April 14, 2015
by ALEXANDER COCKBURN and JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
Second in a three-part series.
In 1990, the National Law Journal ran profiles of “the 100 Most Influential Lawyers in the United States”. Hillary Clinton was on the list, and for years she would publicly boast that the Journal had named her one of “the nation’s 100 top lawyers”. Finally, the editor of the National Law Journal, Patrick Oster, wrote to Arkansas’ first lady–as she still was in 1991–testily pointing out that the word “influential” is not synonymous with “top” or “best”–the latter two words used by Mrs. Clinton interchangeably.
By “influential” the Journal’s profile writer, Peggy Fisk, had meant a lawyer plentifully endowed with corporate and political connections, which Mrs. Clinton certainly enjoyed in Arkansas where she had become a partner of the Rose Law Firm in 1977, amid the dawn of her husband’s political career as he began his terms as governor of the state. By the late 1980s, Hillary Clinton was sitting on the board of Wal-Mart, with the rest of Arkansas’ business elite crowding her Rolodex. Hillary ignored Oster’s letter of correction, instructing her staff to continue to use the word “best” in invoking the Journal’s profile. She continued to do so for years. Oster was still writing her a decade later about her misuse–including an editorial column in the Journal in 2000, when she was running for the U.S. Senate.
In fact, Mrs. Clinton was not a particularly good lawyer and would have had trouble making any honest list of the 100 best lawyers in Little Rock.