Devil's Advocates; Two Shook Hardy lawyers continue the firm's dark legacy
Pitch Weekly (KS)
April 5, 2007

Here's a little story about two smoking guns in the Missouri House of Representatives.

Bryan Pratt and Brian Yates are guys in their 30s who represent eastern Jackson County.

They also work at a law firm that more than once, has been compared with Bendini, Lambert & Locke the make-believe lawyers who kept mob secrets in John Grisham's thriller The Firm.

Pratt and Yates toil at Shook Hardy & Bacon a Kansas City firm that has defended the tobacco industry for decades. Shook Hardy formed a lasting bond with cigarette makers in 1962 when David Hardy convinced a jury that Philip Morris was not to blame for a Missouri man's lost larynx. Shook Hardy went on to become one of Big Tobacco's most trusted advisers. The firm didn't just defend cigarette makers in court.

Shook Hardy lawyers set strategy reviewed press releases and even taught scientists the industry's position on smoking and health. Jeffrey Wigand, the chemist portrayed by Russell Crowe in 1999's The Insider attended orientation at Shook Hardy when he started at Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation. After he left he became a whistle-blower.

"They clearly were the nerve center for the tobacco industry," says Richard Daynard president of the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law.

Documents made public in recent years put Shook Hardy in the middle of a massive effort to suppress information about the dangers of smoking. David Hardy was involved in the development of industry-friendly witnesses. (A Marlboro man Hardy died of heart failure at age 59 in 1976.) In 1984 Philip Morris closed a lab after Shook Hardy warned that nicotine-related research "seems ill-advised from a litigation point of view."

Yes and lung cancer is ill-advised from a not-dying point of view.

Shook Hardy lawyers have said they represent their clients with zeal and in an ethical manner. But critics have argued that the firm's tobacco work crossed a line. Daynard says lawyers hired by fraud suspects have a duty to defend their clients. "What you can't do is help them do it," he says.



For a copy of the complete article, contact CJRG.