The book opens with Seeley having left his big New York City firm to return to his hometown of Buffalo where he is a solo practitioner. It is hard to imagine a more dramatic change in a litigator’s legal life. From working with teams of associates and paralegals to conduct huge trials for immense legal fees he is now representing individuals seeking thousands of dollars in cases such as breach of civil rights by the police. Seeley has a middle aged part-time secretary and a cranky radiator in his office. He has become one of the thousands of American lawyers scrambling to find enough clients to make a living. He is reasonably content and has stopped drinking.
To his office comes his brother, Leonard Seeley, a doctor who has left medical practice to join an emerging biotech company, Vaxtek, which has invented a patented form of vaccine against AIDS.
Leonard is on a quest to have his brother take over the lead chair in a case launched by Vaxtek in San Francisco against St. Gall, a major international pharmaceutical based in Switzerland for patent infringement.
The trial is but two weeks away. Vaxtek needs a new lawyer as Bob Pearsall, the man who put together the case, has died in what has been ruled suicide when he was hit by a train.
Vaxtek demands a lawyer with national level experience in patent litigation to represent them. They will not allow a junior or even a partner at Pearsall’s firm to take over the case. The future of Vaxtek rests on winning the case. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake in the case.
With no lawyers available in San Francisco who could lead Leonard is reaching out to his brother who has handled comparably sized patent cases in New York City. Still it is improbable that Seeley’s younger brother would seek him out. Seeley had left his family at 15 and has had infrequent contact with his brother for decades.
Few lawyers can resist a challenge and the stroking of their ego that they are the perfect lawyer for a case. Seeley is soon on his way to San Francisco.
While an unlikely scenario to take over a case at that time it has enough plausibility to be credible. My next post will touch upon some AIDS litigation in my past.
The case has all been assembled. Much of the case is simply presenting the evidence and arguments. It needs an experienced lawyer to deal with the cross-examinations of opposing witnesses and the surprises that inevitably occur in a trial.
On his arrival Seeley is coolly welcomed by the second chair, Chris Palmieri. He understands Palmieri is not excited about the interloper from the East but Palmieri seems unnecessarily frosty.
In the rush of final trial preparation Seeley is uncomfortable that there is not a deposition of the researcher, Lily Warren, who had claimed to discover the vaccine for St. Gall ahead of Vaxtek. Seeley is startled to see St. Gall has stipulated that Vaxtek is first.
Seeley finds himself troubled about an admission that puts St. Gall at such a disadvantage in the case. Whichever claimant is first in a patent case has a powerful position.
From this slender thread the plot spins out into a court room thriller unlike any other I have read.
Once again Goldstein has made intellectual law exciting and interesting.