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Descrição da editora
The fascinating true story of how a group of visionary attorneys helped make American business synonymous with Big Business, and Wall Street the center of the financial world
“Entertaining.”—The Wall Street Journal • “Fast-paced history.”—Library Journal • “Insightful and revealing."—Kirkus • “Captivating.”—BookPage
The legal profession once operated on a smaller scale—folksy lawyers arguing for fairness and justice before a judge and jury. But by the year 1900, a new type of lawyer was born, one who understood business as well as the law. Working hand in glove with their clients, over the next two decades these New York City “white shoe” lawyers devised and implemented legal strategies that would drive the business world throughout the twentieth century. These lawyers were architects of the monopolistic new corporations so despised by many, and acted as guardians who helped the kings of industry fend off government overreaching. Yet they also quietly steered their robber baron clients away from a “public be damned” attitude toward more enlightened corporate behavior during a period of progressive, turbulent change in America.
Author John Oller, himself a former Wall Street lawyer, gives us a richly-written glimpse of turn-of-the-century New York, from the grandeur of private mansions and elegant hotels and the city’s early skyscrapers and transportation systems, to the depths of its deplorable tenement housing conditions. Some of the biggest names of the era are featured, including business titans J. P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, lawyer-statesmen Elihu Root and Charles Evans Hughes, and presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson.
Among the colorful, high-powered lawyers vividly portrayed, White Shoe focuses on three: Paul Cravath, who guided his client George Westinghouse in his war against Thomas Edison and launched a new model of law firm management—the “Cravath system”; Frank Stetson, the “attorney general” for financier J. P. Morgan who fiercely defended against government lawsuits to break up Morgan’s business empires; and William Nelson Cromwell, the lawyer “who taught the robber barons how to rob,” and was best known for his instrumental role in creating the Panama Canal.
In White Shoe, the story of this small but influential band of Wall Street lawyers who created Big Business is fully told for the first time.
Oller (The Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution), a retired partner from the New York law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, makes the history of such firms surprisingly fascinating in this nuanced look at how their formation and development during the Progressive Era (1890 1916) "led to the creation of a new organizational society" in the United States. Relying on a variety of sources, including oral histories, judicial decisions, and congressional hearings, Oller traces the origins of the "white shoe" law firm back to the 1890s, when law firms shifted from employing clerks with no legal training to hiring skilled graduates from the nation's top law schools. With the increase in the number, complexity, and size of corporations, lawyers were needed less as courtroom advocates than as practical businessmen able to negotiate disputes with rivals or the government. Oller shows how lawyers' influence extended well beyond corporate boardrooms; the book's most interesting section delineates the pivotal role that attorney William Cromwell played in the building of the Panama Canal, which may have included inciting Panama's revolt against Colombia. Oller doesn't shy away from detailing early corporate lawyers' role as tools of monopolistic robber barons, or the endemic prejudice against Jewish lawyers. That balance makes this a valuable addition to the literature on America's transformation during the Gilded Age.)