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Big Guns: Washington's Top 30 Lawyers (2007)
Comments () | Published December 1, 2007
A Gaithersburg resident who turns 59 this month, Bonsib really turned heads in a 2005 case in which three former officials of the Washington Teachers Union were accused of an embezzlement conspiracy. Two of the three were convicted and received long prison sentences. But Bonsib’s client was acquitted after Bonsib, to show his scorn for the charges, sat quietly and saved questions for the end.

Says one attorney: “A lesser lawyer’s ego would have rendered him incapable of saying ‘I have no questions for this witness’ for six weeks. Not Bonsib. He stayed quiet, gave a closing argument pointing out the deficiencies in the government’s case, and walked his client home.”

16. Paula M. Junghans
(Zuckerman Spaeder). Many regard Zuckerman Spaeder as the city’s best boutique law firm. Among its stars is the well-known William Taylor, whose clients have included US senators and other lawyers. But inside the firm, many lawyers stand most in awe of the white-haired, detail-oriented Paula Junghans, who was once acting assistant attorney general for tax at the Department of Justice.

Junghans’s expertise on tax matters is unmatched; she’s the first person anyone with serious tax issues should seek out. One who has is former Ernst & Young partner Robert Coplan, who, with others, is accused of conspiracy to defraud the IRS, tax evasion, and six other charges.

17. Lanny Breuer
(Covington & Bur ling). Many people wondered why, when both Clinton national-security adviser Sandy Berger and Bush aide Scooter Libby were deemed to have lied to investigators, the former got off with a wrist slap but the latter had to undergo a trial and appeared headed to prison until his sentence was commuted. A key difference might have been in their lawyers. Berger’s attorney, Lanny Breuer, is one of the cleverest in Washington. He had to be. During the Clinton administration, Breuer represented the mischievous chief executive during his impeachment trial and four special-counsel investigations.
Breuer’s Berger defense was a case study in Washington lawyering. He masterfully parried most of the charges and got Berger a favorable plea despite all damaging evidence. Justice Department veterans say that when a lawyer comes in looking for a light sentence today, he is apt to say, “I want a Berger.”

18. Patrick Regan (Regan Zambri & Long). Regan is one personal-injury lawyer who could be a poster boy for legal ethics and integrity in a field often ridiculed as being populated by ambulance chasers. He has negotiated favorable settlements for clients ranging from an Arnold & Porter partner injured by a defective wheelchair to a 23-year-old beaten outside a bar (for whom Regan secured $4.5 million in compensation).

Most recently, Regan represented the family of slain New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum in its $20-million suit against the District of Columbia for inadequately transporting and treating Rosenbaum after he was attacked on the street—a suit the family has agreed to drop if the District corrects deficiencies in its emergency-response procedures.

19. Alan Fisch (Kaye Scholer). In 2003 Fisch—then the youngest equity partner at Howrey—won a $62-million patent-infringement case against Microsoft. Fisch, 41, has taken patent infringement to center stage among practice areas here. Last year he defended Comdata Networks, a leading supplier of electronic gift cards, against patent-infringement charges that could have meant the end of gift-card sales at more than 300 retailers, from JCPenney to Brooks Brothers, just weeks before the Christmas season. Fisch prevailed, and friends joked that he was the Jew who saved Christmas.

Fisch’s knowledge of the insides of a vast array of products—including slot machines—has made him a must call for clients from Costco to General Dynamics.
20. Elaine Charlson Bredehoft (Charlson Bredehoft & Cohen). You won’t see her face on the side of a bus or plastered on a billboard, but for 23 years this Minnesotan turned Virginian has been the area’s most effective personal-injury lawyer. Specializing in employment cases, Bredehoft in 2006 won a $5-million decision from the historically stingy Virginia Supreme Court in a breach-of-contract case on behalf of an executive fired by his company for alleged mismanagement. She won $2.2 million for a real-estate agent fired when she got pregnant.

For executives under threat from new corporate owners, Bredehoft, who works out of Reston, has been a savior in a legal landscape not always kind to plaintiffs.

21. Whayne Quin (Holland & Knight). When it comes to Washington real estate, Quin—whose first name was his grandmother’s surname—is the legal master. There is hardly a major project of the last 35 years that Quin has not played a role in. He is currently counseling builders and developers on two dozen projects, including new office buildings at Farragut Square and the big Akridge Air Rights project near Union Station. He recently argued a case at the DC Court of Appeals that could turn the old Italian Embassy on 16th Street into a 79-unit condo.

A legend among his peers, Quin gives back as much as he gets. He has served on boards and contributed generously to Children’s Hospital, Safe Kids Worldwide, National Building Museum, and many other groups.

22. James Wallace (Wiley Rein). If lawyers are judged by monetary results, it’s hard to find anyone more worthy of acclaim than Wallace, a quiet Atlanta native who has a quiet patent-law practice at Wiley Rein, where he is a founding partner. Several years ago he persuaded his partners to let him take on a rare case—one in which he would be paid only if he won. Corporate firms usually work for hourly rates; they seldom gamble.


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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 12/01/2007 RSS | Print | Permalink | Articles