So busy has January been that the holidays seem very long ago. But one thing that reminds me of December gifts still sits on my desk—where I expect it to stay for a long time to come.

I wrote before about gifts that trickle into offices during the holidays. There, I focused on presents of a caloric variety, like cakes and candy. But today I write about a gift that turned up the hotness quotient in another way.

Bowman and Brooke LLP have been out there lawyering now for 25 years. Because no one can describe a firm better than the lawyers themselves, here they are, in their own words:

“In less than 25 years, Bowman and Brooke LLP has become a nationally recognized trial firm and the fourth largest product liability practice in the country. The firm’s 150 attorneys defend a variety of corporate clients, including many Fortune 500 and internationally-based companies, in widely publicized catastrophic injury and wrongful death verdicts, and other complex litigation throughout all 50 states.”

Very nice, of course, but hardly the point of today’s essay—though it is connected.

Paul Cereghini

As the Bowman firm looked about for a way to mark their anniversary, they may have pondered Lucite plaques, coffee mugs, and even pens. Fortunately for us history and law buffs, though, they kept thinking, and came up with a great idea: a book of photographs of American courthouses.

Of course, there is a tie to the firm. As their press release says, “Anywhere. Anytime. Any Courthouse gathers an array of photographs of the 250 courthouses nationwide where Bowman and Brooke lawyers have tried cases.” (Read the complete release here.)

Boasting? Sure, maybe more than a wee bit. But the massive tome makes an impression on a reader (and on his lap!), and it is a wonderful visual tribute to those physical locations where we are pleased to report that the business of justice gets done.

Those places have great psychic and emotional power, which we saw again this past week, as the Ninth Circuit ordered flags flown at half-mast in honor of Chief Judge John Roll. As I reported, it is moving simply to gaze on the Circuit’s buildings fronted by flags.

Jeff Brooke

And so it is in this book. I found myself traveling page by page through the 282-page volume, looking with interest at courthouses I have no connection to and that I may never visit. And the lack of narrative was no deterrent. Or rather, the subtle narrative of American justice as wrought in buildings great and small made the page-turning easy.

I sat down and spoke with Bowman and Brooke’s own Paul Cereghini and Jeff Brooke about their courthouse book project.

Cereghini is the firm’s Executive Managing Partner. Brooke is a Founding Partner and the firm’s General Counsel. And both of them were excited to talk about a book of photos.

First, of course, we talked about the firm and its accomplishments. And there was much to discuss: The firm is lead defense counsel in Yamaha Rhino cases, and in Toyota unintended acceleration cases. It also has played important recent roles for clients like Altria and Briggs Pain Pumps.

Arizona Attorney Magazine covered the firm way back in December 2003. Back then, I spoke with them mainly in regard to their automotive/motor vehicle/products liability defense work. Today, Cereghini says, the firm has added more work in mass tort defense, class actions and national pattern litigation.

And, he adds, the firm has more than two dozen lawyers who have first-chair experience in defending catastrophic injury cases. And that, he says, is where the book idea came from.

Initially, Cereghini says, the firm considered a more traditional book focused on major trials. But that would necessarily have meant it would focus on particular individuals—lawyers and clients—rather than on the firm as a whole.

With about 684 confirmed trials under its belt, the firm moved toward a different idea: a book featuring a photo of every courthouse in which a Bowman and Brooke lawyer had handled a case. That would have meant about 350 buildings; Cereghini finally settled on about 250.

Cereghini admits he is moved by the photos, knowing that “someone from our firm passed through the doors of each one.”

Just as moving, the photos are unaccompanied by commentary—except for occasional enlightening quotations, which we’ll cover in a moment.

Jeff Brooke came to know quite a few of those courthouses firsthand. Semi-retired now, he said he had driven from Washington State to the firm’s office in Minneapolis. When he got there, he heard from a firm marketer.

“She was surprised I had driven across the country—and not told her!” She was gathering material for the book and had a database of courthouses, most of which the firm had hired professional photographers to shoot. But there were gaps.

“She said, ‘I need Bismarck. I need Fargo!’”

So Brooke, an accomplished photographer, agreed to take a more leisurely drive southwest, to Phoenix. Along the way, he and Sheila, his Australian Shepherd, stopped and shot about 20 courthouses. Later, he drove north through Northern California, photographing as he went.

His favorites?

“Some of the best pictures I took were in Iowa,” Brooke says. “But my favorite is of a courthouse where I tried a case, in Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico. It’s very pretty.”

The book went as far afield as to shoot courthouses in Canada and Puerto Rico, but none are featured from the two states in which the firm has had no litigation: Delaware and New Hampshire.

Cereghini is pleased to share credit for the outcome with Dan Vermillion, in Phoenix, who handled post-production on all the photos. And their publisher in Minnesota, Brio, printed about 2,000 copies of the striking book.

The book’s jacket features images of courthouses from the firm’s first two office locations: the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth, Minnesota, and the Cochise County Courthouse from right here in Bisbee.

“Paul invested a lot of himself into this,” says Jeff Brooke. “Praise for the vision, the prose, the physical layout—that really goes to Paul.”

The prose, little that there is, compels the reader to pause and read. Along the way, we read inspirational musings by quite a few heavy hitters. Let’s end with a few of those quotations.

Muhammed Ali: “If you even dream of beating me, you’d better wake up and apologize.”

Harper Lee, in To Kill a Mockingbird: “But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal—there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentleman, is a court.”

Maya Angelou: “Nothing will work unless you do.”

Louis Pasteur: “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

Abraham Lincoln: “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left behind by those who hustle.”

Finally, Dizzy Dean: “If you done it, it ain’t braggin’.”

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