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Plenty of legal heavyweights have adorned the docket in the government’s antitrust litigation against Microsoft Corp. But one of the key players has struck a lower profile in the case, which befits his clients — Microsoft competitors that aren’t parties to the litigation and usually try to keep their activism quiet. It only helps make the contrast complete that the competitors’ lawyer, James Tierney, is a solo practitioner holed up in a log cabin in Maine. Though he has neither secretary nor staff, Tierney has managed over the years to parlay his experience as the former attorney general of Maine into a lucrative consulting business. Much of that consulting has been for various attorneys general. But, for the past four years, he’s also been liaison between the battalion of Microsoft-hating technology companies watching hungrily from the sidelines and the state AGs who sued the companies’ nemesis. “Jim’s been enormously helpful,” says Mike Pettit, president of the industry consortium, Pro-Comp, whose members include Sun Microsystems Inc., Oracle Corp., AOL Time Warner Inc., and Earthlink Inc. “He’s a very savvy person. He knows the various pressures these state AGs are under. He knows how to balance our requests and their demands.” That is Tierney’s specialty. He’s been consulting for AGs around the country for 11 years now — longer, in fact, than the decade he served as AG himself. Tierney’s role in Microsoft is a bit of a switch, given that he’s working with the companies rather than the government. But it doesn’t seem to lessen his credibility. “He is someone that we know and trust, the perfect confidant to bounce ideas off of,” says Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a leader of the 18-state group that sued Microsoft, and one of the nine that did not join the Justice Department’s settlement in November. “Jim is always extremely helpful to AGs.” Owing to the technology developed by companies like Microsoft and his current clients, Tierney is able to run his business from his front porch or in front of his fireplace in the Maine town of Lisbon Falls (population 8,000). The locale plays to the 54-year-old former politician’s folksy style: He’s eager to tell a reporter that he’s just returned from chopping wood. Of course, he’s not in relaxation mode just yet. Even if the Microsoft settlement goes through, there will be ongoing compliance issues. And nine states are pushing for tougher sanctions — reportedly urged on by Tierney’s clients. That’s sure to provide continuous fuel for Tierney, long after wood-burning season is over.

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