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Highest-Paid Lawyer Earned $450 Million In ’88

October 2, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ Law has been very, very good to Joseph Dahr Jamail.

The celebrated Houston-based trial lawyer earned $450 million last year, easily making him No. 1 on Forbes magazine’s list of the nation’s highest paid lawyers.

The business publication’s list appears in the Oct. 16 issue that hit newsstands on Monday.

Calling lawyers the ″real champions of the American greed game,″ Forbes says the high-priced advocates are rivaled only by entertainers and Wall Street money men when it comes to compensation.

The 63 trial lawyers and 71 corporate lawyers on the list earned a total of $860 million last year, according to Forbes’ estimates. On average, trial lawyers made eight times as much as their corporate counterparts.

They didn’t have to endure the swings of the stock market or attend fancy Ivy League law schools, either: 12 of the trial lawyers on Forbes’ list are alumni of the University of Texas Law School.

Jamail, who in 1988 earned more than Steven Spielberg, Bill Cosby, Michael Jackson and Eddie Murphy combined, walked off with a dazzling $420 million for his victory in the Texaco-Pennzoil case last year, Forbes estimated. The magazine said bolder estimates of his 1988 salary might be as high as $600 million.

The nation’s highest-paid lawyer won judgments and settlements totaling an additional $100 million from his personal injury practice, enough, Forbes said, to afford Jamail a 19-seat Gulfstream jet.

By contrast, runner-up Herbert Hafif, a Claremont, Calif.-based lawyer, earned a mere $40 million last year.

No. 3 among trial lawyers was Gerald Michaud, who earned $18 million last year, bolstered in part by a $16 million verdict in a toxic shock syndrome case against Playtex International.

Michaud’s estimated pay was still much higher than the $5 million earned by Joseph Flom, one of the nation’s best known mergers and acquisitions lawyers and the leader of Forbes’ list of highest-paid corporate lawyers.

Celebrity divorce lawyer Raoul Lionel Felder - who represented actress Robin Givens in her divorce from heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson - ranked second on the corporate lawyer list, earning an estimated $3.8 million last year.

The corporate crew is a far snobbier group; 53 percent went to Ivy League law schools, compared with only 6 percent of the trial lawyers on the list. Harvard had the highest number of graduates on the Forbes corporate lawyer list, 17.

Nine of the best-paid corporate lawyers work in the entertainment field, including No. 3 Harry (Skip) Brittenham, who earned $3 million last year representing such actor-clients as Harrison Ford, Don Johnson, Melanie Griffith and Michael J. Fox.

John Eastman, ranked No. 7 and best known for negotiating the break-up of the Beatles, earned $3 million last year, mostly from music clients that included David Bowie and Billy Joel. Eastman’s sister, Linda, is married to ex-Beatle Paul McCartney.

The youngest lawyer to make the list was Joseph Power Jr., 36, who earned an estimated $2.5 million last year. Power, who claims he never has lost a case, hit his biggest jackpot with a $8 million settlement in a medical malpractice case in 1984, Forbes said.

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