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What is a “High Powered Lawyer” and How Do I Get Me One?

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | November 26, 2009

Posted by Cliff Tuttle (c) 2009

SUMMARY:  A high powered lawyer, like a good egg, may not everything he/she is cracked up to be.

In an attempt to control the political damage, Pittsburgh Mayor Ravenstahl gave KDKA talk host Marty Griffin an exclusive interview announcing his separation from his wife the other night.  In the interview, the Mayor announced that he wouldn’t be talking about the subject anymore and that he had hired Philadelphia attorney Richard Sprague to protect the privacy of himself and his wife.

If this strategy was intended to get the matter behind him, Ravenstahl may have chosen the wrong journalist.  Griffin has been talking about nothing else and will probably keep doing so on his radio show long after listeners start begging him to stop. Perhaps the plan was to let Griffin induce mass boredom.

However, what caught my ear was the media description of Sprague as a “high powered lawyer” and a “bulldog.”  The Trib more modestly stated that he was “high profile.”

So what does a high powered lawyer do that a low powered lawyer doesn’t?

Since Richard Sprague gained national attention as the successful prosecutor of the murderers of UMWA presidential candidate Jock Yablonsky in 1970, he has been involved in quite a few headline-grabbing cases, mostly involving the criminal side of the bar.  Most recently, he defended Senator Fumo, who will probably be spending all or most of the rest of his life as a guest of the Commonwealth. Maybe Mr. Sprague was not too high powered on that one.

By Mayor Luke’s account, “high powered” means someone who writes letters to journalists that publish rumors and inuendo that scare them to death with litigation threats.

Too bad the kid passed up the opportunity to go to law school.  If he’d made it to the second year, he might have learned that the law allows the media to publish rumors and a whole lot more about public figures as long as it doesn’t become so personal that malice can be inferred.

Under these circumstances, Mr. Sprague’s powers to stop journalists from reporting rumors are probably not much higher than the average lawyer.

Too bad.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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