Continental Breakfast: Bracewell's Rudy Giuliani
American Lawyer chief European correspondent Chris Johnson meets regularly with senior figures in the legal world at their favorite breakfast joints to chew over the industry's tastiest talking points. Johnson's guest this week is the former mayor of New York City, Bracewell & Giuliani’s Rudy Giuliani. On the menu: fracking, future presidential ambitions, and some ridiculously expensive eggs.
I admit to approaching this week's "Continental Breakfast" with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. As the former mayor of the city of New York, Rudolph “Rudy” Giuliani remains one of America’s most widely known public figures, and is almost certainly the highest-profile individual I've featured—or am ever likely to feature—in this column. His leadership in the aftermath of the devastating 9/11 terror attacks saw him dubbed “America’s Mayor” by Oprah Winfrey, and led to him being named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2001, and knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace the following year. He’s even hosted Saturday Night Live and appeared in an episode of Seinfeld.
He's also notorious among journalists—and some voters—for being more than a little cranky.
Now a name partner at Houston-based Bracewell & Giuliani—which changed its name from Bracewell & Patterson following Giuliani’s arrival in 2005—the former U.S. attorney is currently spearheading the firm’s efforts to revitalize its faltering London office.
We’re meeting at Park Avenue Autumn—a swanky restaurant on the Upper East Side, that, somewhat pretentiously, changes not only its menu but also its name and interior design with the seasons. Autumn’s current makeover is based on the travels of 18th century British explorer Captain James Cook—though the authenticity of the theme thankfully doesn’t extend to serving stale ship’s biscuits and rum—and is supposed to “channel the Pacific Northwest, envisioned through a classic, naturalist's lens, and then reinterpreted with a modernist's sensibilities,” according to its website. When I arrive shortly after 9:00 a.m.—a few minutes late, thanks to a malfunctioning number 5 train—the only autumnal reference I can see is the complete lack of any customers: Like leaves from a tree, they’ve all disappeared. Despite the abundance of empty tables, the waiting staff have seen fit to place us directly next to the only other party in the entire restaurant, making private conversation impossible.
To my surprise, Giuliani is not alone. Also at the table is his private security guard, John—a huge, barrel-chested slab of a man, who stays at Giuliani’s side for the duration of our meeting. In another interview first for me, when I place my dictaphone on the table and start recording, Giuliani does the same, fiddling with his iPhone in an attempt to work the voice recorder app. "Do you think it's recording, John?" he says. "I've never used this before. We’ll see.”
A waitress comes over to take our orders. Giuliani goes off-menu and asks for some Greek yogurt with blueberries. (I have to stifle a laugh—on Seinfeld, Giuliani was left worried when a contaminated cholesterol test delivers an artificially high result, which he blames on eating too much frozen yogurt.) I haven’t had a chance to look at the menu, so the waitress asks if I would at least like some coffee while I wait. It’s good: strong and scaldingly hot.
Bracewell has actually had an office in London since 1979, but has failed to make much of an impact in what is one of the world’s most fiercely competitive legal markets. In fact, up until its recent push, which has seen a number of new arrivals, the firm had just one partner in the U.K.: capital markets specialist Adam Mozel.
“I don’t think they ever really had a good plan for what they wanted to be [in London]—they kept changing what they were,” Giuliani says of Bracewell’s previous efforts. “At one point, they were just going to be a firm that serviced their clients in London. That would make a profit, but maybe it’s an office of 20 people. Then they thought of being a more full-service British firm, but that didn’t work. Then then went back to [servicing existing firm clients], and when business in the Middle East picked up, that was a pretty successful period in terms of profit, probably the most successful that it was, but it wasn’t the most successful in terms of making a coherent office. Our people were in and out [traveling between London and the Middle East]. We could have had that office in a London hotel and saved money.”
That all changed at the beginning of the year, with the arrival of Simmons & Simmons energy partner Julian Nichol—who displaced Mozel as U.K. managing partner—signaling the start of the firm’s plans to radically expand its presence in London. (Mozel subsequently left the firm. A Bracewell spokeswoman says the firm is "unaware of where he is practicing now.")