Every morning just before 8 a.m., a dark-blue Lincoln pulls slowly into the driveway of Sidney Dickstein's home in Bethesda and chauffeur Stockton von Black, a former Black Muslim bodyguard, steps out, walks to the door and rings the bell.
With Dickstein safely in the back seat, von Black then goes on to the Northwest Washington home of Charles Morin, and later picks up David Shapiro.
As the car speeds off toward Washington, the men get down to the ticklish business of divvying up the annual cut for the 28 partners of the law firm that bears their name -- Dickstein, Shapiro & Morin.
Call it the limousine committee, as do some members of the firm. A closely knit triumvirate of senior partners with virtual autonomy in dividing the firm's profits, it is something of an anachronism among Washington law firms.
Many other firms have been moving to allow more broad-based participation in the division of profit shares, electing committees to make the decisions or allowing persons other than the most senior partners to take part.
Dickstein, Shapiro & Morin does have at least one formal meeting in its board room to confer with other members of the firm on the decisions. Yet many of the discussions take place across the seat cushions of a car rambling through the streets of the nation's capital.
It's enough to make a reputable lawyer quit -- and, the word is, at least one has.
Jud Best, who once represented Spiro T. Agnew, left the firm recently to join Steptoe and Johnson. One reason for the departure, a source said, was Best's dissatisfaction with the system, which Best reportedly considered "fascist." Best declined to discuss his reasons for leaving.
Some contend that the committee runs the firm with an iron hand. But Dickstein, Shapiro & Morin has nearly doubled in size in the last few years, a sign that the committee may be doing a satisfactory job when it comes to satisfying the egos and wallets of its senior partners.
It can boost the names of former Watergate prosecutor Seymour Glanzer, one-time White House counsel Leonard Garment and veteran anti-trust litigator Arthur Galligan on its letterhead. For some, that kind of enviable success can't be argued.