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October 23, 2008 5:50 AM

NYU Law Prof Arthur Miller Joins Milberg

Posted by Ed Shanahan

Lawmiller The beleaguered plaintiffs firm Milberg announced yesterday that the renowned law professor Arthur Miller has joined its firm as special counsel. Miller will head the firm's appellate practice and maintain his post as professor at New York University School of Law. The Am Law Litigation Daily's Andrew Longstreth spoke with the irrepressible 74-year old about the move.

How and why Milberg?
Many, many years ago I got to know Mel Weiss. First he was a panelist of mine on those interactive seminars I do for PBS, etc. And then he called me in on a case for an appeal. We just got to be very good friends. And then I was at Harvard and he [said] whenever I'm in New York and need an office, he said come here. And over time, the friendship expanded. And the friendship with the people around here expanded. I became part of an extended family, you could say.

I have always deeply believed in the importance of using litigation on behalf of individuals and groups who would otherwise not be represented. And that's why the class action is a particularly interesting procedural vehicle for me. Especially since I teach procedure. So I've really enjoyed being able to exist in the real world a little bit. And it helps my scholarship and it helps my teaching.

And why now?
I guess the tipping point, in that sense, has been this economic catastrophe that we're going through. And having some sense that a lot of misconduct has been going on in the financial community for some time. And the belief that if I really do care about what the Yalies would call distributive justice, [Milberg] is a good place to be--to try and see if there's some way to rectify [corporate wrongdoing] through compensation or through procedural reforms and oversight and new forms of regulation. This a firm on the cutting edge of that.

Will you be doing mainly securities class action work?
I don't know. I think it's time, and I think a number of people around here think it's time--and obviously I don't speak for them---to broaden the base. Right now securities litigation is a tough sale because of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act and some of the judicial constructions of the PSLRA. I think it's a weird, weird world in which we live--in which people point to the Tellabs decision, which I argued, as the only plaintiffs victory in half a dozen years. And I view it as sort of a stalemate.

So securities litigation, I suspect there'll be a lot of it. Whether the courts will loosen up, whether Congress might consider some lightening of the pleading burden, I don't know. But I would sure as hell like to be in the mix.

Do you feel comfortable with the firm's financial footing?
What do I know? I'm a kid with my nose pressed against the glass. What I sense is that this gang can exist for two to three years--maybe longer--on what's coming, what already exists. They do seem to have already begun a revival. They do seem to have some new opportunities. If I gauge it right, there are people here who, like flowers in the spring, are coming back to light now that the past is the past.

Did the criminal probe into the firm play into your decision-making?
Of course it played into my mind. I'm too dumb to be scared off. As I said, the past is the past. And forgive me, I'm naive I suppose, but I don't believe in guilt by association. As a couple of courts have recognized, there is no one here affiliated with that past.

Best of luck.
I hope we can do some good. I know there's money on the table for some people, but I'm pissed off. I'm pissed off at how we've been dragged down economically.

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