Great Litigators Doing What They Do Best at The Goodman Theater

Great Litigators Doing What They Do Best at The Goodman Theater

Remember back in the day, when Michael Jordan defied gravity on a regular basis? Watching him at his best was a thrill like no other. He brought countless smiles and of course, multiple championship rings to the Windy City.

On April 13, 2016, I felt that thrill. No, I wasn’t watching an old taped basketball game. I was watching trial lawyers at the Goodman Theater which was sponsored by the ABA Section of Litigation. They called it a mock trial of Al Capone, charged with orchestrating the Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929.

It was really a “clinic” that displayed the monster trial skills of Brad D. Brian (Munger, Tolles & Olson – Los Angeles); Michael Pope (McDermott Will & Emery, Chicago); Natalie J. Spears (Denton- Chicago); Eileen M. Letts (Greene & Letts – Chicago); Paul Mark Sandler (Shapiro Sher Guinot & Sandler- Maryland); and Anton R. Valukas (Jenner & Block-Chicago).

I felt like a kid. Sitting in the dark, secretly popping M&M’s in my mouth; marveling at the glorious display of hard work and preparation. Direct examinations were clean; cross-examinations were sharp; demonstrative evidence well time and effectively presented; and opening and closing statements that made me want to stand up and cheer like someone had scored.

The Judge (The Honorable Virginia M. Kendall – U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois) did a fine job maintaining decorum; demanding that Al Capone (played with relish by Robert Clifford of Clifford Law Offices) remove his hat since we were in a court of law and not in the streets of Chicago. All of the witnesses, Patrick Fitzgerald (perfectly cast as Eliot Ness); Judge James F. Holderman (Frank Nitti); Garry McCarthy (Frank Farrell); Lawrence F. Pulgram (William Bolton); Danny Van Horn (Bugs Moran); and Tiffany M. Williams (Jeanette Landesman) were so completely committed to their roles that it was a joy to watch them.

Given all the negative news about the legal profession these days, this program was a welcome breath of fresh air. It reminded me that lawyers will always be the Michael Jordan’s of the legal profession. No matter how hard you try, you can’t put advocacy, work ethic, respect, or professionalism in a form.

Allison L. Wood is a former Hearing Board Chair; and former Litigation Counsel with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. She now defends attorneys who face disciplinary claims and provides ethics evaluations in legal malpractice cases. She writes an ethics column in The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin called WoodWise Ethics and she is a frequent presenter of ethics programs.Her website can be found at; and she can be reached at


Allison L. Wood

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Allison Wood