Abbe Lowell was “still devastated” by the Yankees’ post‑season fade when Bisnow caught up with him, but the Long Island native is decidedly upbeat about his own pitching groove. Client pitching, that is. Lowell jumped to McDermott five months ago, and while you’d think his star wattage puts him above beauty contests, the chance to trot himself before the firm’s broad stable of current and prospective clients played a big role in the move. Bisnow stepped up for a few swings with the criminal defense legend.
Abbe fills an office wall with many of the political cartoons he’s been featured in. His ability to take a joke poked at him by Tony Kornheiser in a column made them friends; Abbe became the resident legal expert on TK’s radio show.
“Nothing is better than having your own firm,” says Abbe, who started at his own shop but chose the big-firm route in 1999 in order to have a “larger bench” and more partners to market his practice. Before landing at McDermott, Abbe had been at Chadbourne & Park; and while he praises his erstwhile colleagues, Abbe nonetheless is reveling in the fact that he has been able to pitch himself (and the team of two partners, one counsel, and seven associates he brought with him) to more prospects in the past five months than in the whole three-year stint at his last firm. Having tried criminal cases in at least 14 different states, Abbe also likes that McDermott has 24 former government attorneys with courtroom chops. It’s no mistake, Abbe says, that McDermott calls its practice the “Trial Group” instead of using the typical “Litigation” nomenclature.
Abbe teaches at least one law school course each year—most often at Georgetown, but last year at Columbia. He has developed his own class, Advanced Criminal Procedure, and has also taught Evidence and Trial Procedure.
Soon after entering private practice, the former DOJ attorney represented the City of Alexandria in a flight-pattern dispute with National Airport. That case, Lowell says, sounded a career-long theme of challenging government entities. In addition to famed Congressional clients like Gary Condit, Abbe has represented Jack Abramoff and Sam Waksal, the former ImClone CEO. He describes his current practice as an “International 911” service in criminal defense and trial work, government investigations, and unusual pieces of civil litigation.
Abbe served as chief legal advisor to the Congressional minority during the Clinton impeachment proceedings, reporting to then-ranking Judiciary Committee member John Conyers (D-MI) and then-minority-leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO). Besides the more conventional decorations behind him, his Congressional staff gave him a souvenir copy of the Starr Report—printed on a roll of toilet paper—which he keeps on an office shelf.
Despite noteworthy engagements like his stint as Special Counsel to the U.N. in the investigation of human rights abuses in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Abbe is perhaps best known to Washingtonians for those radio appearances. Abbe says he puts a serious effort into being both informative and engaging on the airwaves—not unlike his task during jury trials. The least Mr. Tony could do in return, Abbe says, is interview him for the latter’s new gig on Monday Night Football.