Kim Eisler on His Book, ‘Masters of the Game’

     Kim Isaac Eisler’s new book, “Masters of the Game: Inside the World’s Most Powerful Law Firm,” recounts the history of powerful Washington, D.C., law firm Williams & Connolly.
     “One thing about Williams & Connolly is that they are not potted plants. They are certainly in control of Washington from the media to the business to the trial to litigation. They’re pretty much the center of everything,” Eisler writes.
     The author says his book is not only for lawyers who are interested in what other law firms are doing, but “also for non-lawyers to show where the power really resides in the firms in Washington.”
     Eisler was interviewed by Courthouse News reporter Chie Akiba.
     Chie Akiba: Why did you think of writing this book?
     Kim Eisler: I had done a magazine story a few years ago that talked about the circle of sometimes conflicting client representation Williams & Connolly had. For example, in the morning talk shows on television, they represented all the hosts on “This Week with David Brinkley” and most of the guests that appeared on the shows: Mary Matalin, Dick Cheney, Liz Cheney — all these people.
     I thought, well that’s interesting. And then I realized that they represented the network ABC as well that broadcast the show. They also represented the sponsors. I was just amazed at their range of representation in the media world. And then of course that extended out into politics when they started placing all of these cabinet secretaries every time there would be a change in the administration.
     One example would be Lawrence Summers when he became president of Harvard. They were handling all the people going in the administration and all the people going out of the administration. And when someone like Lawrence Summers ran into trouble, they would take him out of Harvard, get him a job with a hedge fund, and handle his speeches.
     So, anyway, I had taken an interest in this from a magazine writing point of view. They moved up to representing, of course, Hillary and Bill Clinton, handling the selling of their memoirs. One of the partners would do advanced work for presidential trips. And then, ultimately, ended up with the representation of Tony Blair — it went international.
     I just thought it was a fascinating thing where you would pick up the curtain in Washington and Williams & Connolly was behind the curtain. I make the analogy that while Disney had survived the death of Walt Disney, Williams & Connolly not only survived the death of its founder, they came out of the other side more powerful and influential than ever.
     CA: How did you go about this research to compile this book?
     KE: I was fortunate. I have gotten to know Brendan Sullivan. One of the things distinguishable about its practice is that Williams & Connolly doesn’t employ PR people or spokesmen or anything like that. Brendan Sullivan said I was the first reporter he talked to and had lunch with in 10 years. I think he’s a real interesting and mysterious sort of figure to a lot of litigators and white collar criminals. I was able to have long interviews with each of the partners as well as other partners.
     CA: I got a feeling that they don’t allow press people in, but you were a special person they let in to write the book.
     KE: Yeah, that’s the way I feel about it. Over the years, from dealing with them, I just earned their trust and I have sort of worked my way into their life.
     CA: Is there anything else you want readers to know about this book?
     KE: Well, this book is not like an American lawyer-style inside baseball profile about their associate salaries. I tried to make it more interesting than that by writing about the people — the five people (five key partners) — and about their very interesting background, history and how they all got to Williams & Connolly. It’s more a history and a narrative about the best and the brightest than it is a law firm profile.
     CA: Is there, to your knowledge, any other law firm in the United States that has this much power, basically, over everything?
     KE: There are other firms that are very powerful and very influential but not as secretive and sort of insidious as Williams & Connolly. The others are much more willing to let everybody know how important they are. This is a firm that doesn’t have to do that.

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