Revisiting the Forbes 400 and Its Deep-Pocketed Attorneys
Three years after considering the credentials of the lawyers littering Forbes’ annual list of America's 400 richest people, The Am Law Daily decided to revisit the magazine's wealth rankings and examine the legal lineage of both holdovers from 2010 and several who made their way into the upper echelon since the last time we looked.
For the purposes of this exercise, we focused on members of the Forbes list with law degrees, even if not all of them went on to formally practice. It should be noted that—with the exception of Joe Jamail Jr., the infamous King of Torts—the individuals mentioned here and in our 2010 article did not make their fortunes practicing law. Some, such as Jamail, have credited their legal training with being critical to their future business success.
The Houston-based Jamail—whose net worth Forbes pegs at $1.6 billion, good for No. 342 on the list—is the nation’s richest practicing attorney, even if, at age 87, he doesn't take on many new cases. But his name still gets mentioned on fall Saturdays as a result of his sponsorship of the football field at the University of Texas’ 100,000-seat Darrell K. Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium.
Those with legal bona fides joining Jamail on Forbes’ billionaires roll call since the last time we looked include:
No. 77. Randa Williams, $5.5 billion. Williams, who earned a law degree from the University of Houston and currently serves as chair of the board for Houston-based energy pipeline investor Enterprise GP, was a late addition to Forbes’ 2010 list following the death of her father, oil billionaire Dan Duncan. Williams previously worked at Butler & Binion, a Houston firm that closed its doors in 1999, and litigation shop Brown Sims.
No. 118. Daniel Gilbert, $3.9 billion. The Quicken Loans founder and Detroit native graduated from Wayne State University Law School in 1987. Still an active member of the Michigan bar, Gilbert also owns the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers. In 2010, he reportedly hired Jones Day to probe former Cavs star LeBron James' decision to jump to the Miami Heat.
No. 134. Stewart and Lynda Resnick, $3.5 billion. Through their Roll Global holding company, the Resnicks own brands such as Pom Wonderful, Fiji Water and Teleflora. Stewart Resnick has served as Roll Global's president and CEO since 1962—the same year he earned a law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, which earlier this year announced that it had received a $4 million gift from the Resnicks to establish the Resnick Program for Food Law and Policy. The Resnicks, who have been mired in Pom-related litigation for the past several years, and the law school were the subject of controversy in 2011 over a $10 million donation by Lowell Milken to create a business law institute at UCLA.
No. 296. Donald Sterling, $1.9 billion. The real estate tycoon and owner of the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Clippers is no stranger to legal troubles or controversial statements. But Sterling, who was born Donald Tokowitz, is also an attorney. After graduating from Southwestern Law School in 1960, he became a divorce and personal injury lawyer, investing the proceeds from his work in real estate (if not, for the most part, constructing a winning NBA franchise).
No. 325. Eric Lefkofsky, $1.75 billion. The Groupon co-founder and largest shareholder in the ecommerce company of which he was named interim co-CEO in February first made the Forbes list in 2011. A 1993 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, Lefkofsky went on to invest in several startups until hitting on Groupon in 2008. Three years later, the company raised $700 million through an initial public offering. Lefkofsky’s brother, Steven Lefkofsky, is a founder of Farmington Hills, Mich.–based Lefkofsky & Gorosh, which does some work for Groupon.
Before considering all the holdovers from 2010, we should note that we neglected to include 1970 Columbia Law School graduate Richard LeFrak's legal ties in our tally three years ago despite his presence on that year's Forbes list. LeFrak and his family, whose $5.6 billion fortune puts them at 74th in this year's rankings, operate prominent New York City real estate development firm The LeFrak Organization.