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Lawyer Barons: What Their Contingency Fees Really Cost America, is a broad and deep inquiry into how contingency fees distort our civil justice system, influence our political system and endanger democratic governance. Contingency fees are the way personal injury lawyers finance access to the courts for those wrongfully injured. While the public senses that lawyers manipulate the justice system to serve their own ends, few are aware of the high costs that come with contingency fees. This book sets out to change that, providing a window into the seamy underworld of contingency fees that the bar and the courts not only tolerate but even protect and nurture. Contrary to a broad academic consensus, the book argues that the financial incentives for lawyers to litigate are so inordinately high that they perversely impact our civil justice system and impose other unconscionable costs. It thus presents the intellectual architecture that underpins all tort reform efforts.


"Lester Brickman is a man with a mission:  To expose the waste and fraud that permeates the system of tort liability as it has grown up over the past forty years in the United States. Brickman is an indefatigable researcher who understands the keys to unlocking the secrets of the tort system.  What is truly striking about Lawyer Barons is not just the massive amount of evidence presented but the tenacity with which he tracks down just about every scrap of available evidence on a particular problem and melds it into a compelling narrative that reads as a coherent whole.

Anyone who reads this book will quickly conclude that tort reform belongs back on the national agenda."
— Richard Epstein,
Lawrence A. Tisch Professor of Law, N.Y.U. Law School
Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution

"Accident rates decline, but tort costs increase. In Japan, legal fees consume just 2% of compensation payments, but American lawyers take more than half the money. If you suspected that our legal system is rigged to fund lawyers at consumers’ expense, this book well documents that. Our system is disgusting. In great detail, Lester Brickman explains how American lawyers collaborate with judges to use their special coercive powers to overwhelm defendants and create “a huge money making” machine for themselves."
— John Stossel, Fox Business Anchor

"In Lawyer Barons, Lester Brickman exposes the new legal power elite as little more than a sleazy, self-interested racket. Brickman surgically dismantles each rationale for their approach to justice, revealing a sewer of hypocrisy and greed. Brickman lets the facts do the work of the powerful indictment, leaving the Bar with this unavoidable choice – does it stand for justice, or money?"
— Philip Howard,
Founder, Common Good
Author of The Death of Common Sense

"Tort litigation in America is riven with abusive and corrupt practices that Dickens would find familiar. Dickens is not around to chronicle them, but fortunately, Lester Brickman is. Himself an able story-teller, Brickman combines compelling narrative with lucid summary of pertinent theories and research. He builds a powerful case that current fee practices undermine the tort system and betray the professed values of the legal profession."
— William H. Simon,
Arthur Levitt Professor of Law, Columbia Law School

“Lester Brickman has long strikingly exposed in scholarly and other writings the gross unfairness of much personal injury law, especially the often scandalously excessive “contingent fees” charged by many claimants’ lawyers. In this thorough but readable book Brickman both collects and expands on his seminal scholarship to the benefit of all – except those same claimants’ lawyers.”
— Jeffrey O'Connell,
Samuel H. McCoy II Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law


Lester Brickman,the author of Lawyer Barons: What Their Contingency Fees Really Cost America, is a visiting scholar at the Manhattan Institute and a professor of law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University. He is a leading authority on contingency fees and mass tort litigation. Professor Brickman has written extensively on these and other topics, testified at congressional hearings and is widely quoted in the press. Read full bio >>