The Defense Never Rests
She rocketed out of the Class of ’92, and went on to chart a legal path with a most stunning trajectory.
She was Valedictorian of her Pitt Law Class. Within the next three years, Martine Beamon would be hired by the prestigious New York firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell. Serve as federal judicial clerk for the U.S. District Judge, Eastern District of New York. And be named Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York.
All before the age of 27.
Her trajectory was fueled, in no small way, by one particular course and the Pitt Law professor who taught it, nearly 17 years ago.
“Pitt’s Criminal Procedure course, as taught by Professor Welsh White, immediately drew me into the subject area—an area of the law, as it would turn out, I would never leave. He brought his unique voice to that course, making the subject come to life for me. Welsh White was, without a doubt, one of the inspirations for my career.”
Today, Beamon is a criminal defense lawyer specializing in white collar crime and regulatory defense and a partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell, one of the most respected and prestigious law firms in the country. There, she joins a roster of distinguished litigators who have participated in some of our nation’s most high profile cases of the past quarter century. Davis Polk has represented clients such as ImClone Systems in shareholder litigation; Compaq in class action litigation; and Arthur Anderson on charges of obstruction of justice. The list of commendations and awards is extensive. The American Lawyer (January ’06) named Davis Polk’s Litigation Department one of the most distinguished in the country. Davis Polk received the highest ranking in white collar litigation among New York law firms in Chambers USA (2006). The publication noted of Davis Polk, “The firm has built an outstanding white-collar and investigations practice with lawyers who truly understand the intricacies of the legal environment, know how the regulators operate and are effective in a tough marketplace.” Davis Polk was also ranked first among New York law firms in the 2005 U.S. legal ranking by Practical Law Company and was named at the 2005 Chambers Awards as the “U.S. Litigation Law Firm of the Year.”
Beamon is an integral part of Davis Polk’s impressive roster of attorneys. She has represented clients in Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigations, Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, federal grand jury investigations, as well as in class action and complex commercial litigation. Her clients have been major pharmaceutical, financial, and professional service firms as well as individuals facing federal and state criminal, regulatory, or internal investigations. She has litigated with Davis Polk attorneys such as Robert B. Fiske, Jr., a senior member of the Litigation Department who, along with his extensive experience as a lawyer and government prosecutor, served as Independent Counsel in the Whitewater Investigation in 1994.
And yet, while Beamon has been very successful, she cannot talk about her work. Beamon’s most successful outcomes are those that do not result in public charges and, so, never become public. Her work remains confidential.
She will tell you that her firm is increasingly focused on working with its client companies to help them become more proactive. “We want to be able to help our clients not only in a reactive way when they may be facing an investigation or potential regulatory exposure, but also in a proactive way by helping them establish compliance programs,” says Beamon. “We explain how best to structure a business so that employees don’t violate the law, even unwittingly. So many of our clients want to do the right thing and be good corporate citizens.”
For the glare of the national spotlight has, perhaps, never been more focused on corporate America. Recent corporate fraud and abuse scandals serve as cautionary tales. And the resulting waves of criminal prosecutions have grabbed hold of our collective collars, commanding the attention of American business, the U.S. government, and all Americans.
“Those public disasters did, indeed, heighten everyone’s ‘white collar sensibility.’ The enormous collapses of the ’90s led regulators to redouble their efforts. The government now expects much more of companies—expectations of higher standards and greater accountability in corporate governance. And the general public, as well, has come to demand a higher level of good corporate citizenry.
“Administrations change and priorities change, but it is not entirely clear that the regulatory climate will ever revert back to what it had been. There seems to be no indication that the government will dial it back or loosen its current standards,” explained Beamon.
She draws upon her experience from both sides of the aisle in assisting all of her clients, finding that her role as a former prosecutor together with her current defense work give her a valuable blend and an invaluable perspective. As an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Beamon conducted numerous investigations and prosecuted many criminal cases. She led the prosecution, in one highly publicized case, convicting William Hamilton, former political director of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, of mail and wire fraud in a scheme to divert union money to finance the re-election campaign of former Teamsters president, Ron Carey, who was running against James P. Hoffa.
While Beamon’s defense work doesn’t often result in a courtroom appearance, she routinely appears in court on behalf of indigent defendants in federal criminal proceedings. In conjunction with Davis Polk’s pro bono program, Beamon serves on the Criminal Justice Act panel for the Southern District of New York, representing accused individuals who cannot afford their own legal representation.
Many, though not all, of the cases are narcotics-related. Some defendants fight the charges. Others plead guilty. They are individuals charged with immigration fraud. A pharmacist allegedly selling steroids “off the books.” Or a 56-year-old Cuban émigré facing drug conspiracy charges after helping out a friend who happened to be a drug dealer.
“I feel a strong obligation to give back to our community and I am lucky to work for a firm that shares that same sense of commitment and dedication to helping those who cannot help themselves. I am honored to serve our legal system in this way.”
From Assistant U.S. Attorney, to white collar criminal defense attorney, to partner at Davis Polk, to criminal defense attorney for indigent defendants, Beamon continues to blaze a most stellar trajectory. Yet, it is a path that few other women have chosen.
While there is now significantly greater representation of women both within the bench and bar, that representation is not as prominent in the white collar defense bar.
“I do believe we all need to do a much better job of encouraging bright young women to consider careers in criminal litigation, and do a much better job of actively retaining the female attorneys we do have.
“The opportunities are definitely there. The work is incredibly challenging, both intellectually and practically. And I want others to take the opportunity to have the same fascinating career that I have enjoyed.”
And she unabashedly credits Pitt Law as her career’s guiding inspiration. “Pitt Law is the reason I am here today.
“I believe my legal foundation was very strong. I learned, like any law school student, how to read case law, how to approach and analyze cases, etc. But, what truly made the difference, I believe, was the invaluable expertise and insights from great Pitt Law faculty. Learning from people like Professor Herring in the Family Law Clinic where I began to develop legal instincts and learn how to carefully exercise judgment. Learning from people like Professor Welsh White—an absolutely wonderful, dynamic person in class—who taught me to critically examine the issues that I would confront. Professor White was also a mentor and sounding board to me outside of the classroom, giving me excellent editorial feedback, for instance, as I was writing an article for the Law Review.
“I can still hear Professor White’s voice—and I still carry with me the lessons I learned from him. I call upon that legal foundation every day—every single day.
“My Pittsburgh roots have always served me well,” says Beamon. As a child growing up in McKeesport, PA, she learned the value of hard work and unwavering determination. She adds that her background was not one of great means or of influence, but that she learned the importance of family, of never losing heart, and of never losing sight of one’s dreams.
In many ways, her heart has never really left Pittsburgh. Prominently displayed in her New York office is what any diehard Pittsburgh fan cherishes—a Pittsburgh Steelers “The Terrible Towel.” On another office bookshelf lies the U.S. National Tube hardhat once worn by her grandfather in the Pittsburgh steel mills.
Fourteen years ago, Martine Beamon left the halls of Pitt Law inspired, impassioned, and hopeful that she would find a career in criminal law. Today, Beamon is still guided by her earliest aspirations.
The career that was launched in the classroom of Welsh White continues on its most impressive trajectory. A trajectory that is still far from complete.