Best Lawyers Since Day One

We talked to some of the 566 attorneys who have been recognized by Best Lawyers since the first edition in 1983.

Best Lawyers Since the First Edition
Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers

August 20, 2020 08:00 AM

Best Lawyers is proud to announce the release of our recognized attorneys for 2021. As our list of top legal talent continues to grow, year after year, there are still a number of practicing attorneys—566 to be exact—who have been with Best Lawyers since the first edition published in 1983.

Why is peer review so important in the legal industry?

Windle Turley Best Lawyers

Peer review is important because it is axiomatic that clients will speak well of their lawyers. What sophisticated client is going to keep ineffective lawyers or publicly speak ill of them? And what unsophisticated client is going to have any idea how to judge the quality of lawyers? Peer review obtains reliable, meaningful, unbiased critiques. Peer lawyers are by definition sophisticated, and they, not clients, are in the trenches with the lawyer being reviewed. Moreover, it’s a tradition in law, not to mention an ethical requirement, to speak honestly, including about competitors. Peer review is a critical component of a total review.
- Louis Y. Fishman

Half a century ago, I started to practice law. How, I asked my senior partner, does a fledgling barrister build a practice? He answered, “Do a good job and the word will spread.” A good law school record is nice, but the glowing accolade of another lawyer—especially an adversary—is a necessary and invaluable building block to a successful practice. A peer review tells you far more about a lawyer’s qualifications, character, dedication, sincerity, track record, and standing than any interview or biography, thus making the peer review the gold standard for everyone in this field.
- James W. Gewin

My trial practice has involved representing clients in many states. To represent those clients, I needed to hire the best lawyers in many jurisdictions. Peer-review publications, including Best Lawyers, were invaluable in selecting the best local counsel for the case to ensure a good result. I have always practiced in a small firm, and I have been asked by clients to recommend other lawyers in our geographical area to handle matters that our firm did not handle. Peer-review publications were so important in recommending excellent lawyers to address our clients’ needs.
- James R. Wyrsch

Referring lawyers know that inclusion in Best Lawyers is based upon peer review. Members of the public, too, can take comfort in looking to Best Lawyers publications and websites when seeking counsel in family law, an area of law that often is the potential client’s only exposure to a lawyer.
- Marshall J. Wolf

The ageless beauty of Best Lawyers is that you can’t buy your way in.

In today’s instant-gratification world, “pay-for-play” marketing organizations have proliferated, many with impressive-sounding names. An attorney can build a glitzy resumé—literally overnight—simply by paying fees to join such organizations, in return for which he/she receives handsomely-framed “certificates”, setting forth the newly-acquired “credentials.” The ageless beauty of Best Lawyers is that you can’t buy your way in. There’s really no substitute for peer review. Asking another lawyer who is the best estate planner, the best litigator, etc., in his/her town has always been the “go-to” method for finding great legal help. Best Lawyers simply identifies and catalogs those referrals.
- Peter L. Peterson

Several years after the 1983 first edition of The Best Lawyers in America© appeared, I received a phone call from Steve Naifeh. Steve was personally researching nominees for the second edition and asked for my input. I learned why two 1977 Harvard Law grads based Best Lawyers on meticulous, merit-based interviews with lawyers whose practices mirrored those of the nominees. Setting and maintaining this high bar elevates recognition by Best Lawyers far above what competitors confer. Too often, they are superficial popularity contests or vanity awards. Best Lawyers' recognition is something I continue to value highly.
- Richard M. Leisner

It's important for the public and potential clients to know that Best Lawyers sets a high standard in order to be included and that it's just as important that others in the legal community recognize your accomplishments on behalf of your peers and your clients.
- Richard C. Angino

Peer review is important in this day of advertising. So much advertising is self-promotion and may or may not be factual. Skills developed through practicing law are unique and can only be properly evaluated by other lawyers and judges that oppose you or deal with you. Success is a valuable measuring device, but as we all know success while important is not the ultimate indication of ability. Peer review is the best objective measurement of a lawyer’s ability and the most factual.
- P. Warren Gotcher

Positive recognition by fellow attorneys and judges, through anonymous voting, is perhaps the best gauge of one’s capability. It’s difficult to explain to a non-lawyer what you do and why. Fellow attorneys and judges know, having been there and done that, so to speak.
- Robert C. Lowe

How has your longstanding recognition with Best Lawyers benefitted your practice?

Clemens Barnes Best Lawyers

I’ve been very fortunate to practice law with and against many dedicated and talented lawyers whose talents and commitments provided a lifetime of tough lessons and good memories. To be sure, there were some jerks and knuckleheads along the way who did little more than provide more noise than substance. (As some would say, “Big hats, no cattle”). Regrettably, the difference between those groups is not always apparent to those in need of legal services, especially in today’s world of increasing self-promotion. Credible peer review, like that provided by “Best Lawyers,” has provided a needed counterweight to such noise.
- Frank McRight

I was selected for the very first edition of Best Lawyers in 1983, which I still remember vividly. I was both stunned, shocked, and delighted. Although Best Lawyers was an unknown quantity at the time, any national recognition for a 41-year-old lawyer practicing in then “small town” Honolulu, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, seemed an improbable fantasy at that time. I went from being perceived by my peers as one more active, industrious middle-aged family law attorney in Honolulu, to being an “expert”, something of a “star “, even a “Best Lawyer”. That launched my career.
- Geoffrey Hamilton

Ilana Grenadier Best Lawyers

There had been other publications purporting to evaluate lawyers, but they were largely unreliable. The evaluation of lawyers by other lawyers in the community is the only reliable way to judge professional competency. Best Lawyers pioneered the method of collecting reliable professional evaluations. Because my practice and that of my firm has always been national in scope, I have often had occasion to hire lawyers in other parts of the country to assist in various matters. I have always turned to Best Lawyers as my first reference source and have never been disappointed.
- Leo J. Pircher

Before Best Lawyers published in 1983, the only way injury victims had to find a good lawyer was by word of mouth and the Martindale-Hubbell ratings at the library. Best Lawyers not only provided listings by areas of practice but explained how the attorneys were selected. It was the proudest moment of my career to be in the first edition of Best Lawyers listed under trial litigation for personal injury on the victim’s side. Being listed encouraged me to become a better lawyer and to work hard to improve my skills to achieve greater success in the courtroom, which I did.
- Sidney W. Gilreath

James Krudger Best Lawyers

What excites you about the future of your industry?

Since I began my legal career, I have seen the industry grow and evolve a great deal. Today, seeing the legal industry’s efforts and dedication to becoming more diverse and committed to providing legal services to all who need it, makes me look forward to what the future holds and the impact that it will have.
- Aaron S. Podhurst

Today, seeing the legal industry’s efforts and dedication to becoming more diverse and committed to providing legal services to all who need it, makes me look forward to what the future holds and the impact that it will have.

Family law practice is taking an exciting turn away from the traditional litigation model for divorce, best evidenced by the ever-expanding growth of the Collaborate Divorce Process. In offering privacy and a trained professional team committed to resolution without litigation, the Collaborative Process has been shown to provide a superior model for achieving resolution while protecting children and family relationships. As public awareness grows regarding the harmful effects of litigation, both financial and emotional, as well as the many benefits of the Collaborative Process, the litigation model will increasingly take a back seat and be sought as a last resort.
- James H. Feldman

I am excited about the fact that we continue to see incredibly bright, talented young people choose to practice law. I think the younger lawyers in our firm are the best of the best.
- Aubrey B. Harwell

What is your proudest achievement over the course of your legal career?

In reflecting on my career as a management labor lawyer, I am proudest of the many outstanding companies I have been privileged to represent, the important contributions I have made to the legal profession nationally, and the significant leadership roles I have held in my State of Tennessee and in Greater Memphis.
In each of these categories, I have been truly fortunate to work closely with highly effective leaders from the private and public sectors to collaborate effectively in producing remarkable results. I have been blessed to do what I love and thrive on my passion for law and leadership.
- Arnold E. Perl

Being recognized as a mentor in the legal community is my proudest achievement. I’ve had the privilege of working with the most talented associates and law clerks in the legal industry for more than five decades. Today, they are now in, or reaching, their prime, which gives me pride in seeing them achieve success. For the first 10 years of my practice, I was fortunate to be mentored by the best in the legal industry. Mentoring is one of the finest traditions and being able to offer guidance and, in some small way, help others find success, is an honor.
- Robert C. Josefsberg

James Beasley Best Lawyers

I think that I have tried to represent people who were in trouble of one kind or another throughout my 60 years of practice. First, as a prosecutor for five years helping victims, and then representing some people who were wrongly accused or in terrible situations. I have represented people who had their whole lives shaken up, had become despised, often because they were misunderstood, and standing with them and fighting with everything I had was a natural position for me to be in. One that I went to with great enthusiasm and no regrets.
- James J. Brosnahan

My proudest achievement in 45 years as a matrimonial lawyer has been contributing to the advancement of divorce law from a traditional civil litigation model toward an increasingly nonadversarial model and recognition of the human impact of this area of the law. The opportunity to work with people, relationships, families, failure, money, and the human condition has been central to my having found my professional life, ongoing at age 82, fulfilling. In reflecting for this piece, my “achievement" has not been a single case, but a lifetime at the bar.
- Wm. Bruce Louden

I have been practicing law for 60 years, and there are a lot of achievements that come during that time. However, I’d say I’m most proud of being admitted into the American College of Trial Lawyers, which is an invitation-only fellowship of exceptional trial lawyers of diverse backgrounds in the United States. This college thoroughly investigates each nominee for admission and selects only those who have demonstrated the very highest standards of trial advocacy, ethical conduct, integrity, professionalism, and collegiality. Membership can never be any more than 1 percent of the total lawyer population of any state or province.
- Franklyn M. Gimbel

My proudest achievement is the founding of my law firm, Schiller DuCanto & Fleck going on 40 years ago. My practice focuses on matrimonial/family law. Most lawyers in this area of practice 40 plus years ago were solo practitioners and several lawyers just sharing space. My cofounder, Joseph DuCanto, and I each had our own practices that were bursting at the seams We could not afford to compete with what the larger firms were offering the brightest law school graduates, but we could together. I am very honored to be part of this firm and its outstanding lawyers and staff.
- Donald C. Schiller

My proudest achievement was living the lawyer’s dream by helping draft a state statute with certain anti-takeover provisions and then successfully defending that statute against a constitutional challenge in the United States Supreme Court, CTS Corp. v. Dynamics Corp. of America, 481 US 69. When this case came along, I was exclusively corporate. The litigators in my then firm did not believe in it, so I forced and argued it. The case gave renewed life to Dartmouth College v. Woodward and helped me in a myriad of corporate cases the remainder of my career.
- James A. Strain

It is professionally satisfying to help people who have limited recourse. These are the forgotten people in our society.

When I graduated from law school, I was interested in doing something which would benefit disadvantaged people, make their lives better. It is professionally satisfying to help people who have limited recourse. These are the forgotten people in our society. Large corporations can spend large sums of money for lawyers to service their interests. The working man has a limited ability to hire lawyers to make his life better. I like to even the score. This is my proudest achievement.
- Frank E. Lamothe III

My proudest achievement is not one specific matter or client. I’m most proud of the contributions I’ve been able to make to the culture of my firm. Without a strong culture, we are just a collection of solo practitioners. With it, we are an enduring firm. Our founding partners had a short mission statement. I revised it many years ago. It is called our Credo, and to this day it describes the commitment to clients, community, and each other which is the basis for our legal practice.
- Jon S. Cohen

The Rule of Law and access to our courts are supposed to provide equal access to justice. America does not come close to meeting this standard. For at least the last 35 years, I have engaged in efforts to provide access to our justice system for those who do not have the means to hire and desperately need lawyer’s assistance. My proudest legal achievement has been my efforts to enhance the availability of counsel for those who most need pro bono assistance. This includes representing pro bono clients and volunteering for the American Bar Association and the New Hampshire Access to Justice Commission.
- L. Jonathan Ross

For more than 50 years, I have enjoyed my career as a white-collar criminal defense lawyer, representing corporations and individuals in investigations, trials, and appeals. The success of my career has allowed me to give back to my profession through service to the organized bar and other organizations that advocate for criminal justice reform and an independent judiciary. However, none of that would have been possible without the love and support of my wife, Pat, and my son and his family. Indeed, as proud as I am of my legal career, my wonderful family is truly my proudest achievement.
- Neal R. Sonnett

The "proudest achievement over the course of" my legal career is that I have been included in every edition of The Best Lawyers in America©!
- Joseph Saint-Veltri

My most satisfactory accomplishment was while CEO of Miller Canfield establishing among the major Detroit law firms a program of annual giving to the State Bar’s Access to Justice initiative which supports nonprofit providers of legal services to the poor.
- Robert E. Gilbert

My proudest achievement was a pro bono representation. I was assigned a client who had been sentenced to life imprisonment, with no possibility of parole, after conviction for non-violent drug trafficking and related offenses. Based on the submissions, prepared with my assistance, to the pardon attorney, President Obama commuted the life sentence to a sentence of 20 years. The client already had served more than 15 years, and, with credit for good time served, was released after serving about 2 more years. A rehabilitated individual was able to return to his community with the opportunity to become a productive member of society.
- Alfred S. Lurey

My proudest achievement is that I have never stopped learning.

My proudest achievement is that I have never stopped learning. I have always made my best effort to be as prepared as I could possibly be and always tried to treat my client as I would want to be treated if I was the client. I always practiced at the highest possible ethical level always with a reasonable license of advocacy. No judge has ever been reversed on the law that I have provided. I have always respected that parties may stop being spouses but should never stop being parents, and I have always tried to preserve the family.
- James Fox Miller

My proudest achievement is twofold. The personal best in the 62 years that I have practiced was appearing before the U.S. Supreme Court and arguing the case of Trimble v. Gordon. The most gratifying experience was having taught for many years at DePaul University College of Law. I was fortunate in teaching both a substantive course in family law and trial technique in family law subjects and then seeing the fruits of that experience as many of my students practiced what I had taught them, sometimes as my opponent. It has certainly been an amazing journey.
- Miles N. Beermann

My proudest achievement over the course of my law career is having practiced with highly-skilled attorneys and a first-rate staff for nearly 60 years at the same law firm. I take pride in the many relationships forged over the years with clients and other attorneys, and I have also appreciated the opportunity to help develop the careers of younger attorneys. I am grateful that I am still able to continue my legal career.
- Robert Caplan

I have several achievements I am proud of. Being chosen for inclusion in the inaugural edition in 1983 and then being included in every edition since has been a source of pride. Inclusion in each of three different practice areas and being selected as “Lawyer of the Year” in St Louis twice—in two different practice areas—added to that pride. Serving for many years as Regional Litigation/Trial counsel for a major international manufacturing company has been exhilarating and rewarding. Finally, conducting more than 60 jury trials to verdict is a point of pride.
- Steven P. Sanders

Regions are the primary organizing body in today’s economies. We, as attorneys, are fortunate to have opportunities to help lead our respective region to grow and prosper, which often leads to an ever-improving practice and quality of life.

That recognition has helped me attain leadership positions in community, regional, and statewide organizations that have missions such as improving the economies and enhancing the quality of life of people in the subject area. Regions are the primary organizing body in today’s economies. We, as attorneys, are fortunate to have opportunities to help lead our respective region to grow and prosper, which often leads to an ever-improving practice and quality of life. In short, strive not only to be a better lawyer but to use the skills developed to help others, to also be recognized as a citizen-lawyer.
- Thomas R. Frantz

As I look back over my 62-year legal career I reflect on how the law has benefitted my family and I so much, I think the continuing highlight of my legal career has been that is has given me the opportunity to help those in need of assistance, not only financially, but in giving of my time and talents.
- Warren H. Heilbronner

I saved two men from long prison sentences. One was indicted for conspiracy in a bank robbery, and the other was investigated for possessing teenage pornography. In the bank robbery case, I was able to convince an Assistant U.S. Attorney that my client was not involved, and the charge was dismissed. He completed his college education and became an important educator in Kentucky. In the pornography case, I was able to persuade an Assistant U.S. Attorney that a 20-year-old should not be charged for things he looked at when he was less than 18. This young man became a successful chef.
- William E. Johnson

In 1970 I was appointed to the Board of the Legal Aid Society of the city and county of St. Louis and became president of the board in 1975. While busy representing paying clients and doing very well, it just wasn’t fulfilling. The Legal Aid Society provided a wholly different aspect of practicing law. I began representing poor people pro bono in addition to my practice. Now I can say without hesitation that pro bono work is much more satisfying. Poor people have been treated so unfairly for so long; the feeling of doing a good job is multiplied.
- David B. Lacks

Having made new laws on several occasions, coining of the phrase “negative equity” to explain a concept in litigation, being named in every edition of Best Lawyers, receiving Case Western Reserve University Law School’s 2019 Adjunct Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, and of course, arguing the Nordic Village case before the U. S. Supreme Court. All pale compared to the surprise 2007 creation by the Bankruptcy Bar Section of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association of the Marvin & Sue Sicherman Excellence in Bankruptcy Award, in memory of my wife, who had died before the announcement in our honor of our contributions.
- Marvin A. Sicherman

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