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Edwin Heafey Jr. longs for the day when there was no law firm marketing. Heafey says that when he started out with Hager, Crosby & Rosson in the mid-1950s, now Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May, firms didn’t place ads with splashy graphics and catch phrases about the latest legal “solutions.” “Then it was unethical,” Heafey, now 70 years old, says. “You couldn’t solicit clients like you do today. It was subject to disbarment. But today everything’s OK.” So how did lawyers get the word out about their firm? “By being good,” he responds sharply. When Heafey, then 24, graduated from Stanford Law School in 1955, 50 attorneys made for a megafirm. And when he joined Hager Crosby straight out of law school — bringing the firm’s head count up to nine attorneys — the firm stood among the largest in the East Bay. “Then I guess the largest law firm was maybe 10 lawyers,” he says. Heafey took home a $250 monthly salary and mostly billed out by tasks like filing an answer, a demurrer, or spending three days in trial. “We also billed by the hours but there wasn’t this obsession with billable hours and minimums,” he says. But did they work as hard? “Oh, yeah,” Heafey says. “Oh, yeah. Good trial lawyers worked very hard. If they could only charge 50 bucks an hour, they still worked very hard. Good lawyers enjoy what they’re doing. Profits are necessary but secondary.” In 1963, Heafey started what would eventually become a 17-year career on the side teaching trial practice at the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law. He also turned into the firm’s de facto recruiter. “What built this law firm is that I had third-year students, for half their third year. So I looked around the classroom and spotted the really good trial lawyers,” he says. “You know, I’d be a teacher but I’d be a scout, too. I was a one-man recruiting department. Before there were recruiters, I was it.” More than a decade after he finished teaching trial work as an adjunct professor at Boalt, he saw a relatively simple concept radically change the practice he’d known for more than half his lifetime. “Time limits,” he says appreciatively. “That’s an incredible concept.” Heafey says the legal term didn’t even exist when he started practicing. Before time limits, “depositions would go on endlessly; you sent interrogatories with 200-300 questions. You’d be in trial forever. You didn’t need all the witnesses, but you used them. You didn’t need all the experts, but you had them.” While some trial lawyers may resent judges who make them hold their opening statements to an hour or only give them 20 hours to put on their case, Heafey smiles as he talks about the efficiency that he says time limits have brought to trial work. “Trials today are more businesslike, more efficient. And from the administration of justice standpoint, that’s what we needed,” he says. “We needed to make trials more efficient. We were wasting too much time.” Heafey has also seen a marked decline in the civility between counsel for plaintiffs and defendants. “What caused this animus between lawyers? Is it a money syndrome or out-of-control competition? People walking around with pent-up anger? I don’t know,” he says. Heafey speculates that being in a smaller legal community where attorneys were more likely to run into each other outside the courtroom helped keep them in check. And the exponentially larger number of lawyers in the San Francisco Bay Area today may make it easier for lawyers to speak without the social consequences their counterparts faced 50 years ago. At the same time, the sheer size of the market makes it harder for lawyers to get their name out — making the marketing that makes him cringe somewhat necessary. “OK,” he says. “You’re going to hire a lawyer. Are you going to go through the ads in The American Lawyer to figure out who’s got … whatever-the-hell trendy kinds of branding? I mean how is that connected with anything? “If you want to pick a great trial lawyer in the Bay Area, there’s probably only 10 today in the Bay Area. So you get clients by being good. I don’t think you get clients by branding. Maybe you get some clients by marketing, but I’m not sure, and I don’t know what it is in marketing that would attract a client to a lawyer. “But I must be wrong, because it’s caught on like marijuana.”

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