Scoundrels in Law: An interview with Cait Murphy '83


Howe and Hummel thrived between 1870 and 1900 – the post civil war era – which was also the era of the first mass media in the country in the form of penny newspapers and the first tabloids.  Then as now, what sells tabloid newspapers? Crime and sex.  Howe and Hummel had a heavy investment in both."

Like any great partnership, [Howe and Hummel] were a study in contrast. Howe is tall and fat, and a great showman who dresses outrageously.  Hummel isn't even 5 feet, he's thin, and dresses in black.  They couldn't have looked more opposite, but they clearly had a very good working relationship and also a real partnership. Howe was the senior partner and they got together when Hummel was 13, he'd left school at a young age, as most New Yorkers did then.  He came to Howe's law office as an office boy and a few years later, before he could even vote, he was a full partner."

Gangsters and con men. Spurned mistresses and wandering husbands. Strippers and Broadway royalty. Cat killers and spiritualists. These were the friends and clients of Howe & Hummel, the most famous (and famously rotten) law firm in nineteenth-century America. A dramatic, diamond-encrusted presence, Howe was one of the great courtroom orators of his era, winning improbable acquittals time after time. Abraham Hummel enjoyed a quieter but perhaps more fearsome notoriety, shaking down high society so well and so often that receiving an envelope with the law firm's name on it became almost a rite of passage.

Cait%20Murphy%20Interview_8.15.11_FINAL Listen to the Interview with Cait Murphy '83 and Cassie Abodeely '96

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Cassie Abodeely graduated from Amherst College in 1996 with a BA in religion and received a JD degree from Fordham University.