Photo by Amy Cantrell.
Reid Collins & Tsai, a cutting-edge, plaintiffs’ litigation boutique, has added Marc Dworsky, a longtime Munger Tolles & Olson partner, to its talented bench. Dworsky, considered one of the best legal strategists in the business, oversaw the global defense of Bank of America and Wells Fargo in the mortgage-backed securities litigation fallout from the 2008 financial collapse.
The move joins theoretical adversaries who always had more in common than at odds. According to Dworsky, it’s attributable to founder William T. Reid, IV showing him a way of practicing plaintiff’s law that he’d never seen before. (Also read “A Truly Lethal Weapon,” our discussion with Reid and Highland Capital’ Scott Ellington on Dworksy.)
Nine years after founding RCT, Bill Reid and his team have achieved more than $1B in victories, including a judgment of more than $360M against Credit Suisse, and led the litigation that resulted in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision restricting the safe harbor defense in bankruptcy. The addition of Dworsky adds a remarkable level of brain power and expertise to the team’s artillery, and also prepares it to pave future litigation trends.
“Having Marc join our team just boils down to an idiot test,” says Reid. “Everyone knows he is a brilliant legal strategist and a great guy, and that’s the way we fancy ourselves. I think we’ve staked our mark as a national trial boutique, and brilliant legal strategy is our forte, no matter what areas we are involved in. And the fact that Marc has joined us validates what we’ve been able to achieve here on the eve of our ninth anniversary.”
The two met a decade ago as adversaries on a case that itself was the product of Dworsky being hired by an adversary of his in a set of Ponzi-based mass and class actions in which he was representing UBS. When the Ponzi litigation was resolved, Dworsky was hired by one of the plaintiff firms prosecuting those cases to defend it in a malpractice claim. And Reid and his partner Eric Madden were the folks on the other side of that claim.
“I loved the way Bill approached the case. It was exactly what I’d always hoped to see from my adversaries because it’s how I litigate,” Dworsky recalls. As is RCT’s practice, Reid drew up the complaint, sent it to the law firm and said, “Look, I’m going to sue you guys. Here’s what the case looks like. I’m happy to meet with you and discuss resolution before we all go through the expense of litigation. If you think I’m wrong, I’m happy to hear you out. If you want to see the evidence we’re basing this on, happy to share that, too.”
“I believe in litigation on the merits, straightforward, no B.S.,” says Dworsky, who met with Reid and challenged aspects of the claim. Reid “told me why I was wrong or conceded when I was right. And he gave me the documents I needed to see, and then we sat down for a mediation, and he put on a presentation for our client that, honestly, was devastatingly good. It really gave me an insight to what it would be like to face a trial with him. So, we would fight during the day, and at night, we would go out and party together,” he said.
It’s a mutual admiration society, says Reid. “Even as an adversary, Marc told us things like, ‘You guys do things differently, and I appreciate that. Most people in your shoes are not open and willing to concede what they believe to be bad facts, and certainly not willing to play all their cards in the way that you’ve played them.’
“My philosophy has always been, I’m going to tell you my entire case,” Reid continues, “I’m going to give you a draft complaint that I’m prepared to file, and I’m happy to be told that I’m wrong, or that I’m missing something, or that there’s some missing piece to the equation. As a success-fee lawyer, I have to use my resources carefully.”
And, if Reid’s missing something, he wants to be able to advise his client so “I can fight over a battle that either needs to be fought or must be fought as opposed to a battle that could have been avoided had the honest and open conversation that I seek to have in every case not occurred,” he said.
The decision to join forces evolved from their friendship and Dworsky’s desire to find an enjoyable and intellectually rewarding next chapter of his career. It was sealed at RCT’s annual Formula One Grand Prix party in Austin, where Dworsky and his wife shared a festive weekend with RCT lawyers and clients, and felt right at home.
Both men believe the timing could not be better. “As the next financial downturn unfolds, which I don’t think is far around the corner, Marc and I and other partners from our firm are the perfect pitch team,” says Reid, who has his eye on looming problems in the financial sector. He envisions the power of a pitch along the lines of, “Marc is one of the most brilliant legal strategists I’ve met as an adversary, now he’s on our team. He allows us to tap into the mindset of our most formidable adversary who possesses the wisdom gained from a 25-year, top-of-the-heap, defense lawyer’s mindset.
“We are ready for the next wave of big cases. We want our fair share, and we’re going to be very selective. But we’re going to go hard after what we want, and Marc’s going to be a critical part of those efforts,” says Reid.
After resolving the Bank of America and Wells Fargo litigation, Dworsky took a step back to reflect on his life and spend time with his family. They moved to Barcelona for a year. “I had done everything anyone could reasonably hope to do in a defense lawyer career,” he says. “And I knew from then on, I would just be putting one foot in front of the other repeating it, only for the sake of money until they wheeled me off. And I just felt there had to be more to life.”
So, soon after the family returned, he retired from Munger Tolles and spent a couple years traveling, reading, studying Italian, and consulting.
But he stayed in touch with Reid, whom he had always admired for “how you could litigate with a minimum of nonsense.” As they started talking about projects they could work on together, Reid suggested they cut to the chase and that Dworsky join the firm as a partner.
That sounded good to Dworsky. “I have an insight into the way these big institutions think that you can only get by having lived through it. It’s not that I got any untoward knowledge, but I understand what happens in a high-stakes mediation and settlement exchange. I understand what drives an institution, healthy or unhealthy, in assessing the risks they face,” he says. “And what typically happens with a plaintiff’s law firm is they profess an ability and willingness to litigate, but it’s really just a choreographed dance, and everyone knows the steps, and you go through them.
“And what I like uniquely about Bill is the up-front exercise is so candid and pure, and the willingness to litigate is so authentic that the hammer is real. There’s never any posing. It’s a hell of a model,” Dworsky said. “I don’t want to overstate my utility. They’re a brilliant bunch of people already. They don’t need me to generate opportunities. But I think that I can help them bring better opportunities and maximize the ones that they have and have fun at the same time.”