June 10, 2006

The American Lawyerl- The Mighty Quinn

There's nothing subtle about Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges. Visitors discover this when they're greeted by a sign-"Quinn Emanuel-Trial Lawyers"-in the lobby of the firm's main office in downtown Los Angeles. Its message: We are not your usual big-firm litigators who don't know their way around a courtroom. The firm's reception area also makes a statement: We're not stuffy. With its espresso coffee bar, a flat screen television tuned to a sports channel, and flashy tropical fish cruising in two oversize aquariums, a guest might think she stepped into a wealthy frat house rec room. On one March morning, most of the people milling about the area and slumped in chairs watching TV are dressed in jeans and T-shirts, including one silk-screened with Charles Manson's face. It's impossible to tell messengers from lawyers. The person wearing the Manson T-shirt is partner Patrick Shields, 31, a former Harvard Law Review editor. In warmer weather most folks opt for shorts and flip-flops.

Down the hall, the office of managing partner John Quinn is comfortably messy, crammed with family pictures and mementos. Quinn had expected to be in trial this day, but the case-a high-stakes patent dispute for Monsanto Company over a bovine growth hormone-settled at the last minute. Lean and wiry, the 54-year-old lawyer perches on the edge of his chair like a terrier pausing before a burst of activity. He gets right to the point: "We want to be the preeminent business litigation firm. We've been saying that for a long time before we could credibly make the claim. Now there's some credibility to the claim."

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