Fred Baron is the very model of a modern class action plaintiffs lawyer. He wears the tailored shirts, flies around in a private jet, gives buckets of money to friendly politicians, owns two 15,000-square-foot houses designed by architect-to-the-legends Robert A.M. Stern, and has made tens of millions of dollars representing thousands of victims of corporate wrongdoing. But Baron is not a modern class action plaintiffs lawyer. In fact, he has all but killed the practice.
Baron, the incoming president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, has an old-fashioned view of tort cases he likes to litigate them one at a time. He and his partners at Dallas’s Baron & Budd have shuttled tens of thousands of asbestos claims through the courts in the last two decades. Yes, the approach bears resemblance to a rapidly moving assembly line, but each case was developed individually, and, more importantly to Baron, he and his client had a say in each case’s outcome. Baron’s mulish insistence on a victim’s right to a day in court has put him at odds with many of the other barons of the bar, who were quickly making class actions the route of choice in resolving grand-scale catastrophes.
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