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Brendan Sullivan Jr. has grown weary of being compared to a pit bull. Sure, he enjoys a certain reputation for tough, relentless, even biting cross-examinations. But he says he sees himself “more as a shepherd protecting, organizing the flock.” Make that a German shepherd. Perhaps the more flattering comparison for the 63-year-old partner at D.C.’s Williams & Connolly is to his former boss, the late Edward Bennett Williams, a legendary trial attorney. Many have sought to bestow Williams’ mantle on Sullivan, but Sullivan is the first to dismiss such musings. These are very different times, he notes. Today big trials are a team sport. “When Edward Bennett Williams tried a case, he was looking at maybe 50 documents,” says Sullivan. “We’re into an era of mega-cases, lengthy trials, complex issues, and a million documents.” He adds, “Sure, I’m the guy who does the opening and closing and some key witnesses, but these cases demand a team of people with many talents.” But even in cases where the trial work is shared, there is usually one lead lawyer who makes the primary arguments and sticks in the jury’s mind. In recent years embattled former chairmen such as Richard Grasso of the New York Stock Exchange and Walter Forbes of Cendant have decided that lead lawyer should be Sullivan. (Ever cautious, Sullivan makes a practice of never discussing his current client list, and he is only slightly more willing to acknowledge those who have gone before.) Apparently, watching him work can bring a certain satisfaction to those under prosecutorial scrutiny. One satisfied client who, having suffered through a four-year ordeal with the legal system, asked not to be identified recalls most vividly how Sullivan would “surgically cut the government witnesses from head to toe as they sat there oblivious to having just been eviscerated.” One former Williams & Connolly partner, Sven Erik Holmes, who served until last year as chief U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Oklahoma, focuses on a different element of Sullivan’s legal wizardry: “Brendan is so effective because he isn’t flowery � no soaring rhetoric � but he helps jurors do their jobs by being exceedingly clear, focused, and organized.” And yet, even without the over-the-top oratory of a bygone era, Sullivan’s voice is assured a place in legal history. Enshrined in the latest edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations is his expression of utter indignation uttered in response to a U.S. senator challenging his presence during Lt. Col. Oliver North’s Iran-Contra testimony: “Sir, I’m not a potted plant. I’m here as the lawyer. That’s my job.”

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