doug M

I bet I could have gotten him convicted on all 14 counts for $5 million, and I’m not even a lawyer.

Except the initial charges was close to 40 counts. The prosecutors dropped the charges on the rest.