Opening Statement

‘Justice’ with no lawyers and trials by combat

Pat Milhizer


By Pat Milhizer

A few short takes this month …

Lately, there are two types of people in my life.

Those who watch HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” And those who shake their heads and ask what I’m doing counting down the hours on Sunday for a show about dragons and wizards.

For the latter group: First, there are no wizards. At least not so far. Second, I’ve been following these dragons since they hatched in a bonfire that the female protagonist immersed herself into and survived without so much as a sunburn. I want to see how this plays out.

The show is an obsession. And like any other television addiction, you either get it, or you just don’t care. (For example, I haven’t made it through an episode of “Mad Men,” and I haven’t seen any of “Breaking Bad.” I don’t mind if I never do.)

If you fall into that group that’s not interested in the “Game of Thrones” tale of kings, knights and dragons, consider one of the most fantastical elements of the show: the legal system.

Yes, “Game of Thrones” has a legal process for accused criminals. And it might make your head spin.

It’s more than just off-with-their-heads justice. (Though, come to think of it, plenty of the show’s criminal convictions do feature the punishment of decapitation.)

The fictional land of Westeros has a trial court system, and from what I can tell, these are the final courts of law. There is no appeal.

And there are no lawyers. Alicia Florrick and the gang at “The Good Wife” can’t save the day here.

The accused can question witnesses, but it’s not clear if he or she gets to ask more than one question. And the defendants can be judged by individuals of any age or even a panel that’s selected by the dictatorship government’s version of a chief of staff; the chief of staff is als0 eligible to serve on the judicial panel. There is no separation of powers here.

Though the trials appear to be stacked against the accused, the defendants always have an ace in the hole: At any point, they can request a trial by combat. That’s exactly how it sounds: Grab a sword and fight, literally, for freedom.

Still not interested? Did I mention there’s a mysterious clan of snow zombies? Ah, well.

Survey says …

Welcome to another season of law firm surveys, as we continue this month with our numbers on law firms in both head count and dollar signs.

Next month’s edition features our diversity figures, followed by the pro bono survey in August and an edition on lateral moves in law firms that you’ll see in September. The survey series concludes in October with our review of settlements from July 2013 to June 2014.

A thank you

We thoroughly enjoyed producing this month’s cover package on a James Bond-related dispute. Thank you to our State Street neighbors at the Tortoise Club for hosting part of the photo shoot.


I like to say, borrowing the words from an editor I once worked with, that the best award journalists can receive is somebody paying money to read their work.

That is true. But contests exist. And we like to win.

Last month, Chicago Lawyer staff writer Roy Strom was honored at The Chicago Bar Association’s Herman Kogan Media Awards.

The CBA awarded Strom the top prize in the print feature or series category for his article, “Too big to stop.” The piece, which ran in October, tells the story of a whistleblower who exposed fraud at Fannie Mae 10 years before the mortgage market collapse.

Congrats to Roy on his excellent work.