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The American Lawyer, a magazine that covers all things legal in the United States, ran a long and fascinating story on former City Attorney Mike Aguirre’s tenure in San Diego last month.

The story, which is available online only to subscribers, focused on Aguirre’s legal attacks against a host of law firms and consultants who worked for the city both before and during Aguirre’s tenure. That’s something I delved into in this story, which examined Aguirre’s use of outside counsel while he was city attorney to go after big law firms and other city-paid consultants.

Here’s a snippet from the American Lawyer story:

The grandson of a prizefighter, Aguirre has since thrown a lot of punches. In his four years as city attorney he’s called the mayor corrupt. He’s challenged some city retirement benefits in court. He’s even questioned the legality of the city’s method of controlling the squirrel population in Balboa Park.

And it was Aguirre who spurred the city’s suits against the three firms. Aguirre says the suits, handled on contingency by private plaintiffs lawyers, have been a success, netting the city millions of dollars.

For law firms, then, this is a cautionary tale. There’s always an element of danger in representing a client in trouble, always a chance that the finger of blame will end up pointing at the lawyers. But add the vagaries of local politics — and a maverick like Aguirre — and a valued client can become a bitter adversary.

The article also mentions San Diego’s new city attorney, Jan Goldsmith, taking a look at some of Goldsmith’s tactics from his election campaign against Aguirre:

The city attorney, it turns out, is quite a divisive character. His opponent in the city attorney race, Jan Goldsmith, is a clean-cut, bespectacled state court judge with exceptionally good posture. Goldsmith has been meeting with deputy city attorneys near the waterfalls in downtown San Diego, incognito so Aguirre’s allies won’t spot him. He makes reservations at restaurants under the name “Tony” in his efforts to find out how the office operates and to get to know the city’s lawyers.

The story’s well worth reading. It’s an interesting dissection of Aguirre’s campaign against the companies he believed had wronged the city. You’ll have to pick up a copy of the American Lawyer magazine from Nov. 1 or subscribe online to read the full story.

WILL CARLESS

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