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What’s The Greatest All-Time Trade?

One will get many answers to the question about the greatest trade. But if one of the criteria is the eventual cash out, here’s one that surely qualifies.

Texas attorney Joseph Jamail traded his time and expertise to represent Pennzoil in its court battle with Texaco in the late 1980s. Jamail chose to barter his abilities for a percentage of the award if he prevailed, versus collecting an hourly fee for his firm’s services.

His confidence and the size of the eventual victory, $3 billion, saw Jamail earning an estimated $420 million for his trading efforts.

But money, per se, isn’t always the desired outcome as Stephen C. Neal, a bright young attorney of Chicago’s Kirkand and Ellis, showed. In 1991, the then 42-year-old attorney was considered by his peers to be among an elite group of lawyers nationally.

Yet, few people around the country had ever heard of him or his firm. All that changed when Neal came to the defense of Charles Keating Jr., the 67-year-old former Lincoln Savings and Loan financier.

Despite the fact that Keating didn’t have the money to pay his attorney fees, huge law firms lined up to represent him. Why? Because of the notoriety such representation gives a firm and the individual attorneys.

To put this in retailing parlance, it’s like a loss leader. By representing a person who will get your name in the paper every day, your fame spreads—which the next clients will pay for!