‘Lions of the Bar’ Lawyer Bernie Nussbaum to Speak at UT College of Law

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KNOXVILLE — From Watergate to the Twin Towers, attorney Bernie Nussbaum, 74, has been involved in many headline-making cases during his long career.

Nussbaum will visit the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, for the annual Wyc and Lyn Orr Lecture, which will take place at noon on Friday, November 18, in room 132 of the College of Law. The event is free and open to the public.

The Wyc and Lyn Orr Distinguished Lecture Series is made possible through the support of the Orrs of Gainesville, Georgia. Wyc Orr, a 1970 UT law alumnus, is a founding partner of Orr Brown Johnson LLP and has been a trial lawyer for almost four decades. He has represented both plaintiffs and defendants before juries across Georgia, as well as in federal court and courts-martial in West Germany during his days as a US Army JAGC lawyer.

Named by the American Bar Association (ABA) Journal as one of the “Seven Over 70: Lions of the Trial Bar,” Nussbaum is a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in New York. He joined the firm in 1966, one year after it was formed. He focuses on corporate and securities litigation and has been active in both the public and private sectors throughout his legal career.

In 1974, Nussbaum was a senior member of the staff of the House Judiciary Committee, leading the Watergate impeachment inquiry.

One of the young lawyers in his team during this time was Hillary Rodham. In an ABA Journal story about him, Nussbaum recalls that when Rodham talked about her boyfriend from Yale—Bill Clinton—who planned on becoming president, he told her the young man’s plans sounded stupid and advised her to not marry him.

Ironically, in 1993 during the Clinton administration, Nussbaum was asked to be counsel to the President.

Working in the White House was a tumultuous time, as Nussbaum told the ABA Journal in 2009.

Nussbaum said he was unfairly blamed when two attorney general candidates were discovered to have hired workers with immigration issues. Yet, he said he got little credit for being involved in the selection of Attorney General Janet Reno and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Despite the friction, Nussbaum told the ABA Journal that he and the Clintons have remained close. He said Hillary Clinton used him as a reference when the Obama administration was vetting her for secretary of state.

In 2004, Nussbaum helped client Larry Silverstein, who managed the Twin Towers, win a $2.2 billion settlement from insurance companies over the World Trade Center attacks of September 11, 2001. The insurance companies had argued the destruction of the World Trade Center towers was the result of one attack, not two, which would have cut the compensation in half. Other significant cases Nussbaum won during his career include:

  • 1992—Represented Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler, which faced $275 million in fines for its involvement with Charles Keating’s bank, Lincoln Savings & Loan. The fine was reduced to $41 million.
  • 1997—Represented Hilton Hotels in a multibillion-dollar hostile takeover of ITT.
  • 2001—Represented meatpacker IBP Inc. against fraud charges brought by Tyson Foods Inc., after Tyson backed out of a deal to purchase IBP. In the end, Tyson was ordered to complete the $4.7 billion purchase.

Nussbaum graduated from Columbia College in 1958, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In 1961, he graduated from Harvard Law School. In 1993 he was awarded an honorary doctoral degree in law from the George Washington University National Law Center. While at Harvard Law School, he served as notes editor of the Harvard Law Review and, upon graduation, was awarded a Harvard University Sheldon Traveling Fellowship. Nussbaum also has served on a number of philanthropic boards and has been a lecturer at Columbia University Law School.

C O N T A C T :

Tanya Brown, College of Law Director of Communications, (865-974-6788, tgbrown@utk.edu)

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)

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