William Brewer on Cases That Can Make or Break Corporate America

Over the past 25 years, New York powerhouse litigation boutique Bickel & Brewer has earned a reputation as the go-to firm in cases where a company simply cannot afford to lose. And these days, when the gloomy economic climate means a growing number of businesses are facing “bet- the-company” lawsuits where defeat can mean shutting the doors for good, Bickel & Brewer is in higher demand than ever before.

“Right now, there’s a seemingly endless supply of businesses facing situations that require legal representation in which, if they don’t get the financial situation worked out or don’t get those supply lines open or don’t get the burden off their back, it will so impact them—that they’ll likely be out of business,” says William A. Brewer III, one of the firm’s founding partners. “We’re built for these kinds of disputes.”

Indeed, it’s fortunate for the firm’s loyal roster of major clients that Bickel & Brewer thrives in high-stakes situations. With a number of highly unusual features—from its own in-house team of former FBI investigators and business specialists who assist in litigating complex civil matters to skilled librarians and paralegals who are experts at organizing and retrieving millions of bits of information critical to a case—the firm was designed to give its clients every possible litigation advantage. On major cases, Bickel & Brewer assigns a group of its lawyers to play the role of opposing counsel and try and pull apart the firm’s position. These legal scrimmages are so sophisticated that, long before trial, Bickel & Brewer has shored up any weaknesses in its cases and often has a much better understanding of its opponents’ positions than they do.

“There is only one purpose for Bickel & Brewer, and that is to represent clients in their most important legal issues,” Brewer explains. “And in these days and times, those issues tend to abound for many clients.” For example, in May, the firm landed a $14.7 million verdict (reduced in an amended judgment to $9.1 million) in a breach of contract case in federal court in Kansas involving a residential real estate project in which the jury found that two of the partners wrongfully terminated an agreement and continued the project on their own. The firm is also representing FLIR and Indigo Systems against Raytheon in a trade secrets claim involving infrared camera technology, and has prevailed on several claims so far in federal court in Texas, while other claims are pending.

“Right now, there’s a seemingly endless supply of businesses facing situations that require legal representation.”

These days, so many of these types of cases are rolling through the doors, that the firm—which includes about 40 attorneys—can’t and doesn’t want to take them all, says Brewer, who recently completed an arbitration hearing in California, in which the firm represents the owners of California luxury resort Four Seasons Aviara in a high-profile lawsuit. The suit claims the Four Seasons management company failed to run the resort in a cost-effective and efficient manner even after the economy took a downturn and hotel occupancy rates plummeted nationwide. (The case is in arbitration and the parties cannot comment on specifics.) For one thing, the firm’s no-stone-unturned approach is not inexpensive—anything less is simply unacceptable, Brewer says, especially in bet-the-company litigation. “Can you do that on every case a business has? Of course not,” he says. “You can’t do it on a hundred-thousand-dollar case, or maybe even on a million-dollar case. But when you’re talking about these big cases, you had better do it.”

Although the firm is best known for its top-quality legal services, there’s something else that sets Bickel & Brewer apart: deeply passionate devotion to public service. Its Future Leaders Program targets talented school kids from economically disadvantaged parts of Dallas, and provides intensive academic and leadership training from fifth grade through high school. The Future Leaders Program grew out of another of initiative, the Bickel & Brewer Storefront, a community law office it established in 1995 in the inner city in Dallas to provide free or sliding scale civil legal services to low-income clients (any fees it receives are funneled back into the Bickel & Brewer Foundation, which funds the firm’s many public service initiatives.) Four years ago, in recognition that many in the Latino community cannot find affordable high-quality legal assistance—the firm launched the Bickel & Brewer Latino Institute for Human Rights at New York University Law School. It provides free tuition to two students per year, funds their summer public-interest jobs, and pays their salary for the first two years after they graduate while they do public service work in the Latino community.

Applying the same winning approach and sophisticated resources, the firm has championed a number important social causes, including winning the right for wheelchair athletes to compete and win prizes in the New York City marathon. Bickel & Brewer is in ongoing litigation against the City of Farmers Branch, Texas, which has passed several ordinances seeking to discourage immigrants from moving there. And the firm prevailed in July in a pro bono case claiming that the City of Irving, Texas, was violating the federal Voting Rights Act in order to keep minorities out of political office. “We’ve been blessed,” says Brewer, “and I and my partners feel that whenever we can, we should make ourselves available to help people who need it.”

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William Brewer on Cases That Can Make or Break Co […]