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Law has been very, very good to Joseph Dahr Jamail, who last year earned $450 million to easily take the No. 1 spot on Forbes magazine's list of the nation's highest paid lawyers.

Jamail, 63, who in 1988 earned more than Steven Spielberg, Bill Cosby, Michael Jackson and Eddie Murphy combined, walked off with a dazzling $420 million for his victory in the Texaco-Pennzoil case last year, Forbes estimated. The magazine said bolder estimates of his 1988 salary might be as high as $600 million.The business publication's list, which appears in the Oct. 16 issue, calls lawyers the "real champions of the American greed game," adding that the high-priced advocates are rivaled only by entertainers and Wall Street money men when it comes to compensation.

The 63 trial lawyers and 71 corporate lawyers on the list earned a total of $860 million last year, according to Forbes' estimates. On average, trial lawyers made eight times as much as their corporate counterparts.

They didn't have to endure the swings of the stock market or attend fancy Ivy League law schools, either: 12 of the trial lawyers on Forbes' list are alumni of the University of Texas Law School.

Jamail, who is based in Houston, won settlements totaling an additional $100 million from his personal injury practice - enough, Forbes said, to afford him a 19-seat Gulfstream jet.

By contrast, runner-up Herbert Hafif, a Claremont, Calif. lawyer, earned a mere $40 million last year.

No. 3 among trial lawyers was Gerald Michaud, who earned $18 million last year, bolstered in part by a $16 million verdict in a toxic shock syndrome case against Playtex. Michaud's estimated pay was still much higher than the $5 million earned by Joseph Flom, one of the best known mergers-and-acquisitions lawyers and the leader of Forbes' list of highest-paid corporate lawyers.

Celebrity divorce lawyer Raoul Lionel Felder _ who represented actress Robin Givens in her divorce from heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson _ ranked second on the corporate lawyer list: $3.8 million.


(Additional information)

Top of the list

Here is a list of the six highest paid trial lawyers in America as estimated by Forbes magazines. Rankings include location, estimated 1988 income, law school attended and age.

1. Joseph Dahr Jamail, Houston, $450 million, Texas, age 63.

2. Herbert Hafif, Claremont, Calif., $40 million, Southern California, 59.

3. Gerald Michaud, Wichita, Kan., $18 million, Washburn, 60.

4. Walter Umphrey, Beaumont, Texas, $14.5 million, Baylor, 53.

5. Max Toberoff, New York, $12 million, Brooklyn, 67.

6. Ronald D. Krist, Houston, $9 million, Texas, 52.