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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Law firm marketing guru

Targeting the oligarch market?


Deed U No

surely …..not dread……
fear Jupiter – like size damages?


The pits

Brutal firm, utter sweatshop.

Pays decent whack but works you so hard there’s beads of perspiration dripping off my scrotum just thinking about my time there.



Loving the subtle correction of Rosenblum’s grammar.



On the face of it, it appears to be a marketing fail. But I suspect the ad will appeal to their client-base.


William Chen

Why are all these law profs getting their panties in a bunch when everyone already hates lawyers anyways and law students just go wherever that pays the most?


Old Boy

Very “new money”.


Earl Wombleby of Chelsea Barracks

So very American as well. Those tasteless Colonials.


Credit Hire Monster

My opponents quake in their brogues upon seeing my lumbering, bloated mass inching through the security barriers at Burnley county court.



Nobody will ever experience dread like a Quinn associate on a Sunday evening.



Or as they know Sunday “the day in the office when my friends don’t seem to be at work”.


Quinn 2PQE

top bantz. workd the past 10 weeknds straight, 75+ billabl hrs avg a week. what am I doing w my life. somebody help mi



lol mate… get out…. easy enough – big firm on your CV you’ll get any position with a slightly lower ranked firm. though that doesn’t mean it’ll become miles better. but every little step helps


Thought for food

Quinn is a notoriously savage place to work at, with loads of psychopath partners and senior associates. It’s the only US firm constantly in the market for hiring “NQ-5PQE” disputes associates since the staff turnover is so high.



Or, alternatively, it’s very successful, and is constantly expanding and thus hiring?

QE is disputes-only, so it doesn’t have to subsidise loss-leading transactional practice groups. It also gets lots of referral work from other firms who are conflict-barred. More broadly, look the smaller English disputes boutiques, such as Hausfeld, Stewarts and Three Crowns: they’re also expanding.



Looks like Quinn BD is busy at work doing a bit of damage control. +1 for avoiding any ad hominems and plugging a few article references to support the assertions, that’s rare.

Usually it’s just a “Lmao where do u work cuck” and “sucks to be you for not bagging the US dollah” we get from other, less polished outfits.



Looks like Quinn’s BD team are in full damage control mode lmfao



Quinn BD team hard at work. Nice try lmao


Alan Robertshaw

Maybe they meant Judge Dredd?

He is after all “The Law!!!”


Curious future trainee

May seem like a silly question if you’re in the industry already, but do Quinn lawyers in London instruct barristers very much?

Surely if they do they just seem out of step and less competent than their colleagues around the world operating in places with a fused legal profession.


Curious future trainee

I keep getting downvoted lol, does that mean that they don’t or is it just a naive question?



People are downvoting you because Legal Cheek’s target audience is largely desperate students (of whom I mean no criticism; we’ve all been there) and clueless poseurs, and you spoilt the zeitgeist by asking a serious question. If the site wanted to cultivate a more useful vibe, it would allow the creation of user accounts, like Roll On Friday.

Anyway, in answer to your question, you’re correct that – in contrast to QE’s other markets, most obviously the US – London has a bifurcated legal profession. Consequently, QE London instructs barristers similarly to other law firms. The extent to which that is done differs greatly depends on the practice area, and specific matters. The arbitration team, for example, rarely instructs counsel, in part because Stephen Jagusch QC, QE’s Global Chair of its international arbitration practice, is in London.


Bobby Bill Bobman

“Bifurcated”. Give me strength.



Don’t know why it would be naive – and yes they instruct barristers at leas some of the time.

As to how that may look I kind of see what you mean but that isn’t how the market works in London. If nothing else, clients would want to be sure they were getting the most experienced advocates. QE presumably do have in-house barristers though, (a propos of nothing their leading advocate (Sue Prevezer QC) recently moved to Brick Court).

As to ‘competency’ again that is not how the market (or law firms) work! The only metric is how much money is the office bringing in.


Scouser of Counsel

To be fair, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of my cross-examination, sometimes.



is it because nobody can understand your accent? 😀


Jeremy Usborne

SuperHans would always turn to Quinn Emanuel to create the powerful sense of dread.

suspect Hans would be a bit cheaper though.



The longer the FT advert the more dread…



This is a fantastic advert IMHO. Reminds me of Kobre and Kim’s article in the New York Times where they said: “We do very aggressive litigation and trial work, so we prefer an activity that dovetails nicely with that aggressive culture, and hitting a little white ball on the greens doesn’t do much for us.” The activity they are on about is shooting pistols, rifles and sub-machine guns. As a lawyer, I may hate facing them – but as a client, yes please.



Hi Quinn BD team.



But they are such a gauche new money bunch of nerds who would sign them in for a round of golf at their club anyway?


EyeVee Leeg

QE is an American firm. The American litigation process is surprisingly different to E&W. Its fierce adversarial attitude runs through every phase of litigation. Pre action protocol? Nah mate, just serve that mf. Collaborative approach to discovery/ disclosure? No chance, you can sweat for every measly document or finessed answer to an interrogatory.

If English firms are losing market share to US counterparts, just maybe that’s because the US attitude gets better client outcomes even in our more ‘gentlemanly’ system.


HSF trainee

This might be true. But in the UK it looks tone-deaf, pretentious and just kinda lame.



Esp in the middle of a global pandemic; completely tone deaf. Anyway, clients would rather than their lawyers were right rather than needlessly litigious.


EyeVee Leeg

Not sure why covid means you shouldn’t be a zealous advocate.

Law firms don’t bring about causes of action. When clients decide to sue, they want winners.


Forever Associate

I’m sure a firm with double to triple the profitability of almost any UK law firm (which could be said about most white shoe US firms) cares about the opinions of a failed empire that continues to desperately hold on to nostalgia and class divides whilst slipping into irrelevancy.

If we stopped caring about how garish things are or proper etiquette and instead spent energy on actually being good at something, ie fighting for client interests, perhaps we’d all be in a better position.



What I dread most is the sheet waste of ink on that advert.



The irony is that Quinn Emanuel’s London partnership is stock full of poorly educated (think Essex 2:1 level), substandard, physically unattractive nerds who charge their dopey clients a lot of money. There’s little to “dread” about this firm beyond the prospect of having to read their poorly written correspondence.


HSF Equity Partner

Shots fired!


Michael Winner (Dec’d)

I’m a Winner!



Isn’t this the firm with that virtue-signalling plonker of an arbitration partner?


Dredd LJ

Old news.



The dread is what QE associates feel every morning when their alarm clock goes off. Another 19 hour day upcoming on 4-5 hours’ sleep.



An old colleague of mine was a paralegal there for 8 or so months. The stories she told me about the place were savage, although she did say that – by and large – the people were all pretty friendly.

But yeah, never-ending days, associates routinely crying in the bogs, personal time never, ever respected…

Fair play to those that hack that way of life but it sounded utterly miserable to me.



They have always gone for what appears to be sociopathic marketing strategy, no doubt driven their Californian team. I remember on one case we looked at their website tag lines and everyone just pissed themselves laughing. The LA team thinks it is terrifying but it seems to be mainly just a mix aggressive letters and throwing stupid hours at cases in the early stages. The rest of firm are a general assortment of decent lateral hires from the local markets.


Insensitive but true

I like it. Can I get hired now?


Banticus Fynch

I have come across them a few times. They do a good job of filling you with dread at the thought of having to deal with whatever time-wasting, frivolous and plain stupid nonsense (none of which does their client any favours) that they will bring up at each stage of the case. A good lawyer is not necessarily one that makes the opposition’s lives difficult merely for the sake of it.



You would only dread them if they were seriously incompetent or dishonest.


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