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Lawyers hit out at US law firm Quinn Emanuel’s ‘dread’ advert

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Full-page in FT

The Quinn Emanuel advert in the FT

Lawyers have criticised a Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan advert for suggesting opponents “dread” facing their litigators in court.

The paid promotion, which appeared in the Financial Times on Friday and was first spotted by law prof Darren Rosenblum, stated:

“What would you like people to have in mind when they face you in litigation? May we suggest dread. Quinn Emanuel is the law firm big businesses fear most”.

It has got several prominent lawyers talking on Twitter. Rosenblum himself questioned whether law profs are “trying to train lawyers whom counter-parties ‘dread'”, while another law prof said, “I would never tell my students this is a good idea”. Bristol University’s Professor Alan Bogg jokingly replied, “Students dread my lectures. Maybe I missed a trick by not opting for a lucrative career in commercial litigation”.

Meanwhile, Hardwicke barristers PJ Kirby QC and Colm Nugent took issue with the ad’s choice of wording. Hardwicke co-head of chambers and commercial silk Kirby said “one of the last things I would want my opponents to have in mind — I’d much prefer — ‘he’s a really nice opponent and really good’ — dread? What’s that all about?”. Nugent added, “We all dread certain opponents. Very rarely is it because of their incredible abilities as lawyers”.

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Others suggested “respect” would have been a better choice. “‘Dread’ isn’t, or shouldn’t be, an aspiration,” wrote barrister Thomas Herbert of Ropewalk Chambers. “Generally speaking, I dread being against certain opponents not because they’re good, but because they’re unnecessarily aggressive, take points indiscriminately, etc.”

Others pointed out that the ad “doesn’t match the firm” who are all “lovely people” nor does it really do much to enhance the reputation of the legal profession, generally.

One Twitter user quipped: “Seeing that ad, my first thought was, ‘I’ll bet their clients dread their bills!'”

Funnily enough Quinn Emanuel was actually voted the most feared law firm in the world recently, and for the second year running. The accolade even features on the US law firm’s website.

Quinn Emanuel was found to be the firm which major companies “least wanted to face” as opposing counsel, as per the ad, earlier in the autumn by law firm market research group BTI Consulting. Jones Day, Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins make up the remainder of its ‘fearsome foursome’.

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan declined to comment.

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