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The radiance of John H. Pickering will have a long half-life. His legal career spanned seven decades, including historic disputes from the 1952 Steel Seizure Case to the 2003 University of Michigan affirmative action decisions. He was the co-founder and guiding spirit of a great law firm, now called Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. His contributions to the cause of civil rights and to the success of several generations of women and minorities in our profession were major and continuous. And hundreds of us who worked with him are far better lawyers because we did. John earned a couple of walls’ worth of plaques. He served as president of the D.C. Bar from 1979 to 1980, and later received the bar’s William J. Brennan Award. In 1999, he received the ABA Medal, the American Bar Association’s highest award, for “conspicuous service in the cause of American jurisprudence.” He won one of The American Lawyer‘s first Lifetime Achievement Awards. He held an honorary LL.D. from the University of Michigan Law School. The list goes on. But what John Pickering really was, was a marvelous senior partner � a job he performed to perfection from the day in 1962 when he and Lloyd Cutler joined forces to form Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, until he died on March 19, nearly 43 years later. He had a senior partner’s most important skill: the ability to coax the very best work out of other people. You wanted to work hard for him, because he was such a transparently good man that every legal project felt like doing the Lord’s work. You wanted to please him because he cared about you. Knowing the name of every Wilmer, Cutler lawyer, and in most cases the names of their spouses and children too, was not a feat of memorization but of genuine affection. And he drew out your best because he listened, and he appreciated good work when he heard it or read it. He told Legal Times in 1999, “If they’ve got moxie, the youngest lawyers can argue with Lloyd or me as an equal. We may say, ‘I’ve heard enough. Shut up.’ But it’s give and take. That’s one of the reasons they’ve been happy to stay.” FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD John was passionate about doing pro bono work. He didn’t just encourage his law firm or instruct junior lawyers to get busy; he rolled up his own sleeves. The awards he received from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Women’s Law Center, the Council for Court Excellence, the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, and the National Counsel on Aging attest to the persistence and variety of his public interests. In this, too, he was a great senior partner. He told each entering class of associates that pro bono work was expected of them, and then he set the example. As he explained to Legal Times: “This is simply something in which you have to put your money where your mouth is. When young associates see that Lloyd or I have taken on a major project pro bono, they think, ‘Well, geez, maybe it won’t hurt.’ “ John was always aware that he was running a growing business that kept wolves from a steadily increasing number of doors, and he managed the firm with a keen eye on the bottom line. But he also knew that our law practice was not just about building our bank accounts; it was a large part of our lives. It was supposed to be rewarding, and it was supposed to be fun, and taking on important pro bono projects was a part of that. Of course, a commitment to pro bono didn’t hurt recruiting, either. THE MAKING OF A LIBERAL John himself was an old-fashioned liberal on matters of social policy. But he did not start life that way. He came from Harrisburg, Ill., near the southern tip of the state, where his father owned what John described as a “marginal coal company.” He recalled “hanging around” an unusual local law firm called Kane & Scott, which represented the coal company. Scott was a woman, a 1912 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law, and this may account for the enthusiastic welcome that John gave the larger waves of women lawyers that started decades later. But as John remembered it, he had little interest in politics or social policy all the way through college and law school, both at Michigan, which he completed in 1940. He went to New York (to the firm now called Cravath, Swaine & Moore) and expected to become a business lawyer. It all changed during a two-year clerkship with Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy, beginning in 1941. John said, “He opened my eyes to social causes and to the need for the law to be an instrument of justice.” Justice Murphy (as described by John) was a man of liberal convictions, charm, realism about other people and the way the world actually works, and good humor, which sounds to me very much like John himself. John recalled going with Justice Murphy to Boston, where the justice was to make a speech that John had helped write, and being met by Mayor James Michael Curley, a man Murphy as prosecutor had tried to put in jail. Curley reportedly said, “Oh, good to see you, Frank. I know you did what you had to do. No hard feelings. I got a limo here. It’s yours for the day.” (Curley did go to prison after the war and probably did have hard feelings about that prosecutor.) LET’S TALK John Pickering had the skill that Justice Murphy evidently had of dealing with his opponents so that they ended up liking him. One telling example came early in the life of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. The firm was representing the Automobile Manufacturers Association on matters of auto safety, which drew the wrath of Ralph Nader and a number of law students, who picketed the firm’s offices quite vigorously. This was troubling to a firm that fancied its reputation, so there was a lot of debate about how to respond: ignore the pickets, strike back in some way (perhaps through a press release), urge the authorities to do something. John invited the picketers in for coffee and a long discussion of the legal issues. Thirty-five years later, I’m sure all of them remember the occasion, and I’ll bet at least some of them think it made them better lawyers. It sure convinced us youngsters inside the firm that our employer was pretty special. Second-chairing John in a courtroom was an education and a joy. He was a wonderfully effective stand-up lawyer, in part because of his brilliance, but in larger part because of his remarkable combination of common sense, goodness, and heft. They made his words uncommonly persuasive. Those of us who watched his example, and later were guided by him as we prepared for our own arguments, had a rare privilege. Finally, it says a great deal about John that he was not only Lloyd Cutler’s best friend for 60 years and favorite colleague, but also Lloyd’s favorite lawyer, as Lloyd himself told Legal Times a few years back. Those of us who have had the privilege of working with Lloyd on problems that seemed really tough know how often he would say somewhere in the conversation, “Let’s see what John thinks,” and how often the short stroll to the other corner office led to enlightenment. There are few if any higher tributes in our profession than, “This was the lawyer Lloyd Cutler most respected and turned to.” Louis R. Cohen is a partner in the D.C. office of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. He first met John Pickering in 1967.

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