Scott Gilbert was once an anti-war protester and a law school dropout. So what’s he doing as a founding partner and chairman of his own law firm, Gilbert Heintz & Randolph? Has he been co-opted by the system?
Not a chance.
Gilbert is about the most unlawyerly lawyer you’ll ever meet. He wears T-shirts and jeans to work. In the lobby are two immaculate motorcycles. Signed album covers from Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead adorn the walls. That’s not even mentioning the game room.
In Gilbert’s corner office is a treasure of personal artifacts, including a snapshot of him jamming with Bob Weir and Phil Lesh of the Dead and a black-and-white photo of Che Guevara, “who didn’t do things by the instruction manual.”
After graduating from the University of Chicago Law School in 1979, Gilbert interviewed at more than 50 firms before starting his career at Covington & Burling in D.C. He spent 18 years there, and discovered his gift for hammering out deals.
As a young associate, with less than five years’ experience, he handled one of the “largest negotiations of my career,” a massively complex case known as the Wellington Agreement.
“We were up in Hartford, Connecticut, 70 lawyers and insurance industry executives representing different clients sitting around a table discussing asbestos,” he says.
Working 70 hours a week for three years, Gilbert and Jack Shea, his counterpart for the insurance companies, crafted the Wellington Agreement—named for the dean at Yale Law, Harry Wellington—that established the Asbestos Claims Facility and resolved coverage disputes. The landmark settlement involved tens of billions of dollars and more than 50 companies and their insurers.
He went on to co-found Gilbert Heintz & Randolph in 2001 and to create a culture that suits him (which in his case means no suits). “The informality of dress is comforting and the work we do is every bit as good as if we were wearing suits,” he says.
He and his 40-some partners and associates don’t keep minimum billing requirements and never stray from Gilbert’s Golden Rule: “Have fun at what you do.”
Or, as one of his heroes would say, keep on truckin’.