August 31, 2016

Professor Lester Brickman, Member of Founding Faculty and Nationally Recognized Scholar in Mass Tort Litigation and Contingency Fees, Retires

Professor Lester Brickman

Professor Brickman, one of the founding members of the Cardozo faculty and a nationally recognized scholar in mass tort litigation and contingency fees, retired this summer after 51 years of teaching. He taught generations of Cardozo students, served as the acting dean at a time when the school became ABA accredited, and left his mark on the institution and the community in countless ways. He taught many courses, including Contracts, Land Use Planning, The Legal Ethics of Legal Fees, and Current Issues in Professional Responsibility and the Legal Profession. Hundreds of Cardozo graduates recall his contracts class, which they describe as a formative experience in their legal training.

“We salute Professor Brickman, a founding member of the Cardozo faculty, for his years of service to the law school,” said Dean Melanie Leslie, who knew Professor Brickman when she was a student at the law school, and as a colleague on the faculty. “We thank him for his contributions to the Cardozo community and wish him the very best in this next phase of his career."

“Lester was a central member of the founding faculty, and he served as interim dean for two years during a critical and precarious period, during which he shepherded through the school’s accreditation,” said Professor Michael Herz. “Cardozo stands very much in his debt.”

Professor Brickman’s scholarship—which focuses on contingency fees and their effect on the tort system, mass tort litigation, asbestos litigation, fee arbitration, and class actions—has been cited over 1,000 times in treatises, casebooks, bar association opinions, restatements of the law, congressional debate and testimony, scholarly and legal practice journals and judicial opinions, including those of the United States Supreme Court and the United States Circuit Courts of Appeals. He is a leading authority on lawyers’ contingency fees and has been widely quoted in the press on lawyer fee issues as well as on tort reform issues. His articles and an amicus brief on nonrefundable retainers resulted in the banning of their use by the New York Court of Appeals—a holding subsequently followed by a number of state supreme courts.

He has written extensively on asbestos litigation and his treatise-length articles and testimony on eight occasions before the Senate Judiciary Committee and subcommittees of the House Judiciary Committee have been influential in directing attention to critical asbestos litigation abuses.

Four federal courts have acknowledged him as an expert on the history of asbestos litigation, asbestos bankruptcy trusts and the effect of tort reform on future asbestos claim generation. In 2005, President George W. Bush introduced Professor Brickman to an audience in McComb County, Michigan, as an expert on asbestos litigation issues and asked him to explain the need for a legislative solution for asbestos litigation abuses.

In 2011, he published a book titled Lawyer Barons: What Their Contingency Fees Really Cost America (Cambridge University Press). Professor William H. Simon of Columbia and Stanford Law Schools, in commenting on Lawyer Barons, said:

“Tort litigation in America is riven with abusive and corrupt practices that Dickens would find familiar. Dickens is not around to chronicle them, but fortunately Lester Brickman is. An able storyteller, Brickman combines compelling narrative with a lucid summary of the pertinent theories and research. He builds a powerful case that current fee practices undermine the tort system and betray the professed values of the legal profession.”

According to, which publishes a list of “notable or famous U.S. law professors,” Professor Brickman is ranked as the 50th most “famous law professor from the United States.” In its ranking of most “famous law professors in the world,” Professor Brickman is ranked 90th. Finally, in a ranking of the 5000 most “famous male professors” in the world, Professor Brickman is ranked 2678th. (Those ranked in the top 25 of the top 5000 include Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Albert Einstein, Pope Benedict XVI, Stephen Hawking, Alexander Graham Bell, Ben Bernanke, Carl Sagan, Friedrich Nietzsche, Isaac Asimov, Martin Luther, Woodrow Wilson, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Cornell West, Adam Smith and Cass Sunstein.)

Professor Brickman is a graduate of Carnegie-Mellon University (B.S. 1961), the University of Florida Law School (J.D. 1964) and has a Masters in Law degree from the Yale Law School (LL.M. 1965).

He will be named a Professor Emeritus, and will remain at Cardozo during the upcoming academic year.

Read more about Professor Brickman's distinguished career here.