Some of the Richest Lawyers Are Criminals

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on July 06, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Taking a look at Money Inc.'s list of the richest lawyers in the world, you may notice something quite interesting. Did you know that some of America's wealthiest lawyers were either indicted or convicted of some pretty hefty crimes?

$1.7 Billion and a Criminal Record

Let's focus on the three richest lawyers in the world. For those of you who are competitive, $1.7 billion is your target number. That's the number to beat if you want to be the richest lawyer, at least according to the numbers put together by Money, Inc.

Richard Scruggs is the lawyer who handled a bevy of tobacco and asbestos cases, earning him a billion dollars along the way. Most recently on his resume was a $51 million verdict against the defunct Lehman Brothers. But in 2008, he served six years after pleading guilty to bribing a judge. By the way, he managed to keep his fortune.

Another tie for title of wealthiest lawyer is the now recently passed Joe Jamail, who also had a net worth of $1.7 billion. He made Money's list because he was the wealthiest lawyer who still practiced when he died. Unlike some of his fellow lawyers at the top, he didn't collect any criminal charges during his long and successful life.

Then there's American jailbird William Lerach who, in 2009, was disbarred for pleading guilty to being involved in paying kickbacks to plaintiffs in some of his cases. His most prominent case was against Enron for a whopping verdict of $7.12 billion. He too was able to keep most of his $900 million dollar fortune. Kudos to him!

Not All T14s

One detail is a bit striking: of these three extraordinarily wealthy men, two of them graduated from decidedly non-T14 schools. Lerach graduated from the University of Pittsburgh Law and Scruggs graduated from the University of Missouri School of Law. In other words, you don't have to go to a top-top law school to make it and make it big -- but we're sure these lawyers are statistical outliers.

It's true, both of those men also were indicted and sent to the clink for a number of years, but at least they still had their lovely money waiting for them when they got out, right?

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