By Robert Loerzel
Dan Reidy talks a lot about teamwork.
Reidy, who is partner in charge of Jones Day's 180-lawyer Chicago office, said the firm has a truly collaborative spirit. Its lawyers don't get into territorial squabbles over their clients.
"We're happy to work on anybody's clients for any purpose," Reidy said.
"It makes no difference to us. We will share the resources."
He said there's one thing he can't stand hearing a lawyer say: "What's in it for me?"
When Reidy, 60, looks back on an earlier phase of his legal career - the years when he was one of the lead federal prosecutors cracking down on judicial corruption in Operation Greylord - he again emphasizes teamwork.
Asked whether he believes he helped clean up corruption with that famous investigation, Reidy quickly says he was just one of many people who worked on Operation Greylord.
After ticking off the names of other prosecutors, he gave credit to the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Postal Service inspectors for the work they did in the investigation.
Then, he finally said what the team - not Reidy alone - had accomplished.
"Do I think that team made a difference?" he said. "Yeah, I do. But I have no illusions that anybody cleans up Chicago. I have no faith that you can do away with corruption by prosecuting corruption, but I do have a strong feeling that you can limit it in a number of ways by exposing people to the risk of prosecution."
But for all his talk about teamwork, it's also clear that Reidy often leads the team.
"He demonstrated a lot of leadership," said Scott Lassar, another member of the team that prosecuted Operation Greylord in the 1970s and 1980s for the U.S. attorney's office. "He was extremely calm under great pressure."
Reidy says the spirit of teamwork at Jones Day is one reason the firm has weathered the economic downturn without laying off lawyers or staff employees.
"We try to take a longer view," he said. "When there is a downturn, we don't suddenly decide that our lawyers should be laid off. We think there's something to our firm other than some people getting together to make money."
Lee Ann Russo, administrative partner for the Chicago office of Jones Day, said Reidy sets an example for the firm's other lawyers with his work ethic.
"Dan commands an enormous amount of respect in this office," she said. "He works very, very hard. He's respected as a lawyer not only because he's so skilled, but because he's fair. He's got a moral compass that's always on true north."
That sense of morality goes back to Reidy's childhood on Chicago's Southwest Side, when he planned to study for the priesthood. But after attending high school at Quigley Preparatory Seminary South, he changed his plans.
"Right when I left high school, I realized I didn't want to become a priest," he said. "It was just my observation that I would not like the life - that I would need a family and not be happy essentially living alone all the time."
Reidy said he believes he made the right choice when he decided to pursue a family life rather than becoming a priest. "There's no doubt that I made the correct decision about myself, as far as what would make me happy," he said.
His wife, Elizabeth, whom he married 38 years ago, is a public health nutritionist who counsels underprivileged pregnant women and children.
The Reidys' four children, ranging from 24 to 32 years old, have entered a variety of professions. David writes for a marketing agency and recently published a book of short stories. Patrick is an actor and comedian. Kevin, who became a lawyer last year, is clerking in federal district court. And Jean is a nurse getting ready for graduate school at Johns Hopkins University.
Reasonable set of skills
Almost as soon as he arrived at Loyola University Chicago, Reidy began thinking he had skills that would help him as a lawyer. As he put it: "A reasonably analytical mind. A reasonably decent set of oratorical skills. A reasonable bit of persuasive power." And, he added, "I liked the performance aspect of being a trial lawyer."
After earning a bachelor's degree in political science at Loyola, Reidy went on to study law at the University of Michigan. Not long after getting his law degree in 1974, he joined the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago.
"It's a great chance to exercise your judgment on important matters at a very young age," he said.
"That training stands you in good stead for everything you do in the rest of your life, and beyond the law."
In 1977, when Reidy had been an assistant U.S. attorney for just two years, he was assigned to handle what would become one of Chicago's most sweeping corruption investigations: Operation Greylord. It was a barely concealed secret that some cases in Cook County Circuit Court were fixed, Reidy said. The challenge was how to prove it.
"We had to go undercover to get it," he said.
As he observes, it wouldn't have been easy to prosecute courtroom corruption by calling in lawyers and judges to a grand jury to ask them questions about what had already happened. Imagine, Reidy said, how an attorney would answer if he'd been asked: "Would you like to tell us how you've been paying this judge?"
He worked in close collaboration with assistant U.S. attorneys Lassar (who later became the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois ) and Charles Sklarsky (now a partner at Jenner & Block), along with FBI agents.
Together, they staged dozens of fake crimes. Agents posing as criminals were arrested and hauled into court, where their lawyers (who were also undercover) bribed judges.
"Each case was extremely complicated," said Lassar, who is now a partner at Sidley Austin. "You had to pick a case that would be assigned to a judge that we were investigating. It couldn't be dangerous for the agent. It had to fool a streetwise Chicago policeman into thinking this was a real criminal he was arresting. And then the facts had to be not so strong for the state that it would be too uncomfortable for a judge to accept a bribe, or so weak that it would seem unnecessary to pay a bribe."
Lassar said Reidy developed a strong personal bond with the many FBI agents working on the case.
"He was very clever in figuring out the nitty-gritty of the cases," Lassar said. "The agents were very fond of him personally. They had to work so hard. He was always very funny, which helps in a high-pressure situation like that."
Greylord was such a complex operation that things were bound to go wrong from time to time.
That explains the motto Reidy coined for the investigation: "Nothing's Easy."
"Periodically, we'd be working hard on something," Reidy said. "We'd look up and say, 'You gotta remember -' And then everyone would say it at once. It became a mantra, to keep a certain sense of humor going."
Careers on the line
All the while, Reidy, Lassar and the other lawyers involved in the probe worried that they were endangering their careers. Was it ethical to stage these fake crimes, even if they were doing it for the purpose of exposing judicial corruption?
"We were doing crazy stuff," Reidy said, chuckling as he recalled the risks he took.
"We were risking our law licenses, because we were suborning perjury," Lassar said.
"The agents were testifying in state court and were lying about who they were and what they had done."
"We weren't sure how it was going to end up," Lassar said. "It was somewhat of a gamble. The precaution we took was we notified the chief judge of the Cook County Criminal Court system, Richard Fitzgerald. So he knew about it. We hoped that that notification would save our licenses."
By the end of Operation Greylord, 92 people were indicted, including 17 judges and 48 lawyers. Many did time in prison.
"By the time we figured out what was going on, it was pretty depressing," Reidy said of the judicial corruption. "Now, keep in mind, most judges are impeccably honest in the state court system. But there was a [substantial] number of crooks. And so, as we learned more about how it worked, I think we were sort of surprised, even though it was Chicago."
The trials were still going on when Reidy left the U.S. attorney's office in 1987, a decade after he'd begun the investigation.
When Reidy joined Jones Day that year, he moved to the other side of the courtroom, where he would defend corporate clients against criminal charges and civil lawsuits alleging misdeeds such as fraud, antitrust violations and insider trading.
Reidy said it wasn't a difficult change for him to make.
"The basic lawyering is always the same," Reidy said. "It's an adversary system, and the way we get at the truth is by getting two parties together and banging their heads together to try to establish a truth. And someone neutral, either a judge or a jury, tries to figure it out, based on this contest. That's the same, whichever side you're on."
And whichever side you're on, Reidy said, you've got to be able to see both sides.
"The best prosecutors, in my experience, are ones who understand that the system doesn't work unless there are vigorous defenses by defense attorneys," he said.
After joining Jones Day, Reidy did handle one prominent case where his role was essentially that of a prosecutor. The City of Chicago hired him to bring Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and two other officers up on disciplinary charges. They were accused of torturing suspects during interrogations.
"The star witness in the Burge case on my side was Andrew Wilson, who was an abject murderer and not a very attractive human being," Reidy said.
"On the other hand, police torture in order to get confessions is not a good idea, no matter how guilty they are."
In 1993, the Police Board fired Burge and suspended two of his detectives for 15 months.
Later, Reidy defended one of the prosecutors charged in the "DuPage Seven" case, which alleged that authorities concealed evidence in the Jeanine Nicarico murder case, leading to the arrests and convictions of innocent men. Reidy's client (whom he asked not to be named) was acquitted in 1999.
"As I learned more about the facts, I became convinced he was innocent," Reidy said.
But he believes the innocent are not the only people who need to be defended in court.
"I don't take my cases on whether I think people are innocent or not," he said. "I think the guiltiest people are entitled to a vigorous defense. That's part of what makes the system work."
These days, many of Reidy's clients are corporations or individuals accused of white-collar crimes.
He was reluctant to talk about details of the cases he has handled in recent years.
As he noted, "Your biggest successes as a criminal lawyer are the cases you persuade the prosecutors not to bring. You never talk about those."
Sometimes, of course, the facts of a case require Reidy to tell clients that they're in trouble.
Clients and bad news
"The good defense lawyers are very good at figuring out what are the strengths of the other side's case," Reidy said.
"You're not doing your [clients] any good if you paint them some rosy picture."
Clients don't always want to hear bad news, however. Suggesting a plea bargain or a settlement may be wise, but some clients are too emotional to realize it's good advice, Reidy said.
"I've been fired more than once," he said. "There's so much emotional involvement. If they're incapable of understanding that, you'll eventually lose them."
But more often than not, Reidy said he believes clients appreciate it when they know he's giving them the straight facts.
Russo credits Reidy for building strong relationships with clients.
"Dan is very good at being objective and laying out for the client what his or its options are," she said.
"He's got an enormous amount of credibility with judges, with clients, with all of us in this office."
Reidy said Jones Day's attitude of collaboration is rooted in the way the firm sets partners' compensation. Some law firms use a fee-credit formula, setting compensation based on the clients that a lawyer brings into the firm.
"Not only is that too simplistic," Reidy said, "It's divisive."
He believes that a fee-credit system discourages lawyers from collaborating; they become too protective of their work. Things are different at Jones Day, where fee credit isn't even calculated, he said.
"We attempt to address the overall contribution of the partner to the firm," he said.
"How good a lawyer are they? Are they people who can build a team of lawyers?"
Tina Tabacchi, hiring partner at Jones Day, said she constantly sees the sort of cooperation that Reidy encourages in the Chicago office.
"You pick up the phone and talk with someone you may never have spoken with in the firm, and the answer is always, 'How can I help? What can I do?'" she said.
Tabacchi recalled when she was a young associate at Jones Day and Reidy was the head of the firm's litigation practice.
"We had an emergency that had us in the office all night," she said. "It was really, truly a crisis. We were faxing things back and forth. And Dan was determined that he was going to go fax this particular set of documents. Even though I was the most junior person in the room, he didn't want me to feel like I was sort of the secretary for the team. He's just that kind of a guy."
Tabacchi said Reidy pitches in whenever and wherever needed at Jones Day.
"I know Dan's very committed to the culture of the firm," she said. "It is something that sets us apart from many other firms - the way that we work together. The primary objective is to serve the needs of the client. And it isn't about me or you. It's all about: What is the best team for this client?"
One client who has noticed that sense of teamwork at Jones Day is Daniel D. McDevitt, vice president and general counsel of Edison Mission Energy.
"The typical law-firm model is that a lawyer is compensated most for the business that he or she brings in," McDevitt said. "So they're most interested to work on only the business that is theirs. The Jones Day model says it doesn't matter. The lawyers have the same interest in working for all clients. You get full commitment and attention. It's apparent. It's something that, as a client, I really notice."
Beyond being grateful for the teamwork he gets from Jones Day, McDevitt is also impressed with Reidy.
"Reidy's probably one of the smartest guys I've ever met," he said. "He's a very quick study. He also has common sense and judgment, so he can sort through really complex problems and make good judgments. Not all lawyers can do that."
And, according to his colleagues and clients, not all lawyers can build a team like Dan Reidy