The Verdict on Arthur Liman

He has intellectual integrity, ethical bearing, and a public spirit—so how come he’s such a good lawyer?

  1. The Corporate Lawyer as Hero

    On May 7, 1987, people who turned on their televisions expecting the anodyne of an I Love Lucy rerun were jolted awake. The Iran-contra hearings had preempted regular programming, and Arthur Liman had preempted the screen. Liman, the chief counsel to the Senate committee investigating the Iran-contra matter, was cross-examining Major General Richard Secord. House counsel John Nields had just treated Secord to two days of throw-pillow questioning, but Liman attacked with a bazooka, firing enough sarcastic vitriol to make both Secord and much of the television audience very uneasy. A lawyer in full career after the truth is a discomforting sight.

    Liman's focus is so intense that people speak of his brain as if it were a naked organ beating in a petri dish. His aperture clicked on Secord, and the room was stiff with tension when Liman asked about Korel, a Swiss company Secord's partner, Albert Hakim, had set up to handle profits from the arms sales to Iran.

    Liman: Did you have any interest in Korel?
    Secord: Korel was not my company.
    Liman: Did you have any interest in Korel?
    Secord: Any more so than the other companies, no. Liman: Did you have any interest in Korel?
    Secord: I have just answered the question. (Secord finally admitted he had an interest in Korel but refused to be more specific.)
    Liman: You had an interest in it, but it wasn't translated into a percentage?
    Secord: No. Absolutely not.
    Liman: Then what was the nature of your interest in it? S...

Originally published in Esquire, January 1989