Letting Everyone in a Law Firm Get the Credit They Deserve

Doug Gansler is the Maryland Attorney General. Basically, the state government’s top lawyer. One of the many things the Office of the Attorney General does is represent the state in criminal appeals. Criminal prosecutions at the trial level are handled by the various local state’s attorney’s offices. Once those cases turn into appeals, they are handled by lawyers from the appellate division of the Office of The Attorney General.

law firm staff deserved credit There is an article in today’s Daily Record describing Mr. Gansler’s preparation for an upcoming argument in the United States Supreme Court. The case is called Maryland v. Shatzer, and has something to do with the scope of a criminal defendant’s invocation of the right to counsel. I am not here to write about the substantive legal issues- I only handle personal injury cases, which is the only kind of work we do here at Miller & Zois.

The article is about the extent of the preparation Mr. Gansler is doing to be sure that he is ready for oral argument in our nation’s highest court. One particular thing caught my eye. Gansler offered thanks for the assistance of a lawyer in his office named Brian S. Kleinbord, who is the chief of the attorney general’s criminal appeals division. It turns out that Kleinbord, not Gansler, is actually listed as the attorney of record for the Supreme Court case. The petition for certiorari and the briefs in the Supreme Court list Mr. Kleinbord and two other lawyers as counsel, along with Gansler. The Daily Record quotes Gansler as saying “Kleinbord assisted in writing the brief and preparing for the high court argument, but the attorney general chose the case to be his first argument in the Supreme Court.”

You know what that means? It means that Kleinbord and the other lawyers wrote the briefs and did all the work. Now that it is time for argument, the guy at the top of the letterhead is swooping in to take advantage of all the attention, and the glory if he wins. Gansler says he did this because of his broad experience as a prosecutor. Hmmm. Who is best suited to do the argument? The guy who did the research, wrote the brief, and probably argued the case in the lower courts? Or a prosecutor turned politician, who rarely, if ever, sets foot in a courtroom anymore?

There are perks to being the boss.  This Mr. Gansler the opportunity to show the citizens of Maryland (most importantly, the ones who vote) that he is out in front protecting our state from sex offenders. I know Mr. Gansler spent many years as a trial-level prosecutor, and that he has argued these issues before in other cases. I am not trying to say he will do a bad job. In fact, I am sure the opposite is true.

But I feel for the other lawyers who put the real work into the state’s case, who are relegated to sitting second chair at oral argument or just having their name listed on the brief.

Irony of Ironies

I did not write on one bit of this post above.  It was written by a former associate.  The old blog posts here are an amalgamation of several blogs mostly, but not completely, written by me.  So here I am claiming credit for a lot of these blog posts I did not originally write.  The irony, right?

But the difference is that when it comes to current employees, Laura and I are not interested in taking the credit.  We have never been on the brief in any of the appellate arguments our firm has had unless we wrote the brief and made the argument.

There is a very successful malpractice lawyer in Baltimore who walks around town talking about cases that he tried when he took zero witnesses or argument.  This is the wrong way to build a winning organization.