Huge Shocker: Lawyers Are Making A Killing On The NBA Lockout

Senior Writer
09.27.11 7 Comments

The NBA Players Union and owners will meet again today to continue their efforts to close the gap on what is believed to be a difference of anywhere from $2-4 billion in a new collective bargaining agreement. With the first week of training camps and preseason games already canceled, both league officials and players union reps have admitted that they are worried about the season starting on time. Gee, maybe they all should have thought about that when they took July and August off.

But the legal eagles at The AM Law Daily did a little number crunching last night and they came to a conclusion that may very well blow your minds – lawyers make a lot of money off of lockouts. To be specific, lawyers make a lot of money representing professional sports players unions, but it appears that one lawyer and law firm seem to be making a little more money than the rest.

Dewey & LeBoeuf, whose global litigation chair Jeffrey Kessler serves as lead outside counsel to the NBPA in its current labor negotiations, has earned nearly $1.1 million in fees in connection with its union work from July 2005 through June 2010.

Dewey’s ties to pro basketball start with Kessler, who joined predecessor firm Dewey Ballantine in 2003 from Weil, Gotshal & Manges, where he was part of a litigation group that represented unions for players in the NBA and National Football League. (Kessler recently helped NFL players reach their own labor deal over the summer.)

You may remember Kessler as the guy who allegedly threw Logan Mankins under the bus as the NFL Lockout was seemingly settled by giving his name to the media as one of the players demanding separate concessions from the CBA, thus extending the lockout and presumably the zeroes on his hourly bills. You may also remember Dewey & LeBoeuf as one of the law firms from the Frank McCourt/Los Angeles Dodgers bankruptcy drama, because they’re being accused of overcharging McCourt by a federal trustee.

Of course it should come as no surprise that one law firm, and mostly one lawyer in particular, have a stranglehold on the legal needs of professional athletes. It should also come as no surprise that lawyers, when given the opportunity, will bill the ever-loving bejesus out of their clients that don’t have a problem pissing money away. It’s just a little more surprising that we as fans don’t place some of the blame on them as well.

But to get a better idea of how this whole thing works, I asked Uproxx’s Chief Legal Overlord and Omelette Chef, Danger Guerrero, for his expert opinion.

In order to understand this situation better, I think it would be helpful if I explained the billing practices of law firms. Basically they work like this: A partner meets with a client to discuss the facts of a case or negotiation, and they go over the finer points of the legal strategy that will be used to achieve the desired outcome. Then the partner assigns the case to a hotshot young associate who plays by his own rules and is probably named either Franklin and/or Bash. Once Franklin and Bash are on the case, all hell breaks loose for about 30-40 minutes until they call a stripper or a champion dirtbike racer as a witness who’s like “BUT… the defendant is secretly my FATHER and/or was playing beer pong at the time of the crime!” Then habeas corpus res ipsa loquitor motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict OBJECTION overruled “Oh I’m out of order? THIS WHOLE COURT IS OUT OF ORDER!” and it ends with everyone in a hot tub.

I hope that clears things up.

(H/T to Pro Basketball Daily.)

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