LLAGNY’s third book club offering explored the world of law firms, as they were in the turn of the 20th Century, and when the rules of law firm management were set in place by Paul Cravath.
And, as an added bonus, author John Oller attended and took part in the conversation, answered questions and signed copies of his 2019 publication White Shoe: How a Need Breed of Wall Street Lawyers Changed Big Business and the American Century.
The book revealed the celebrity status attorneys men such as Cravath, Stetson, Cromwell, and Wickersham enjoyed during this period. Members were amazed at the unreported activities of “White Shoe” lawyers that shaped foreign policy. Thirty years later, a general globalism was accepted in no small part to the ideas advocated by these influential lawyers.
And there was a striking familiarity to the constant cycle of financial scandals that mirror our own age: insurance companies using monies for million dollar parties, the wolf of Wall Street, ‘watered’ stock, and mysterious holding companies all had their day in the early 1900s. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!
Members asked John Oller about his research and writing methods, and the author in turn asked us about our favorite ‘characters’ found in the world of “white shoe” law firms. Paul Cravath, it was agreed, had the greatest influence on the world of law firm management. And his first action of hiring a professional librarian from Columbia University certainly endeared him to the LLAGNY crowd! William Nelson Cromwell, Francophile with working class roots, certainly struck us as the most eccentric and contradictory figure. It would be hard not to admire the principled Charles Evans Hughes, an early proponent of women’s suffrage and failed Presidential candidate.
Many thanks – again – to Mary Matuszak and Anne Le Card for organizing the LLAGNY Book Club, for LLAGNY sponsorship, and to Lucy Curci-Gonzalez and The New York Law Institute for providing space – and wine! – for the event.
The LLAGNY Book Club will meet again in late Autumn, with Joshua Hammer’s The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu as its selection…..